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Michael Verderber
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October 16, 2016

Breaking the Legacy of Silence #18 I Thought of You Today | Kim Bailey Deal

Kim D. Bailey,

 

 

I wrote this a couple of years ago. No matter how long someone has been gone, their absence is felt more keenly during certain times of the year.

I miss my dad most in September, when we both were born, when I am reminded of how old he would be today if here were still alive. I miss him at Christmas when I remember how we used to go cut down live trees from the woods to decorate with popcorn strings, cranberries, and tinsel. I miss him in April when the Dogwood trees are blooming and it is time to go fishing, because that’s when the crappie start to bite.

And I miss him now, when I have so many wonderful things to share with him. The way I missed him when my children were growing up, when they married, and when my first story and poem were published. Sometimes I think, I wish I could call him and tell him all of the amazing things that are happening now.

Yet, I feel a certain peace. Whether I can see or hear him, he’s here with me. He knows, and he’s smiling.


I thought about you today. I woke before my alarm went off and shuffled into the kitchen, sleep in my eyes and hair askew, to make coffee and wait impatiently for it to brew as I leaned against the countertop. After the last gurgle of the coffee pot I poured the hot, black water into my cup, mixed with lots of cream and sugar, and sipped it with great care. Yes, I like my coffee blonde and sweet, just the way you took it.

 

My Dad, Fred Bailey

My Dad, Fred Bailey

 

 

I let the dogs outside for their morning routine. They came back in and I gave them their biscuits and the kitty her treats, and settled in to do some work on the computer. I must have been quite engrossed in my work because the next thing I heard was the sound of my sweetheart coming home after a long night at work, his truck tires crunching the gravel in our driveway as he parked.

We visited, spending our precious few moments together before I had to rush off to work and he went to bed to get very little sleep before the next shift.

The sun edged above the horizon and peeked through the trees. I ran as usual, gathering my computer, lunch bag, back pack, a hot mug of strong coffee, and my cell phone.  I patted the dogs on the head and brushed my hand lightly across the kitty’s back. Just before I walked out the door, I tiptoed into the darkened bedroom and kissed my sweetheart as he slumbered.

Rush hour traffic distracted me. We crawled along Hixson Pike, winding past Middle Valley Road and the high school, and picked up speed as we drove across Highway 153. I know you would think it ironic I am back here, only a few miles from where you taught me to shoot, fish, and work on that old Bronco. Who would have pictured it?

 

Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga, TN

Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga, TN

The traffic started and stopped, across the Tennessee River and toward downtown Chattanooga where the view of Lookout Mountain greets me on my commute.

This morning the mountain was shrouded in a cool, misty fog, threading through the trees in its typical lazy fashion. The snow-dusted apex was haloed by the light of the morning sun behind that fog. I thought about you and how you would appreciate the contrast of these experiences within a thirty-minute drive.

When I arrived at the office, I rushed to get my computer booted up and my paperwork in order so I could accomplish all that was on my list of things to do—and there always seems to be something to do. You used to tell me, “Time flies by faster, the older you get.” You forgot to mention how much faster time goes by when you have several deadlines and several people to see. And this was only Tuesday.

After a few hours, I took a break and drove away from the office in search of a place to eat. There aren’t many good choices for a quirky girl like me who would rather eat vegetarian or something out of the ordinary, like Korean or Thai food, near my office. So I decided to drive past National Cemetery toward the interstate. Occasionally I would glance over at Lookout Mountain, hovering above you, still covered in dusty whiteness at its point, and wonder if you could see what I was seeing at this precise moment. Although I considered taking a right into the cemetery where you were put to rest nearly twenty-six years ago, I kept driving.

I guess I felt you were more present with me in the truck while I drove along than you ever could be in that grave.

After a long day, I headed home so I could steal a few more moments with John before he left for work. I considered driving past our fishing hole, but I really wanted to get a hug from my sweetheart, so I passed it by. You would tell me to go on anyway. These days are fleeting, and we never know when one will be our last.

John went off to work with an “I love you,” his lunch in hand, and a hug and kiss to go.  I settled in for the night and ate some dinner while I listened to some music. Afterward, I decided I had some words to put together, so here I am.

It’s quiet where we live. Except for the occasional bark of a dog and a few vehicles passing by, the stillness has a calming effect. When I turn off the noise of the world, I can hear the quiet whisper to me, soft and soothing sounds of solitude, reminding me of my purpose.

I have these words. It’s a gift you sometimes nurtured early on. The time has come to do something with it.

I thought about you today, the way I do nearly every day since the last time I saw you.

You were standing in the doorway of your house in Florida, your blue and gray eyes squinting as the setting sun made its way past the palm trees lining the far side of your street. I used to remember that day with sadness because I could not go back and change anything. I could not have you here with me as before, to reach out and touch you and lean on your strong shoulder.

Now, I think of that day and I smile. I see you grinning at me, your eyes twinkling and dancing beneath your dark brows and thick salt and pepper hair. You are chuckling as you say, “Baby girl, you gotta roll with the punches. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And I made you tough.”

I was mad at you for making fun of me, so I didn’t talk to you again until that last phone call. I know, you warned me. You always said I was stubborn and refused to listen. I guess I had a hard time believing you were really saying goodbye.

 

 

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Daddy, Bobby Freddy Bailey Jr. September 10, 1946 to May 28, 1988

 

 

Though your final act did not seem so tough at the time, I can see where it took a lot of strength for you to leave like that. My understanding runs deep, especially since I too once looked over that precipice, into the abyss. At one point in my life I considered jumping just as you did. When I think about it, forgiveness is all that matters now.

Remembering our last words, I am reminded that you have been with me every step of the way.

Now, so many years later, I remember you just as you were then. On the outside, a man’s man, unafraid, boisterous, and full of life. On the inside, broken and scared, and so lonely. I can see you better from here. I know you understand.

I thought about you today. I am reassured you are here with me now, as you promised you always would be.


img_4953Kim Bailey Deal writes Women’s Fiction, short stories, poetry, non-fiction, and is Social Media Manager for Five 2 One Magazine. She has written two novels and is revising the first for publication. She’s published in several online literary journals and print magazines. Kim lives in her hometown of Chattanooga, TN with her husband. They have two dogs and two cats, six grown children, and five grandchildren. To connect follow at www.kimbaileydeal.net and on Twitter @kimbaileydeal