Thursday, April 05, 2007

Ode to Papa Dallas

If you were one of the fortunate ones, you probably had that one “best friend” in high school that you practically lived with. Either you were at her house or she was at yours. That friend, for me, was Woolly.

Woolly had it made. Her parents were not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but they lived in a big old house with a swimming pool and she had no real curfew, so it was always the place to be. During the summers, I spent more nights at her house than at my own. Woolly was also the youngest of 5 kids, and her siblings were much older (one of Woolly’s nieces is only a year younger than she is), so her parents were also much older than most of our friends’ parents (my own included). Her mom was (and presumably still is) the most amazing cook, and there was always homemade bread and fresh vegetables from the garden. Her dad was a big bear of a guy. He had gray hair that never quite stayed where he wanted it to, and he always had a few days of beard growth. He was one of those guys that came across as gruff and grumpy to those who didn’t know him, but to those who knew him well, he was Papa Dallas . . . a loyal father, good provider, and a big teddy bear.

I remember him always sitting in his chair in the den after a long day’s work, with the TV blaring and Granny Rufus tending to his needs. He’d fuss at us for leaving all the lights on or a door open, but he mostly just let us be. Once in a while, however, you’d get one of his hugs just when you needed it the most. Those hugs were legendary. They always reminded me of how it felt to be wrapped in a warm blanket fresh out of the dryer by my mom when I was a little kid. And years later, when I’d see him on breaks from college, I still craved those hugs.

Papa Dallas passed away about two weeks ago after a battle with cancer. I don’t even know what to say to his family. All I really want to do is find Woolly and give her a hug that reminds her of her dad’s . . . because those hugs always seemed to make everything better.

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