Daddy was born the third child of Hugh Edwards and Mary Lavicia Hill Edwards although, by the time he was born, he had only one living sibling, his brother Clyde who was six years old.
Either he didn't talk much about his home life or the Army life which followed, or I just wasn't listening. Knowing me, it was mostly likely the latter. I was such a self-absorbed kid I never figured any of that stuff would interest me. I never paid attention to the old stories any of his family shared at our visits back East, never even took an interest in the lives of my aunts and uncles ... until it was too late. They were gone, most of the stories were lost, and I'll never forgive myself. I do remember a few of his tales, though, of growing up very poor and oftentimes not having enough to eat. He absolutely loved the song "Coal Miner's Daughter" because Loretta Lynn's account of her family matched almost exactly that of his.
Daddy served in the Army and I don't know much about those early years either. He was married and a father to Wilma, and then divorced. Then he met and married my mom and adopted her two children, Tom and Ginny, and four and a half years later I was born.
He had only one crushing demon that I remember ... he was an alcoholic who would take any opportunity he could to get drunk. He'd stay dry for years and then fall again, and that happened pretty much regularly. Mom threatened so many times to leave but they stayed together because of me. (I don't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing.) As a teenager, particularly later teens, I wasn't close to him at all anymore and generally wanted nothing to do with him. I stayed closed away in my room most of the time. I didn't hate him, but I think I came close a few times.
Then something changed, and it changed dramatically. I grew up and so did he. The last two years of his life, we became closer than ever. In that last year, he was in the throes of terminal lung cancer and his whole outlook on life changed. He wanted all of his loose ends tied up before he died and I think he pretty much did that.
But the really awesome part of his story takes place forty years after his death. Now that I'm nearly sixty years old, I have time to ponder some of the things he tried to teach me:
The importance of family ... knowing your relatives and roots, and soaking up as much of their history as you can. Although I didn't get to grow up around my cousins, for the past ten years I've gotten to know them and could never have imagined how sweet that is!
And how important it is not to judge ... things aren't always what they seem. That has helped me more than any life lesson learned from anyone. What makes people behave as they do? For example ... why did my daddy drink? What made him turn into an alcoholic? Maybe he saw some truly terrifying things during the two wars he served in and he couldn't deal with it. What if a person right next to him got his head blown off, or if he had to take someone's life, or if he witnessed the slaughter of civilians ... you just never know. Or perhaps something happened to him as a child that he'd spend the rest of his life running away from it. Sometimes things are buried so deeply inside a person's heart, no one could even begin to imagine them. I'm just now realizing the reasons behind some of his really annoying traits, and they actually now endear him to me instead of haunting me with bad memories. And the same thing is even beginning to happen with other people. So yeah, he taught me not to judge, and to give some serious, deep thought to something before closing my mind, and I'm still learning that even today.
I'm so incredibly thankful I got those two last years with Daddy, to know him as a friend and to realize he was human like everybody else, and not some bigger-than-life statue on a pedestal. Sure he had his problems. Who doesn't? But I loved him. And I always will. HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY, DADDY!