He was “a man for all seasons.” An epigram or a witticism for every occasion. Bassoon-like voice. Historian, linguist, comic, counselor and boogie-woogie king. At his death, the mayor of our city and the towel man at the YMCA mourned. He was (and is) my father.
Daddy also suffered from such a crippling case of depression during my teen years that getting out of bed became a major victory for him. He contemplated suicide. The reasons for his disease were several and complicated, but they found a home in a deeply buried melancholy temperament. Daddy carried like a millstone around his neck the pains of the past, along with the out-of-context Bible verses, the bromides and the insults of those who would not or could not listen to him. It was only when my parents found a mild-mannered, highly recommended psychiatrist at UMMC in Jackson that Daddy started to get better.
Fortunately, we have come a long way in understanding ourselves. President Abraham Lincoln labeled his depression “hypochondria,” sad testimony to long-held prejudices that things like depression were imaginary, a sign of a weakness or just a simple “touch of the blues.” We know better now.
I thought about sharing some Daddy quotes and anecdotes for this Father’s Day, but it felt better to offer just a few nuggets of wisdom:
At the end of the day, you will have to live with your choices. Please don’t live your life just to make someone else happy or proud. And, please choose well.
Things like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are not make-believe. They are as real as cancer and AIDS. If you need help, please get help. You are not alone.
Be a sharer and stay close to those who really listen to you. Talking about the deep issues of the human heart may not be all-powerful, but it is very, very close.
“Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us.” We love you, Daddy, and we will see you again. Excelsior!