(Tiny Disclaimer: I wrote this story yesterday morning, when it was Father’s Day. I just got lost in looking through photo albums, that I didn’t get the pictures scanned until today. It was fun reminiscing again as I scanned them into my computer on my birthday, today.)
Today, we celebrate all the fathers of the world. My father is no longer alive, but he certainly lives on in my heart and I will always honor him.
I know, throughout my life, my father has always held a special place in my heart. It wasn’t until the end of his life, that I learned how much I actually meant to him. As a child, my dad was my hero. Unfortunately, in the era I was a child in, most men wanted sons. My dad was no different; and a couple of years later, he got one, my brother, Gene (Billy Gene Hoover, Jr., to be exact).
I remember how they always did so many things together, especially hunting and fishing. I wasn’t jealous of my brother, but I sure wanted that kind of time with my dad, too. I know my brother loved our dad so much. I think there was a time he really looked up to him and perhaps even wanted to be much like him. (He turned out a little like him, anyway.) He loved doing things with our dad, but he never rubbed it in. I don’t really think he ever saw it the way I did. I’m glad he didn’t.
I remember the only time I ever went fishing with my dad, just him and I alone. I learned so much just watching him cast the rod and reel, while, at the same time, he had a line in the water for catfish. I watched him turn a catabaw worm inside out and he caught so many fish with this trick. When he saw I wasn’t catching anything, he said, “you’re not holding your mouth right,” and swapped places in the boat. I didn’t catch anything on that end either, but he kept switching places with me, again and again. He laughed quite a bit that afternoon, watching me try different ways to position my face.
Everyone in our neighborhood, and most of Orangeburg, knew him as either ‘Hoover’ or ‘Fishman.’ More known as Fishman, than anything. He fished just about every day of his adult life while I was a kid and continued up until he wasn’t able to do it anymore. Everyone on our street loved his good humor and generosity. He shared his catch with our neighbors and family and friends. Every Friday, at our house on Russell Street, we had a fish-fry. Every year until I was nine.
I remember the first time I went hunting with him, I was around six. He did a real good job of not being mad at me because I couldn’t stop talking and asking him so many questions. I couldn’t sit still for the life of me and every darn thing in the woods was interesting. He later whittled a sling shot for me on a hunting trip and used rubber tubing my step-mom Janice got from the original Orangeburg Hospital, where she worked. Turns out, being quiet is a very important part of deer hunting. We both agreed that hunting was not for me. However, he did take me once more when I was 13, but put me on the stand with my Uncle Dell. He wasn’t taking any chances on whether or not I had gotten any better.
When my sister, Stacey, was born, I got to see the father I had always wanted in his interactions with her. Again, I wasn’t jealous, but instead very happy that he had learned that a daughter could be every bit as great as a son. She may not remember so much, but he took her everywhere with him. She was his pride and joy and a chance to do better as a parent. Unfortunately, it changed a bit when she was around 11, but I feel she holds a warm place in her heart for him, too. No matter how little time he spent with me, he remained my hero.
I remember taking my children to visit him and he was a good grandfather to them. He loved my son, Joseph, so much. It pleased me tremendously that my son got to hunt on several occasions with my dad and my brother. That part of our family traits, the hunting genes, were certainly passed down to my son, as well.
He doted on my twins, Claire and Audrey. He really thought it was something that he had twin granddaughters. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as close to my dad by the time Olivia was born in 2001. He had become addicted to alcohol and that took away so much of his life from my kids, my siblings and me. We didn’t stay that close and drifted apart for a time. Strange, it doesn’t even take a lifetime to develop alcoholism; he never drank a drop until he was 35-years-old.
When he became very ill because of the alcoholism, he came to live with me and my family in Dorchester. Finally, he was an active part of our lives again. My children got to know him in the way I had always seen him. They laughed at his jokes (He wasn’t as funny as my Uncle Dell, but, he was definitely a very close second). They went on walks everyday around the block of School House Road, Hwy. 78 and around the dirt road back to School House Road. We lived, at that time, on the corner of School House and Hwy. 78 in the old Moorer Gulf Station and house in the heart of Dorchester. All three of my daughters were with him everyday and he loved it. They grew to love him, as much as I did.
Unfortunately, this was a short-lived time. My dad moved in with my brother when my children and I moved in with my mother for a short moment, then he returned to live with me when I moved into the white house behind Boland Pharmacy (now Harleyville Drug) on Main Street in Harleyville.
The United Hospice of Orangeburg came in and provided the things we needed for him to live comfortably for about a year and a half; then on March 14, 2014, he left this world and entered into Heaven. He died with my head on his chest and our love professed and I felt his last breath and knew my hero could only exist in my heart from now on. Finally, he found peace and no more pain. And, he left me with the knowledge that he had always loved me from the beginning and was grateful we had gotten to be together in the end.
This is My Hero:
This was the boy who grew to become my father, my dad, my hero: Billy Gene Hoover, Sr., 1940-2014.
I also want to pay special tribute to my step-father, J.T. Vinson on this Father’s Day. He and my mother were together from 1989 until 2003, when he passed away. He was a good man and a good father and step-father. He developed a great relationship with my son, Joseph, and called him Hugo-Man, because Joseph was born right after hurricane Hugo. J.T. and my brother, Robert, were very close. He was a father to him.
I hope that everyone reading this gets the opportunity to let their father know how much they are loved. And if, like mine, he is no longer alive, I think he will know what is in your heart anyway. Until next post…
Feature photo: This is the man everyone who knew my dad would recognize. This is what he looked like most of his life. I love you, dad.