A Daddy Who Was Perfect in My Eyesight
Charmaine Taylor | Contributor
As far back as I can remember, my daddy had been an integral part of my life. I was born some 46 years ago, at a time when my daddy was 39 years old. I grew up in the 70’s and attended kindergarten with children whose dads were in their 20’s, while my dad was in his 40’s. I remembered complaining that my daddy and mom were much too old when they had me.
Little did I know, at that time, my daddy was “heaven sent” …he had the strength of a giant and a heart of a kid. He taught me the value of life, relationships and how to love God and his people with a heart of servitude. His smile and presence was infectious and contagious by everyone with whom he came into contact. My daddy, Henry Wallace Conner Sr. was a noble and humble man. Born in Macon, MS on August 25, 1933. He had been the youngest of ten children. He was born during a time when sharecropping was an African-American family and their children’s responsibility. He lived in a shotgun house with two bedrooms. His clothes had to be washed in a still pot with a scrub board. There were no clocks: he could only tell time by the sun. Eventually when he was about 18, he would travel to Gary, Indiana, with his sister, to never return to the oppression he felt in the south. He would later travel further to the freed north to find work where the industrial industry was rapidly growing and African-Americans had a fair chance to make a decent living much more different than that happening in the south.
My daddy would begin his new life in Racine, WI in 1955. He became employed at J.I. Case (Tenneco) and worked in the foundry for 37 years, retiring in 1992. According to a labor union article my dad wrote in 1990, the working conditions were deplorable. There were not any ventilation, windows during the summer, furnaces during the winter and any safety equipment measures in place. There would be steel flying at him and every present-day OSHA violations imaginable. He talked of how he had to tighten motors and drums with his bare hands and breathe in the black soot he’d blow from his nose every day even after taking two or three showers a day.
He recalled having to soak in liniment and alcohol to soothe his body from a long day of work. He even sustained a back injury that required extensive surgery and some 70 + stitches down his back. Needless to say, he never complained, groaned or moaned, at least I never saw it, during my entire life. I guess anything was better than picking cotton and raising cattle and chicken. He surely had to see the job as a way to take care of his family. However, it did not stop here. It was later in his life (40’s) that he would attend MATC college, in Milwaukee, WI, to obtain his high school diploma and tailoring degree with all “A’s”! My daddy was a license superb chief, barbecue master, talented billiards player and gardener. He even managed and bartended at night for local bar owners.
Towards the last 20 years of his life he owned his own scrap metal business up until 2014, barely being able to lift after all of his surgeries, but with the main goal of being able to help his children, family and friends. My daddy loved to praise the Lord and was a member of a quartet group “Wings of Joy” and loved playing his guitar. But most importantly he was widely known, by his community for his servitude to others, feeding the hungry fried chicken, slabs of ribs and polishes and visiting the sick. My daddy was a charismatic sharp dresser who loved his hats. He had a beautiful smile and lived a full and colorful life taking great pride in his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was a big kid racing us in the yard, riding a bike or scaling a playground slide. He looked for every opportunity to serve people throughout his life even when it resulted in him taking a loss. Family was first and my daddy gave until he could no longer give. In the end, If I had one word to describe him it would be “selfless”. In Matthews 9:38 Jesus spoke saying “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few; thus, the disciples should pray for the Lord to send workers into the harvest”. I definitely believe God sent my daddy, a worker, into the harvest while here on earth.
My daddy never complained a day in his life whether he was sick, weary and/or broke. He never made it seem as if he struggled a day in his life at all. He took care of his 7 children, grandchildren, sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, his co-workers, fed the homeless, alcoholics, drug users, etc.…and never judged not one of them. My daddy taught us to eat steaks at 6 years old and whatever was good for him was good for us. McDonald’s was a staple not a luxury. I wore the best of brand name clothing and participated in softball, piano and anything else I that came to mind. Matter of fact, I did not realize I was not rich until I became grown. All those years he sacrificed for me and my siblings so that we didn’t have to endure the disparities and racial inequalities of life. He taught me and my siblings the importance of working for what you get in life. He spread his love to our friends and to his foes so much so that I have now labeled him “the godfather”. On June 2, 2017, my daddy lost his battle to lung disease, intestinal cancer and, a myriad of other illnesses which plagued his body. My daddy had been diagnosed with cancer in 2008 and every year I would drive or fly home several times a year, sometimes within 24 hours of an emergency call from my sister thinking it was my last time seeing him. However, his will to live and his relationship with God was so great that he continued to battle another 9 years, for the sake of his children and the opportunity to do more good. He even willed himself to travel, in 2010 and 2013, for my niece and I college graduations.
I definitely believe God sent my daddy, a worker, into the harvest while here on earth.
The amazing part was that we knew he was sick all the way to Tennessee and back home to Wisconsin… just to support us. These are only some of the selfless sacrifices he continued to make throughout his life. And for those reasons only, I am eternally grateful. On June 10, 2017, my daddy was laid to rest. As I stood at his casket, kissing him on his forehead, it dawned on me that this would be our last reunion. The tears streamed and I stood there frozen feeling empty that my “perfect man in my eyesight” was no longer amongst us. I thought about all the things that he’d been a part of in my life and the blessing he’d been in other people’s lives.
My family and I were not the only ones to mourn his passing, but realized there were so many others who considered him a daddy too. I try to find comfort in his passing knowing that he was not able to do the things he once loved to do, that his body and mind was so weary, tired and in constant pain, but at the same time I am left feeling like I have left with him. The void from his passing has left me feeling empty inside. I mean this is the man in my life that was with me through every pregnancy, at the hospital, right up to the point when I was about to give birth and he would say, “Okay, it is time for me to cut you lose”. In one sense, I do not feel…. I am numb…and expressionless. In another sense, I try to think of every good time, joke, meeting, dinner, concert, school banquet, barbecue, birthday, him being a babysitter for my children….and on and on…. but again, I still find myself crying on the inside and outside. I know that we all have to die one day, but I simply wasn’t ready for him to go. I am a believer in Christ so I hold on to the fact that I shall see him one day. And I realize that as good of a man, daddy, father, friend, brother, son, grandfather, confidant, child of God, servant of the Lord above, that a man this great was now needed in the kingdom to do just as much as he had done here on earth. The loss of my daddy here on earth was God’s gain in heaven and I’m going to miss him greatly!
Every day is a battle and with today being Father’s Day, and he was just buried a week ago, the pain is still running warm and deep in my soul.
But one thing I can rest assured in is that the Lord had spoken to him and said, “Well done my good and faithful servant”. My daddy ran his race, fought a good fight and it was time for him to take his rest. My daddy lived a good life of 83 years and in these days and times, a person is lucky if they make it past their 20’s. He did not die in vain. He did not die as a result of a tragic event, but simply answered his call. The bible tells us in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (KJV).
Happy Father’s Day daddy! Thank you for your endurance, strength and legacy! There will never be another man on earth like you! You never yelled at me, but taught me through your patience, the lessons I needed to learn. I salute and commend you for being my daddy who was and always will be perfect in my eyesight!
Love Always, Your daughter and baby, Charmaine Taylor