The dad any girl would be blessed to have I received almost 23 years ago this September as my father-in-law. Daddy Charles, or Charlie as I call him, is known to the rest of the world as Charles Milton Morton. Born Aug. 8, 1929, in Calhoun County, being hard-working and dedicated, he retired from Lee Brass and served his country with honor and distinction in the Korean War, having medals, scars and imbedded shrapnel to show for it. He helped raise two beautiful daughters and a handsome son with his first wife until they later divorced.
His handsome son he would lose years later in a horrendous traffic accident. Years after his divorce, he would meet the love of his life, Audrey Gwendolyn Thrasher Phillips, a young, beautiful divorcee with two young, rambunctious little boys. These two and their offspring are a family full of love and laughter to this day. This awesome lady became my mother, too, on the day I married her youngest, wild young-un.
But back to Charlie, a soft-spoken, mild-mannered man who loves NASCAR and at one time could probably name all the drivers and their sponsors and the name of each track all at the same time. He also told us stories of the war and of Tokyo in particular.
That is before he was robbed.
Not by a masked gunman or anything sinister that we could take care of immediately. He was robbed by a disease, a mean, no-holds-barred, hideous disease called Alzheimer’s. And unlike a robber, this disease sneaks upon a person a little at a time, slowly taking him or her away from the people and places they love.
Charlie will be 84 in August if our Lord continues to bless us with his presence until then. Charlie still has that same sweet smile, that quick wit, that “wouldn’t hurt a flea” demeanor. The only difference is he may talk about his son Allen and tear up at the mere mention of his name, or he may show you Allen’s baby picture that sits on the dresser in his room and then a few minutes later show it to you again. Then, for the 10th or so time, ask if you want to go to Tokyo and describe how big the city is and the pretty girls who would dance with a guy as long as he kept buying her tickets.
He may not know who you are when you visit. He sometimes forgets his children and grandchildren, usually asking Gwen time and time again who that was or who that kid was. She always answers him in a kind and sweet manner. Charlie has good days and he has bad days; that is the makeup of the disease.
He may forget to change his socks or ask where the keys for the golf cart are even after she has shown them to him in the drawer. Medicine is supposed to help; maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, it’s hard to judge.
I just know on this Father’s Day when you sit down with your dad, or that someone you love as much as a dad regardless of the title he holds, listen with a smile to his stories no matter how many times you’ve heard them. Give him an extra-tight hug when you say good-bye -- those moments can’t be bought and can’t be replaced.
I plan to see my Charlie on Father’s Day and every day I can. Even if he does not remember that I am married to their baby boy, I will sit and enjoy his company, his sweet smile and his kind demeanor, and he can tell me his Tokyo stories until the cows come home. I will cherish my Charlie and the memories he has given me as long as I live.
I love you, Daddy Charlie, with all my heart.
Von Phillips lives in Ohatchee.