Earlier this week, our scout completed the Emergency Preparedness merit badge. For him, it is a big step toward becoming an Eagle Scout, a years-long dream of his. For me, I actually took a step back, waaaay back, and reminisced on my days growing up with the most ardent emergency preparedness coordinator the world has ever known: Daddy, also affectionately known as Captain Cautious.
First, and this is very important, I must explain that Daddy himself laughed at his nickname. He knew he was overly cautious when it came to his girls, but he just couldn’t help himself. His girls knew that it all came from love. We also wondered if he’d been in some terribly traumatic natural catastrophe as a young child. Nope… nada. He was just very, very, very, VERY concerned with our safety.
Each summer, Captain C (what Bobby affectionately called him) knew we wanted to be a part of the 4th of July festivities, but oh! The peril we might face!! SO, just to be safe, we parked miles and miles away from Tuttle Creek Reservoir, the sight of the fireworks display. We’d sit on the hood of our Delta-88, and squint our eyes in hopes of seeing a colorful spark or two. Usually, we just heard a “poof.” Really. And then we’d drive home… safe and sound.
Days after my oldest sister moved away to college in the northeast, Daddy brooded over the fact that her dorm was old, and there was only one fire escape, far from her door. Captain C. went to the fire department and made a great fire safety discovery. But when he came home and told Mama that he’d like to send my sister a fire helmet, complete with fire-retardant mesh that draped down to the knees, Mama put her foot down and said that he just couldn’t do that to a girl trying to find her way in college and make friends. Instead, Daddy found a long and thick rope, tied knots in it every few feet, and tied a noose on the end of it. He pictured my sister, clear-headed in a stressful situation, lassoing the rope over her bedpost, tossing the rope out the window and shimmying to safety. Before Mama sealed the package to mail the rope, she nestled a freshly baked, foil-wrapped loaf of banana bread on top of it. Her note? She simply wrote, “Eat it on the way down…”
Once while our family was having lunch at the Air and Space Museum cafeteria in Washington DC, Daddy noticed an older gentleman clear his tray and walk away, leaving behind his briefcase. Quietly, Daddy said, “Ladies, let’s evacuate the premises. Someone has left a shifty looking parcel at that table over there.” As we took our last sips of our Diet Cokes, rolled our eyes, and gathered out things, Daddy went to alert the authorities. In the meantime, the gentleman, shaking his head in disgust, returned to his table to retrieve his forgotten briefcase. Today? Sadly, we all need to take an abandoned briefcase very seriously. Captain Cautious was simply ahead of his time.
Shortly before Bobby and I started dating, Daddy sent me a package. It was small, but it packed quite a punch. It was a stun gun. Oh yes, it was. They had been outlawed in several states, but apparently, not yet in Kansas, where he purchased it, and not in Texas, where he sent it. I have never forgotten the note he wrote on the outside box: “Dear Bessie, The device is charged and ready to activate, if needed. XOXO Daddy.”
On our first date, Bobby noticed a spark coming from my purse. When he asked about it, I said offhandedly, “Oh, it’s nothing. It’s just a stun gun from my dad. I think it has a short in it or something…” Bobby’s expression was priceless. Looking back, it’s nothing short of miraculous that Bobby didn’t cut our date short and toodle-lee-doo me for good. When I explained the whole Daddy/Captain Cautious story to Bobby, he found it endearing. He did, however, ask if I could perhaps leave the stun gun behind on future dates.
Sitting here typing and chuckling, I’d give anything to have Daddy here with me today. I’d love to hug him, of course, plop our baby, his namesake, in his lap, thank him for being so wonderful, for protecting us so lovingly, and ask him if he felt like he had been able to let go of his safety concerns as he slowed down over his last year. I hope he was- all three of his daughters married “safety-conscious fellows” (Daddy’s phrase), and he was delighted to watch as we all marched through life trying to keep our loved ones safe. I also believe, deep down, that in Heaven, there is no need for safety concerns. God’s got everything covered… no fire-retardant mesh needed.