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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Sharp (03/07/13)

TITLE: Now He Plays With All His Heroes . . .
By Judith Gayle Smith


“You’re not half as sharp as you think you are missy” roared Dad on a rare good day. We both were extremely competitive and we constantly locked horns, bouncing off each other like two rutting elk. We obsessively, almost bitterly tried to outdo one another. For example, I’d never earn as much wages as he made, even as I became an accomplished adult with some pretty sharp job skills. He wanted a son.

Cocky lovable unstoppable Dad – “average Joe” handsome, slight of build, carried a threatening aluminum bat with him for protection against “road rage loose nuts behind the wheel”. He was a forty-year Teamster, a loyal “company man” long-haul trucker ferrying doubles and triples (train cars), and the occasional oxygen truck. One terrifying day, the oxygen truck let fly a cap shockingly straight into poor Dad’s teeth. Winsomely, toothlessly, he agreed I had sharper teeth than he with his newly acquired uncomfortable and slippery ill-fitting dentures.

He was spunky Pennsylvania-Dutch, always having us “red off the table” and insisting we eat spiky endive. He was also my sis’s Godfather. The day of Mom’s first marriage, Mom slapped him for betrayal against her groom. What did he do? He, daddy’s best man - asked Mom to marry HIM. He waited fourteen years, unable to follow through with three engagements. He was never a threat to their marriage – he was the rock we clung to when daddy became uncontrollably drunk.

After our alcoholic father died tragically, Dad married Mom, Barb and me. He adopted us, but we knew Dad got the sharpest deal – three for the price of one. I agree – that is hard to beat. Barb and I were eleven and ten respectively. We all “honeymooned” from Cleveland, Ohio to San Diego, California. We took the picturesque and unforgettable Route 66 – surviving all the tourist traps with minimum dollar loss. That is quite a tale in itself.

It got to be a family joke – Dad threatened and glowered and stared at a spot on my forehead while verbally thrashing me. When he said “let’s go for a walk”, I was in big trouble. When I finally realized he was all bluff and bluster – that dulled a bit of that sharp edge.

Dad teased me unmercifully. He said it would prepare me for adulthood when everyone would pit heads against mine. He was merciless, and I lived in quivering fear and rage half the time. He yelled over my attempts to explain my side – his voice penetratingly ear-splitting sharp. Surprisingly he could also be unbelievably, incomparably loving.

Mom, a lovely green-eyed raven haired gypsy unfortunately almost always emotionally undone, was extremely overwrought with me one unlucky day, and vengefully had Dad schedule a “meeting” in our bathroom. This had extreme mayhem potential, as he very slowly removed and doubled his belt and marched me in. Shockingly, Dad understood my side of the disagreement. He told me to scream like a stuck pig while he violently beat his belt buckle against the tub to satisfy Mom’s punishment requirements. Most gratefully, I agreed that was very sharp of him indeed.

Dad continued threatenings and bluster on my wedding day – “If you ever make my little girl cry (I was twenty-six) I’m coming after you with a shotgun”. I was terribly embarrassed, but I felt his love.

Then the call came – Dad had developed inoperable Pancreatic Cancer. It had metastasized from his Lung Cancer ten years prior. Incredibly, he had been in remission for ten blessed years. He stubbornly, adamantly refused to give up chain smoking - arguing he could die anytime while on the road. He said he had the right to choose which way he would die.

The only thing I could give him was love and melting ice cream sandwiches from the vending machine. He lost the “sharpness contest” for a time, chuffing on those cigarettes. Idea – offer to pay Dad’s way into a Pro-Am golf tournament! He loved the “Golden Boy” Jack Nicklaus and dreamed of just playing on the same green as he did. He agreed to stop smoking!

I watched as he too quickly melted away – his wrinkled thighs were the circumference of my wrists, his horribly distended stomach made him look eight months pregnant. He exhaustedly and painfully lost interest in life, and finally gave up his beloved cigarettes. He died the day following his decision to stop smoking.

We scattered his ashes on the golf course.

Now he plays with all his heroes – pretty sharp, eh?

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This article has been read 507 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/14/13
I think this is a beautiful testimonial about a man whom you clearly love and respected. I found myself flinching, smiling, and nodding while I read this tale.

Because it's a true story every detail is important to you, however, it may feel like the story is jumping about to some readers. It takes a lot of trial and error to perfect a story like this. One week, nor 750 words are enough to do this justice. I do hope you keep polishing it.

I do think the love and passion you felt for this man pours off the page. You touched my heart and made me think of my own childhood. I hope you keep this in a scrapbook and pass it down to your children as they will treasure at for many years. Good job and keep writing I look forward to reading more of your stories.
C D Swanson 03/14/13
Your words touched my heart because of your love for your dad, it was palpable.

I felt your pain, and your love. It's hard watching a loved one die. My dad died on the operating table, the victim of an operation gone horribly wrong.They sliced through his ventricle, and he bled to death. He had many opertions prior, due to heart disease, and also multiple myeloma...so in a sense it was a "good way" to die, he never knew what hit him. That is how I came to move on, with the help of God.

Thanks for sharing your story. Your giving him "melted ice cream sandwiches" ripped through my heart.

God bless you~
Vince Martella03/15/13
Well done. You packed this piece with descriptions and managed to squeeze a lifetime into 750 words. Some awkward sentences and punctuation errors, but this is a piece that reads conversationally and your emotion flows throughout it. Your ending was fantastic and makes the title shine. If this is a true story,(and I assume it is) I applaud your courage. Very nice work.
Alicia Renkema03/17/13
This was a very tender story told with humor, courage and a special affection for your dad. Thank you so much for both writing this and sharing it with us. It was funny / clever all of the myriad of ways that you kept dropping the word sharp into your story. Of course when he was in the hospital and could no longer spar with you as you once had before that was sad. I am with C.D., the line that really got to me was the melting ice cream sandwiches. You did have an amazingly sharp ending to your story. The only ink I would give to the telling of this heart warming true-life tale is that for a 750 word limit it might have been better if you had picked a few things you wanted to share and developed those. Yet, I know just how hard it can be when you have all of these precious moments on your heart and your want to share them all. I also had trouble understanding thee two marriages and the whole godfather situation you talked about in your third paragraph, but that could be just me. Its always a little challenging for me to understand certain more complex family relationships. My heart was right with yours during the whole piece and especially toward the latter half of the piece. It was quite stirring. God Bless.
Ellen Carr 03/18/13
This is a very touching story and you've done a good job with it. I did find the 3rd paragraph a bit hard to understand. It is hard to pack what we want to say into the word limit and maybe this story deserved more words. Thanks for sharing what I presume is your true story.
Cheryl Harrison03/18/13
Is this a true story? If yes, I think you should rework it without word limit. There is so much packed into this story and if it is true, there are people who need to read it.

Good writing affects the reader and your story brought tears to my eyes. There are a few grammar issues, but with practice your work will shine even more.
lynn gipson 03/18/13
This story shows your compassion and in depth understanding of another human being. You wrote of his character as gruffly affectionate, and while blusterous on the outside was a softy on the inside. Your love and emotion came through in flying colors.

I agree you should write this one again without the word limit. You packed a lot into this one, thought. Loved it.
Christina Banks 03/18/13
Your Dad reminds me of an uncle that I had growing up. He too has passed, but I could see him in the descriptions that you gave in this piece. What a beautiful memorial.
Lillian Rhoades 03/18/13
Ditto to all the red ink, but more importantly to all the comments.

A touching, heart-felt story with an extra special ending.

Virgil Youngblood 03/18/13
This tribute to your dad was heartwarming. Well done.
Kelli Hunt03/19/13
You good use of description enabled me to really know your dad - what a character. Thanks for sharing your memories!
Myrna Noyes03/19/13
What an incredibly touching family story! You helped me "see" your dad with your excellent descriptions and dialogue. You also gave a good portrayal of the relationship between you two. I especially liked the sentence in the first paragraph where you talked about locking horns like "two rutting elk"!

As with a couple others, I had to read the third paragraph 2 or 3 times before I finally understood the whole "two dads" and marriages thing. I agree that rewriting it as a longer version would enable you to explain the situation better.

I thought the last line was wonderful--a perfect ending for your loving remembrance! :)
Danielle King 03/20/13
Paragraph 3 seems to have puzzled a few members to begin with, and I'm no exception. The word limit is surely responsible as you've packed this story brim full of colourful description, action and dialogue. Your dad was a great character and I sense you were two of a kind. The fast pace of telling is perfect for your fiesty interaction with each other. Great job.