He's my daddy, but we call him "Dee," for short. Growing up, all of our friends called him Dee. Now he's Big Dee to his grandchildren. And his moniker of affection sets him apart from other fathers.
So, too, do all of his idiosyncrasies.
Dee is a connoisseur and collector of coolers, believing no man can own too many.
He has eaten and analyzed the wares of every barbecue establishment from Miami to Montana, and has culled his acquired knowledge into a recipe for the finest pork barbecue this side of Siam.
If creeping with a gimpy limp were an Olympic sport, my daddy would be everlastingly bent from wearing his gold medals.
He drives death defyingly s-l-o-o-o-w-w-w-w. When riding with him, the hair on the back of my neck stays permanently prickled at the sensation of vehicles rushing up from behind and skirting around my father's car, barely leaving the last centimeter of compressed air undisturbed.
He knows a thousand "shortcuts," each one significantly longer than the last. He can go to the grocery store, five minutes from his house, to buy a gallon of milk, and not return home for two hours.
In my youth, I always jumped at the chance to sidekick with my daddy, because all shortcuts eventually led to the 7-Eleven. It didn't bother me that he said nothing beyond, "Want a Coke?"
My gregarious husband, on the other hand, completely misinterpreted the ways of Dee. Pre-betrothal, he spent six solid hours of stunning silence on a Saturday alone with my daddy. All my father said to him the entire day was, "Look in that cooler and get us a beer." Dee didn't even answer when my husband inquired, "Which cooler?"
A man of few words, Dee didn't intentionally intimidate him. My daddy drove me 1/2-hour to school every morning for 3 1/2 years with less than five words passing between us in all that time.
On family road trips, just as randomly as he whisked the switch from over the visor, he spontaneously stopped at places like Ron Jon's Surf Shop, Gatorland, or Ruby Falls and let us run amuck.
An alumnus of the University of Georgia, he got me hooked on all things red and black. I said, "Go Dawgs," before I said, "Dee."
He taught me to respect Mississippi, because, according to my father, whether the Federal government admits it or not, Mississippi never rejoined the Union.
A man of extremes, he wishes to retire to either coastal Maine or a Caribbean island and answer Mother Ocean's call. Yet his mechanical abilities suit him more for a paddleboat than a powerboat.
When it comes to handyman projects, my daddy does them right the second or third time, or never. While some carpentry-challenged men break a foot and buy a new toe, my daddy breaks a foot, buys an elbow and tries to modify it with bubble gum and duct tape.
He enjoys his Scotch.
He loves my mama.
He tolerates us kids.
He believes in the merits of suffering.
As a junior in college, I called Dee to ask if I could drop an elective involving busywork that interfered with my social life. I thought I could sell it to him easier than my mama. But he said, "No." Paris Island built his character; missing a few band parties would build mine.
He's the smartest, wisest man I know; entirely cerebral.
As an attorney, clever. As a judge, merciful. As a father, sacrificial.
And I am thankful he was set aside from other fathers, reserved especially for me and my siblings.