Sunday, February 13, 2011

So Many Reasons

He loves NASCAR.
He loves classical music.
He loves mustard on his eggs.
But, most of all, he just loves.

I know this does not brush the surface of who this man is—the man I call Daddy—but it is a start. He is one of fourteen children—he understands what sharing is. He stood up to his father at age thirteen to protect his mother—he understands consequences. He stopped drinking when my mother was pregnant with me—he understands parenting by example. He was a welder by profession, which means he knows the meaning of HOT AS HELL—he understands sacrificing to provide for his family. He and my mother once borrowed money from one of her sisters to help get them back on their feet. He says he never wants to have to do that again. He and my mother opened their home to people in need in order to help them get back on their feet—he understands giving back.

Boy, oh, boy, can he tell a story! And, oh, my, does he have stories to tell! You should stick around—they are even better the second time! He can tell you what is wrong with your car. He has a green thumb—make that one-and-a-half green thumbs. He is a good neighbor—he will lend you that thing…whatever it is. He loves good food. He loves bad food. If you are a bad cook, he will eat it anyway—he would never want to hurt your feelings. When you come to his home, he never wants you to be hungry or cold. He will offer you everything he has if he thinks it will help you out. This is his gift of sharing.

He loves a woman named Brenda that he calls “Brender” when he has had enough. He is loved by Brenda more than she herself sometimes realizes. He loves a “little girl” that is not so little anymore, and I think—no, I know—that he hung the moon. He loves a dog named Gizmo that he calls “son.” My hairy little brother loves my daddy unconditionally and is by his side constantly. Daddy loves a little girl he calls “Dust Bunny.” Gretchen the “dust bunny” loves her Pop…for what she calls his “kind and gentle heart.”

And there it is. That is the thing. That is why we all love him. You cannot help but love my Daddy. His laughter is contagious, and his heart is…kind and gentle. He sees people as they are, but hopes better of them. He will give you a boost up and help you on the way back down if you fall. He laughs. He bites his tongue when others would lash out. My Daddy picks his battles.

But sometimes the battle picks you, and if you are picked…you do not back down. My Daddy is strong. This week we hold hands and cry as we face the battle ahead. As we sit on the sofa, the sun shines brightly through the window and casts long winter shadows across the living room floor. We watch the shadows creep across the floor as the afternoon passes, Daddy waiting for the pain to pass—and we cry. It is not much of a room for planning a battle—no troops to be deployed, just hands to be held, words of love to be said. The battle will not end today—not tomorrow, either—but when it ends, it will be on Daddy’s terms, we will not give up.

My Daddy has liver cancer that is non-responsive to treatment, and he has made the brave choice to face the time he has left on his own terms, not the terms of the “healing” that cancer treatment promises, and the pain and harm that the “healing” brings. He has chosen to not seek further treatment—and we cry. He is so strong. He is worried about not seeing his granddaughter, his little “dust bunny,” grow up. He is worried about leaving us all behind—and we cry.

Even today, he still calls me “little girl.” Every day of my life he has said, “I love you, little girl.” But today it comes with a little quiver in his voice and a longer hug than usual. I’m still his little girl. I will always be his little girl, which means I am lucky enough to understand what it feels like to be loved…because he loves. Knowing my Daddy’s love as a child meant that I was safe. Knowing his love as an adult means I know how to be strong and to love others. And I cry.

The evils of cancer have not come at us suddenly, but as we hold our breath, time seems to speed up. I have taken the chance to say the things that should not be left unsaid. I have had the chance to look—to really look—at the man my Daddy is, at the parent he is, and at how I am the person I am because of him. The words come…over and over I tell him every chance I get how much I love him…but I don’t think I could ever express how full my heart is. It overflows with images, my thoughts, my memories, my fear of losing him, and my love for him—for the man that now has tears in his eyes. This weight on my heart of what I want to say to him…could I ever say it all? My Daddy means the world to me. He has taken being a parent as a commission, and I have become a person he is proud of. And I know my Daddy is proud of me, because he does not let the important words go unsaid—he has told me my whole life that he is proud of me. I count that as the highest honor in this life. He is my example of love—a love that is in my eyes—a lot like how God must love us, because my Daddy does not attach conditions to his love for me or anyone…he just loves. And I cry knowing how much my Daddy means to not just me but to so many other people.

He is Phillip Stephens.
He is strong.
He loves sweets and midnight snacks.
He sings funny little songs about anything and everything…like sandwiches or flip-flops.
He hangs things on his ears to make you laugh when you are sad.
He loves.
He watches late-night TV.
He makes funny faces at my mother when she is upset.
He grows fabulous tomatoes.
He knows how to fix stuff.
He sings jingles.
He is a son.
He gives movies 1½ thumbs up.
He loves.
He does not have a middle name.
He loves seafood and hot sauce.
He says “ask your momma.”
He likes the color green.
He is a friend.
He built our home.
He is thankful.
He knows more uses for duct tape and bread ties than NASA does.
He is a Brother.
He loves.
He always has a snack with him.
He watches westerns.
He keeps marshmallows on his nightstand.
He has a story.
He is a Husband.
He has never met a hushpuppy he doesn’t like.
He gives nicknames to almost everyone.
He says “okay, you can keep it” when you bring a dog home.
He loves.
He could grow a houseplant jungle with his green thumb.
He can never remember Robert De Niro’s name.
He likes to sit in the shade.
He is tacky.
He is giving.
He tries to dance.
He cannot dance.
He is Sonny.
He loves.
He listens to rain on the roof.
He likes beets.
He laughs to defuse conflict.
He laughs because it is funny.
He is an uncle.
He has a nickel taped to the door frame so that we will never be broke.
He loves.
He is Catfish.
He is the Frito Bandito.
He can wiggle his ears.
He calls everybody “neighbor.”
He likes to take the long way home.
He loves.
He will not cross his eyes.
He loves hummingbirds.
He is a good judge of character.
He is proud of you.
He always tells you he is proud of you.
He loves.
He loves “Brender.”
He is Uncle Sonny.
He is Gizmo’s Man.
He is Pop.
He is Dust Bunny.
He is Daddy.
He is so many things to so many people.
He is a fighter.
He loves us.
He is loved.

I am so unsure of what the battle ahead holds…but I will hold his hand and tell him I love him and that we won’t give up. I will know that I am loved…that I am strong. I know this because the man that puts mustard on his eggs told me so. And I believe he always means it. He loves.

I hope that he knows how much he too is loved by this little girl. I LOVE YOU, DADDY!

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28


  1. Tanya Masters TempletonMy Family
    Dearest Prissy, I laughed and cried when I read your post. We love you all so much! Uncle Sonny has always been my hero. He was the one man who always made me feel special as a "little girl". The bond the two of you share is priceless. We will keep praying for a miracle!

  2. Kim Patterson Ingle Prissy, this is one of the most heartfelt, beautiful pieces of writing that I have ever read. I am so sorry that you all are hurting and going through such a difficult time. I know that you are thankful though that you have this time with Sonny. Stay strong and know that many people are praying for you all. Mom was really glad to get to see him this weekend. :)

  3. Christy Stephens Prissy, This is so beautiful just as Uncle Sony is. I sit here praying and crying and not knowing what to say. I too love your Daddy so much I only wish I could put into words as beautifully as you have done just how much. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Aunt Brenda and "Dust Bunny" but most importantly Uncle Sonny. I hope you dont mind me sharing this with my FaceBook Family so they too know the man you and I do. Please tell him I love him Priss.

  4. Toni Matthews Prissy...I've traveled this road before and I am truly sorry to hear of you guys going through this. We will be praying for you all everyday...
    (beautiful writing too..enjoyed learning about your dad from your thoughts)

  5. Rachael Meckl Your Dad is an amazing man, Priscilla!!! Your blog has made me cry, and cry... your miracle is on the way and I hope you all have comfort in knowing you will see him again in a life more amazing than this one!

  6. Tiffany Chambers Miller I just got done reading your blog and it brought back so many memories. Like when we would come to Georgia to visit he always made sure we had a place to stay and a warm meal eat. He is truly an amazing man. I am keeping you all in my prayers. Tell Uncle Sonny and Aunt Brenda that all us here in Kentucky love them! We love you too Prissy!

  7. Bonnie Wheeler Harris Prissy, I am so sorry to hear this. I just read your blog and cried and cried! I remember so many of the things you listed from spending so much time at your house growing up. He is such a great man and I pray for your miracle and for you and your family. Please let me know if there is anything I can do. I love you!!

  8. Dona Cox i love my uncle sonny hes always been there for me when i was just a babie and when I was grown thank you from the bottom of my heart I love you uncle sonny

  9. Laura Wileman-Dunn Hey girl that sums up Uncle Sonny it was funny it was sweet & it was definently sad Uncle Sonny is a wonderful & amazing man tell your dad I said hi & that I love him love you to Prissy ya'll are in my thoughts & prayers.

  10. Heather Olson Johnson Oh Priscilla, how hard that had to be to write. but what a great way to honor such a special man. You left off that he has an amazingly strong and beautiful daughter though! I know he must be so proud of you. May God keep you and your family close during this most difficult time in your lives. Love you.

  11. Lucy Krause Priss,
    This is the best description of Sonny anybody could have ever given! He is all that and more. He is a TRUE friend and he never tries to put on a show of trying to be any thing but just himself. He doesn't need to because he is such a special person and Yes, he just LOVES for the enjoyment of LOVING. Anybody who meets him can tell that right away. I don't think any Dad could love his little girl and be prouder of his little girl than he is. You have a lot of his qualities, Always be proud of that! I wish there were some way I could help you with the pain but I know there is not. Just know that We are there With you and For you and Brenda and will do ANYTHING we can to help, even if it's just to lend a shoulder or a hug. I hope you know that with all your heart. We love you and little Dust Bunny so much Priss!!!

  12. Pat Mcclendon I have no words, just tears, He is loved by so many, coming again next Friday as he ask me to. LOVE YOU

  13. Sarah D. Sweeten That is beautiful. Guess what ? He is very proud of you "his little girl", for letting him know, even though he already knew. Even though you can't heal his liver.I'm sure you have healed his heart. My prayers are with you. Love you so much.

  14. Karen Cothron Stone My prayers are with you guys...
    11 hours ago ·

  15. Karen Cothron Stone My prayers are with you guys...
    11 hours ago ·

  16. Tammy-Lynn N Larry Thanks Prissy for reminding us how special Uncle Sonny is. So many memories that have been brought to mind by reading your blog. Like watching him build the 'underground house', popcicles, and car keys to name only a few. I shared as well.

    Sending you all Hugs, Healing & the hand of God to lighten your load.
    Love you all, ~Tammy

  17. Renee Lawson Peavler So sorry Prissy for the pain you and your family are feeling! I will keep your Daddy in my prayers! Love you guys!

  18. Wanda Chambers Cunningham Oh Priss! This is so beautiflully written. I have so many sweet memories of coming to your house and spending to with you and Brenda and Uncle Sonny! It breaks my heart to know that you all are in pain from this. My prayers and thoughts are with all of you.
    We love you all and will continue to pray!

  19. Ed Senger Beautiful!! Much love to you...

  20. Opal Stephens Corneau Prissy, I have cried for about an hour solid reading this. I remember all of this about "Sonny" , my favoirite is to hear his laugh, Love to hear that Deammy laugh! I always will remember the nights eating at your house, carrying you around like a sack of potatoes, and hours of momma and brenda on the porch smoking and talking. I love you all with all my heart. I am praying for healing for Sonny and peace for everyone. Thank you for blogging this, how special it is to me!!! I remember! I just want you to know that I remember and as bad as things were in when I was a kid, I miss those days of country dinners together. Love you all!

  21. Erika Powilleit-Hauer It is hard to take a read when tears blur your vision. I love you, have a very special Daddy. Thank you for sharing.

  22. This is so powerful and definitely a daughter that has learned to love from "Her Daddy". I know so well the battle you are all facing, as I have experienced it twice and I wish the whole family peace and love. I have had a good cry as I read this tribute and know all these intense feelings. I love "Brender" and I am praying for your whole family.

  23. Laura Wileman-Dunn Hey pretty lady I love you tell Uncle Sonny hello & that I love him. The tribute Prissy wrote was absolutely beautiful.

  24. For those of you whom are following this Blog, I thought I would share with you that Sonny's health is rapidly declining. We were blessed to spend a solemn day loving on Uncle Sonny and being together at his side. May God relieve his pain soon. It was a beautifully peaceful day. Yes this writing is exactly Pop. And he affectionately named me "sandpaper" as I have always rubbed or given it back to those who gave it to me. He is an awesome man I look forward to seeing again in heaven as I know his time here on earth is short now.

  25. Please pray for Sonny, Brenda, Priscilla and Gretchen. The Hospice nurse came this evening and feels that Uncle Sonny may only be here on earth for 24-48 hours. The parting is bittersweet as his suffering difficult

  26. Love and prayers are coming your way as you leave your Daddy in the Lord's hands...the Great work all for your Daddy's good.

  27. Our Awesome Lord took Sonny home this morning around 5:20am. His pain and suffering have been replaced with the glorified body that our Savior promised each of us who believe in Him. Thank you for your continued prayers for peace that passes all understanding for our family. Sonny was a wonderful man who will be missed greatly but I am so thankful for his new body and home and look forward to joining him there when my time comes!
    Praise be to Jesus!