Happy Father's Day, Msgt. Shortt!

My Dad, Richard S. Shortt, joined the United States Air Force not long after he graduated from high school at age 16. He told the recruiters that he was 18. There was a war going on at the time, the Korean War. He didn't care. Anything was better than life in Moss Point, Mississippi. So off he went, in search of adventure and a steady paycheck. He found both as a radio operator stationed at that giant hunk of ice located at the top of the world known as Greenland. A marriage to the former WAF Mary E. Graham, three kids and two wars took up the next twenty four years of his life. During that time, he gave our family a lot of great memories. My favorites:

1. Dad taking my Tam and I out in the boondocks to learn how to shoot a pistol when we were four and five years old, respectfully. I can't remember what type of handgun it was, but the recoil on that thing hurt like heck. Not too mention how much the BANG rang in my ears after I squeezed the trigger. I almost dropped it. He told us, "Never pull out a gun unless you already have a target in sight." That information came in handy years later, when my sister became enraged at my then-boyfriend, and pulled Dad's 30 ot 6 out of the hall closet, loaded two shells in the barrel and pointed it at him. I never saw Sam play football, but I'm sure he ran faster that day than he ever did out on the field. Dad chuckled when Tam and I told him that story, twenty years later.

2. Watching the NFL and the NBA on the weekends. All of us kids became avid sports fans because of him. His extremely loud enthusiasm was infectious. I even played on my junior high school's girls' basketball team. But we sucked so bad. I was the second highest scorer on the team at "power forward". My game average--four points. One field goal and at least one shot from the free throw line. But that's o.k. My Dad came to the games and cheered me on. When he wasn't laughing at how much my team traveled with the ball.

3. The 30 ot 6 made a reappearance at my 18th birthday party, but it was in Dad's hands that time. Everything was going fine until the guys from the north side wanted to crash the party. Just like in the Civil War, the north and south sides didn't get along very well, and that night was no exception. The party was in the garage, and just about everyone from Luther Burbank Senior High School was there, eating my parents fried chicken, collard greens, potato salad and All of my cake. (I didn't get a crumb!) Of course, they were grubbing when they weren't out in the garage, dancing under the strobe to Parliament or Brass Construction. That's when the north side boys showed up. I went to the door to tell them I couldn't let them in because I didn't want anything to get started. That's when one of them said, "Aww, baby, you ain't gonna let ME in?" He opened the screen door, reached in and put his hand on my left thigh. I slapped his hand away and laughed. I had no idea that my Dad was coming down the hallway, and saw the whole thing. Next thing I knew, I heard someone yell, "No, Mr. Shortt, don't do it!" I turned around to see my father loading shells into the 30 ot 6, and he had the night scope on. The entire offensive line of the Luther Burbank's varsity football was hanging on his back, trying to keep him away from "blowing them boys" of his porch. "I pay the mortgage here," he said. "Ain't nobody touching my daughter!" My friends began screaming. "Angie, Tami, do something!" We just looked at each other. There was nothing we COULD do. Dad already had a target sighted, and we weren't about to get in his way. The north side boys heard the words "Vietnam war veteran", and decided to caravan back to their side of town. It was a memorable night, to say the least.

4. When I went into labor with my first child, Clarissa, Dad was astounded that he could come into the delivery room. He stayed there for a grand total of 30 seconds. "I can't handle this," he told Mom, and walked out. This was a man who had survived two wars, and was injured in the line of duty. But watching his oldest daughter giving birth was just too intense for him. My mother was mortified ("Richard, where do you think you're going?"), but I wasn't all that concerned. I was occupied with other business at the time.

5. Dad missed the birth of my son, Marc, by two hours because he had to take my sister to the airport. But amazingly, he was with me the whole time I was in labor with my youngest daughter, Chenelle. Everytime I groaned and started doing the breathing exercises, he would look anxious and say, "Angie, what's wrong? What should I do? Do you need the doctor?" I just shook my head. I had been through the routine two times before; the third was a cake walk. But when I could feel that I was getting close to delivery, I started getting worried. I didn't want my father to freak out when I started pushing. Just then, he told me that he was going outside to have a cigarette. I breathed a sigh of relief, and hoped I would deliver before he came back. I did. Chenelle squirmed out less than five minutes later, delivered by a podiatrist ("Oh my God, get me some gloves; the baby's head is out!) who just happened to be stopping by to chat with his girlfriend, who was an RN on the maternity ward. By the time Dad came back, Chenelle was born, measured, weighed and wrapped in a blanket. "Angie," he said, "a guy out there told me congratulations, I have a granddaughter. But I didn't even get a chance to finish my cigarette!"

That's my Dad. And that's what I like to remember on Father's Day. Here's to all the Dads out there making their own memories with their kids. Happy Father's Day!
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