Bobby Lee Payne (my Dad) was born the first son of a farming family in Curdsville, KY in 1936. Hard work and hard lessons would serve him well.
He had to grow up fast, first to help take care of his 3 younger brothers and the farm, then to take care of his own fledgling family. He married his high school sweetheart and became a father at the tender age of 17. Having two girls, Vicki Anne & Rhonda, one right after the other, made the boy have to quickly become a man. I don’t know all the specifics but I know he and Barbara tried hard to make their marriage and family work. But they were kids themselves. Back in those days, divorce was like a scarlet letter. It was simply not done. It didn’t matter if people were terribly unhappy, you suffered through it. That is, unless you were strong enough to go against what society says you should do. Both of my parents were just that strong.
However it came to be, Bobby met his soul mate during this heart wrenching time. Aggie (my Mom) was coming from the exact same place. She’d ended an unhappy marriage herself and was raising 4 young kids on her own. Wow! I can only imagine the talk of the small town when these two got together. They married despite all the disapproval. I came along a few years later. It would take me a long time to fully understand why I was told by my grandparents, “I love you anyway, even though you’re Bobby’s” or “I love you anyway, even though you’re Aggie’s”. I hold a unique position in our family, as I am the only one, while being part of many.
That’s Dad trying to teach me how to give a kiss.
Blended families are part of our everyday culture now. In the 60’s it was not. But Mom and Dad did just that. They blended the two families – Vicki Anne & Rhonda from Dad; Julie, Tony, Peggy & Vickie Jean from Mom. Yep, I have two sisters named Vicki. Dad never made any distinction between kids and step-kids. We were all just his kids. They also did something that is quite admirable. Both maintained (and I’m sure it wasn’t easy) lifelong friendships with their former spouses. As far as I remember, they were part of our family.
From left to right: Me, Julie, Vicki Anne, Rhonda, Tony, Peggy, Vickie Jean
Dad was good-looking, competitive, athletic, fun, charming, protective, caring to a fault, intimidating, stoic, yet sensitive. None of us are perfect and he wasn’t, either. But, I do know anything he did or didn’t do came from the place of loving and protecting us. Looking back on things as an adult I can say that most (if not all) of the time, they were probably right. He knew exactly what those boys were after that came to pick up his daughters. He scared the bejeezus out of all the neighborhood boys, even those that were just friends. They called him “The Bear” and he wouldn’t say a word to them. He didn’t have to. He’d just sit there and look.
One of our many vacations at Kentucky Lake. That’s me and Dad.
Some of my fondest childhood memories are going to the driving range and horse track with Dad. Just me and him. We never spoke much. Didn’t have to. At the track he’d park me by the paddock where the jockeys tacked up the horses and he’d go peruse the racing form. I would stay there for hours fantasizing about having my own horse, or being a jockey or countless other things related to the majestic animals. I’ve been able to make that dream come true now as a middle-aged woman. I have two horses to call my own. Dad was excited for me and would always ask about them. I think it took him on a nostalgia trip back to his farm days. My biggest regret is he didn’t get to meet them in person. He really wanted to.
Me, Cass, Scottie & Becca
We were quite the stylish threesome, don’t you think…
As good a Dad as he was, he was an even better Grandfather and Great-Grandfather. He got to relax a bit and enjoy kids being kids. There are 14 grandkids and 17 great-grandkids who will come to know how blessed they were to be loved by him. I’m saddened by the new babies who will only know him through photos and stories.
Kelly snuggling up to her Grandpa.
When Dad faced down death the first time after his heart attack on the golf course, he changed. He began calling more. He began telling his feelings more. I would start to worry if my Saturday morning went by without hearing his voice. If I didn’t answer he’d leave the same message every time. “Kath, this is your Father…” Like I wouldn’t know who it was. I’ll admit, it could still sometimes scare me, thinking I’d done something wrong! He had always been a man who did what he wanted and he took that task to heart even more. He and Tony took his lifelong dream trip to Scotland to play golf. I was so proud they did. One of Dad’s most envious traits was that he could be anywhere, in a foreign land or the grocery store and strike up a friendship with someone. He was just that kind of guy.
Mom & Dad at granddaughter Carri’s wedding a few years ago
Many, many people loved Bobby Payne. Probably more than he would even realize. But my dear Mom has a broken heart and she will never fully recover. She will endure it because that’s the strong woman she is. Dad would want her to. He wants all of us to celebrate him and each other. He wouldn’t want us to bicker and fight or take advantage or disappear. He was always about being together as a family. We must honor him and continue to make him proud. I’ll miss you, Dad. Love up to the sky. Kath.