Looking back, I was going to write about him on Father's Day-- since I had blogged about Mom on Mother's Day... and then I got busy and decided I'd do it on his birthday instead. So here we are, a couple of weeks past his birthday, and I'm finally ready to let it all out and tell you all about him, and what a wonderful man he was. I don't feel badly about not having done so while he was still here with us, because I know he knew exactly how much I loved him... and I know he is still here in spirit watching over us all.
I could tell you all about the kind of life he led, but his basics are all listed in the obituary-- so you can read about it all there if you'd like. What I'm going to talk about are some of the small, insignificant moments in life that left an impression on my heart forever.
I remember he'd always tell me about the scar on his finger-- when I was 4, the day they brought my sister home from being born, I was sick and my fever got up so high that I started convulsing. This required a quick ambulance trip to the hospital and for the entire ride, Daddy held his finger in my mouth because he was afraid I'd choke on my tongue. I bit down hard on that finger all the way there. For the record, I was fine, and they learned their lesson about bringing other babies into my house. There were no more siblings for me after my sister, Erin.
When I was in kindergarten or first grade, Mom made an appointment for me to sit for portraits at Olan Mills. This was a HUGE deal, and a few days beforehand, Dad came home from work with a new dress for me-- it was a blue knit sweatery dress and as soon as I put it on, I thought I was totally hot stuff and pranced around the house, not really wanting to take it off at all. I was pretty angry when Mom wouldn't let me wear it to school the next day, but judging from the smile on my face in those portraits from Olan Mills that still hang on my Mom's bedroom wall... I was happy as a clam and feeling pretty as a princess when I wore it again. For the rest of my life I loved blue dresses. Lady in red? Shoot, I was the fairy in the blue dress.
At some other point in my childhood, Dad worked at a machine shop with my uncle. One night it was storming so badly, and he arrived at my grandma's house to pick us up-- in his hands, a red shop rag. He said he had somethign for us. My sister and I were really excited to see what it was, of course we were thinking candy or stickers, so we crowded around him jumping up and down. In his giant hands was the tiniest little black and gray kitten! He told us he had been leaving the shop, and he saw the kitten in a pothole that was filling with water. "Midnight" the cat lived a happy life with us.
He coached us through countless seasons of sports. He caught for me in the backyard when I needed to practice my pitching-- and broke it to Mom gently when I accidentally threw a wild pitch up and over the roof, which resulted in a broken windshield on our Suburban that was parked on the other side of the house. Oops!
Though he had his short-fused moments of frustration where his bald forehead turned red and then even purple... for the most part he was a pretty patient guy. He loved buying and giving presents (or making them and giving them), and I loved to watch him give gifts or pick them out.
He had two very girly daughters, but that didn't keep him from taking us fishing or throwing us out in the garage with a hammer and nails and some scrap wood to let us build something. One of my favorite toys as a child was an old yellow telephone that he would let me take apart and put back together over and over again. Every summer he'd set up the old blue canvas tent in our backyard, and after enough begging he'd let us sleep out there. He'd just sleep in a sleeping bag on the deck, because he wanted to fall asleep looking at the stars.
He was the epitome of grandfatherly love, and he embraced my small stepchildren with no less love than his biological grandchildren. He went from two grandkids to four grandkids one day, and he never looked back. "Pap" could do no wrong, and was famous for putting his 12' kayak in the backyard above-ground swimming pool for the kids. I'm sure all the people driving by thought he was crazy, but those kids thought he was the bee's knees. One Thanksgiving we all went to the beach, and though the water was cold-- Pap got out there and fished, caught hermit crabs, and swam with the kids the whole time. He even slept outside on the hammock one night.
He also gave me the gift of knowledge. He taught me so much about photography and art, and appreciating the interesting and beautiful things around us in nature. He also taught me the Aggie War Hymn, which came in handy when I went to college!
I like to think he's out there now, that he rode off into the sunset like the cowboys in the old kitschy movies he loved to watch... flying free as a bird on the wind. He left a beautiful legacy of love and kindness (not to mention laughter, goofiness, and good old-fashioned fun) behind him.