Sunday, April 11, 2010
We’re sitting in a house that Dad built; we’re surrounded by his craftsmanship, his perfectionism, his hobbies, his photos, his music, our memories and his life. We’re brainstorming, remembering, rambling, laughing and trying to explain what made Dad, Dad. The task is deemed impossible. Not because we can’t think of anything but because it’s impossible to articulate how much we love Dad and how much he means to us. With such a difficult task, it’s good to have a plan. Dad was a planner. So, step one of the plan: Make a list of everything we remember about Dad. Step two: Add to the list. Step three: Come to terms with the fact that we will never be able to find an end to the list so give what we have to Kali so she can get something written. Although this is a collaboration of that list, know that there is so much more we’ll take with us. This is just some of what we’ll remember, “give or take a little bit.”
Dad had a long-term relationship with his 1977 Silver Mercury Cougar that was equipped with red interior and an eight-track player. A deliberate tear was shed the day it left. Dad liked Billy Joel, Neil Diamond and Lobo. He got a kick out of the quirky movies Edward Scissorhands and Fargo. He always was the one to suggest playing 500 and was always the first to bid nello, which he almost always won. Although there were times he would also bid just so he could see what was in the blind. These times didn’t turn out near as successful. He rooted for the Saint Louis Rams and the Miller Lite Dodge car once raced by Rusty Wallace, now raced by Kurt Busch. Although he liked Nascar, it appeared he liked Nascar naps better. He was the unofficial family handyman. We saw how long he kept the Blazer running, how he added a garage to the house he already built, how he resided and re-stoned the front of the house, and how he laid every brick by hand on the front sidewalk and the back patio. He could do anything and would do anything for us. We did have to remember though when he was done fixing our cars to turn back our radios. Somehow it always got left on his favorite radio station. This is probably the same station that plays nonstop on the radio in the garage. Even when he wasn’t in there, the radio was on. Guess this was just the next natural step to his vinyl records and eight track tapes. Also, if anyone came to the house when the whale tail was on the wall, they would agree that he was an exceptional artist. He could paint, sketch, and even carve small horses, whales and dolphins out of wood. He was also an excellent photographer and took beautifully detailed pictures.
Dad was also meticulous. He was constantly tweaking things to get them just right or just so. Whether it was teaching us all how to fold jeans, mow the lawn (his way), budget for something we really wanted or vacuum by placing our ear next to the vacuum hose, no one paid more attention to detail then Dad. We might not have been very receptive to these details at the time of teaching, but we’ll never forget the lessons we were taught. Mandi won’t forget learning about tomatoes and if you manage to escape eating them the first time, you weren’t going to escape Dad going out to the garden and picking a fresh one to make sure you had a slice. Kali won’t forget learning about the weight of her love seat. Carrying that love seat up those three small flights of stairs may have only taken Dad and Shawn 20 minutes, but the story has withstood five years so far. Allie won’t forget Dad teaching her how to ride a bike. Especially because we have evidence of it in a series of photos, ironically ending in a wipe out. Ty won’t forget learning of Dad’s hunting analogies when it came to sports. For some reason, it was easier to explain the game or the perspective of playing by relating it to his greatest passion, bow hunting. He also learned that he wasn’t going to be able to change the channel when Dad fell asleep watching the TV because Dad hid the remote, every time. Son-in-laws Andy and Shawn have even learned their fair share from Dad as well. Andy has learned that Dad likes to ask and know everything about the ship he’s on. Even if it’s asking 20 questions for 20 minutes about a 2x2 foot section of the ship. He was fascinated with how things like that worked. Shawn has learned that if you’re going to ask Dad for his blessing to marry his daughter, you had better be prepared to end up alone with him, on a drive, to the woods, on his favorite hunting ground, for three hours. As scary as it probably seemed, nothing meant more then at the end hearing him say, “Sounds good.”
We were a grow-it-yourself kind of family and always had a huge garden. We froze tons of corn and had an overload of potatoes, which Dad always took out to Grandmas to store in the cellar. A familiar Sunday meal contained chicken, potatoes and a veggie. One of our favorite meals was Dad’s homemade pancakes with homemade syrup of course. Another favorite meal was his milk rice. It didn’t matter that we were just eating rice for supper. It was more then enough because it was so good, despite the length of time it took to cook. If it wasn’t grown, it was often grocery shopped for every two weeks. Especially when Mandi and Kali were little. Getting groceries was a highlight because we got to stop at Caseys on the way there for a treat or Pizza Hut on the way back for supper. In line with highlights were our nightly trips to the swimming pool for family hour. Like clock work, we were there. Also like clockwork were Dad’s trips to Cabelas. These visits may have been for a new pair of hunting gloves to replace the 5th pair he lost in the woods or for material to add to his faux tree and deer stand in the backyard. Our Dad liked bow hunting so much so that he took a pole from our old swing set, propped it up on the far northeast corner of the lot, screwed branches into it to make it look like a tree and stuck his deer stand in it so he could practice. Speaking of northeast, you needed to learn which way was north in this family. Dad was always describing locations as north/south/east/west; never left or right; never visually; never by landmarks. It was a brilliant system once we learned which side the sun came up on so we knew where he was talking about.
We’ll never forget Dad’s smell. He always smelled like oil and GoJo. We’ll never forget his fondness for all things John Deere. We’ll never forget his hands. They were larger-then-life hands of a working man. His seasonal beards couldn’t have been bushier and his old summer haircuts couldn’t have been buzzed any shorter. His obnoxious sneezes will be heard in our dreams, as will the squeaky duck noise he made with his cheek. We’ll remember his advice and the way in which he phrased it. It was all from “a guy’s perspective.” He would say things like, “A guy could get the basement framed in a couple days” or “Alls a guys got to do is order the parts himself.” Along with the advice, we’ll hear his quirky little songs. On our future birthdays, we’ll all still look like monkeys and we’ll all still smell like them too. When visitors come, we’ll all know someone’s knocking on the door, someone’s ringing the bell, we just have to do him a favor and open the door… and let ‘em in.
Despite the fact that his life was much too short, we are grateful he got to come to our games, see us play, help us in school and listen at our concerts. Mandi and Kali are grateful to have been side-by-side with him at our weddings. Dad didn’t like a lot of attention so he may have been uncomfortable having everyone look at him as he walked us down the aisle, but we’re both positive he couldn’t have been prouder. How we all are is a testament to the kind of dad he was. He was an old soul with a big heart who taught us how to live. While being a teacher he was also always a student. He always wanted to learn more. He was always reflecting internally and always trying to grow and change and improve. We admire him for the journey he pursued towards bettering himself and it needs to be said that he is a great example to follow when it came to recognizing where he needed to reevaluate and dig a little deeper. No one knew Dad like we did and no one is prouder of him then we are and even though he’s not with us anymore, we know he’s getting heaven in order. We know he’s working through a list with God, putting some tree stands up, plotting out a mowing pattern, gassing up a motorcycle, sketching out a house to build and constantly checking up on us because he knows we like to make him proud.
The situation is surreal but the feelings are concrete. We love and miss you Dad and want nothing more then to see you again but are comforted by the fact that you are calm, quiet and at peace. Don’t get too settled up there though because you’re going to be pretty busy. We’ll be taking you with us. We’ll take you with us to Allie’s wedding someday and Ty’s graduation. We’ll take you with us to meet Kali’s children and tour Mandi’s acreage. Someday we’ll see you again but for now we’re going to lay you to rest so you can go to the place that’s the best. Go on up to the spirit in the sky. We are proud of you, we miss you, but above all, we will always, always, always love you.
Mandi, Kali, Allie and Ty