Yesterday the world was lessened by the loss of a kind and gracious man-my dad.
We woke up happy that daddy had returned from a trip the day before and as I was putting a pile of raspberries on everyone’s breakfast plate, I thought to myself, “Holy cow! My dad’s birthday is in 11 days. What will I send to him?” Then I had a little back and forth with myself as to what the perfect gift would be, but in the end I decided to make him something because he liked those gifts the best and that I had better get crackin’.
But, in the middle of breakfast my brother called. It was the kind of moment that, because of the time of day, I just knew…
My dad was a wonderful man. I have so many memories of the things that made him great. He built wonderful things. When I was a kid, he built the BEST tree house that anyone has ever made. It was HUGE! It stood about 15 feet off the ground, had a staircase that wrapped around the tree to the front porch. When you went inside of this 15×15 foot (or so) structure, there were windows and a loft on either side-one for Kevin and one for me. And in the lofts were windows overlooking the whole yard. I don’t know what made him want to build this for us, but he did. And it was spectacular.
My dad worked hard. He always had a project that he was working on and very, very methodically. That man planned out every aspect of his project to avoid failure, which is very wise, and in many cases made me wonder if the project would ever begin (as a kid, you know). But he knew what he was doing. In those days there was no internet to guide you. He took out his carpentry book for reference and got to work. From him I learned the importance of graph paper, a pencil, and not being afraid to learn from others to get a job done well.
My dad was a smart man. He didn’t think he was, but I was always amazed by him. When I was a kid he worked full time in the computer world and went to school at night to finish his bachelor’s degree. And he did, of course. I remember sitting on the floor in his office while he worked at his desk. And while he didn’t always like the job he worked on, he enjoyed his work.
My dad loved us. I remember as a kid being chased around the house by my dad. We had some games that we would play. One of the games was called “sow,” which of course sounds silly to any outsider, but it’s one of our favorite memories and was his too. If we dared to say the word…the previously mentioned “s” word, we would get tickled! I remember getting tickled so much that I could hardly breathe. We had a few other games that he would play with us too, but I think the thing I loved most was the smile on his face.
My dad was generous. Many times in my adult life, my dad helped me financially in some way. Not because we were struggling (well, maybe at first), but because he just wanted to give. When we wanted to purchase our house, he gave us money for the down payment. When we wanted to purchase some extra land to expand our property, he helped us significantly with that too. I had always imagined being able to take care of him when he got older, hoping to return the same generosity and love that he had shown us. But I know that he never helped us to get anything in return. He wanted us to be happy.
My most favorite memory of my dad, however, was how much he loved his grandkids. It was amazing. Now because we live in Florida and he lived in Maryland, we did not see each other often. Just a few times a year. But always on the phone he wanted to know all about them. He spoke about himself only when I asked him and even then really just wanted to talk about the kids and share information about my brother’s kids. But nothing compares to when he was in the presence of my four babies. In those moments, my own childhood with the chasing and the giggling and little voices yelling out “sow!” and lots and lots of tickling and laughter came rushing back. He loved them so much. And they loved him. And even after he was worn thin from playing and being climbed on and jumped on, he never pushed them away. He always let them come to him even if it was just to sit on his lap after being so tired from all the running.
I could tell you many more happy memories of him and a few grumpy ones. But I am overjoyed to know that I will see him again and that probably at this very moment he’s playing with the grandbabies that he has in heaven. I’m sure there is lots of hugging and tickling and giggling happening at this very moment.