One year ago today, my two sisters, two brothers and I lost our father. My mom lost her husband, and 14 people age 19 and under lost a grandpa.
I got the call from my brother Blake shortly after arriving at my office in Canton. The next day, I was on a hastily arranged trip to Nevada, by way of Atlanta and Dallas. During that long day of airports, airplanes, and overpriced food and beverages, I thought about the 47 years I called that one person “Dad”, and how life would never be the same again.
One year later, I’m taking a day off from work to reflect on Dad, the year since he passed, and how much has gone on in that one short trip around the sun.
I took today off for several reasons, among them the feeling of not wanting to be sitting at that desk at 8:30 and think about that phone call I got. I also wanted to spend the day like Dad would have spent it, and so far so good.
It’s not yet 2pm, and I’ve rotated tires on my car, taken a flat tire down to Farm King to have it patched, and then putting it back on my son’s car, and started to mow the lawn. I still plan on edging when I’m done mowing, and hopefully washing out the garage floor and cleaning up said garage a bit while I’m at it. And just like Dad used to when we had a huge lawn in Minnesota, I’m taking a mid-mowing break for a glass of lemonade. That’s a “Dad day” in my book.
I miss him every day, and it’s amazing how many times I’ll be doing something and a memory of him will pop into my head, whether it’s teaching me how to do something under the hood or fixing a broken appliance or laughing at one of my naughty jokes or taking a nap on a Sunday afternoon. I think of him every time.
I think of what he wanted to do and what he wanted to see happen. He wanted a motor home to travel around the country. He had one, and had it remodeled, too, just before he passed. He never got to use it like he wanted.
He wanted to see Barack Obama become President, although any Democrat would have done after eight years of hell. His words, and I agree. He wanted to see something significant done about the climate change. Dad was an engineer first, who loved to dabble in science. He invented little gadgets to make his life in the garage easier. He studied things. He talked to people. He always wanted to learn. For example, he learned so much on a flight across country one night, while sitting next to a pilot, that he wasn’t real fond of flying after that. The pilot apparently shared TOO many bad scenarios with my always-thinking-about-physics father.
At his work, in hospitals throughout the West and Midwest, he always came up with better ways of doing things, and became extremely involved in keeping things impeccably clean. He visited Walter Reed Hospital on an engineering trip he made back east to assist with another D.C. area hospital, and was appalled by the lack of cleanliness in that facility.
Late in his life, not wanted to quit work (he died at a very young 69), he took a maintenance engineering job at a major casino in Reno, and hated most of it just because of the filth. But while he was there he did his damnedest to clean it up.
He had some tremendously cool quirks, too. He would sit and watch the weather channel for hours on end, and call Illinois every time we had a storm to see if we were okay, but also to get a report on what the storm looked like. He watered the crap out of his front lawn every year, in Nevada, in the desert, and kept it green. The backyard? That was desert. He let that one just “be natural”.
He liked to have fun, too, and loved comedians, good movies, and REAL country music, not the stuff we’re saddled with today. And in a strange twist of fate, three of his personal favorites passed in the same year he did: George Carlin, his favorite comic; Paul Newman, his favorite actor; and Jerry Reed, his favorite guitar picker.
When I think of my Dad, I think of a guy who ALWAYS tried to make things better, no matter what he was doing. A perfectionist, but a guy who would go “outside the box” to come up with solutions. At his memorial service last year, nearly every employee who worked for him some 15-20 years earlier at a hospital in Carson City, many who had moved away and many who hadn’t seen him in years, showed up to pay their respects to who, what one of them told me was “the best boss and best friend a guy could ever have.” That made me smile and cry at the very same time.
For me, a major difference in my life without Dad has turned into a positive. My mom, two sisters and one brother all live within 15 miles of each other in the Carson City area. Brother Blake lives in L.A. I’m the lone “gone back to the Midwest” dude of the bunch. Since Dad’s passing, the contact between us all has been greater, more frequent, more honest and raw, and more supportive. We talk so much more now, the kids do, and with cell phones for texting and computers for video chatting and Facebook to keep up with each other, we’re much more the way we all were as kids than we were for the last few years as our lives got busier. Of course, I wish Dad was part of that increased communication, but in a way, he is. He’s with us all the time. And that’s a good thing.
Today, I hope he’s having a “Dad day”…throwing horseshoes and swapping jokes with George Carlin, working on a race car with Paul Newman, and having a glass of lemonade and pickin’ a few tunes with Jerry Reed.
Miss ya, Dad, love ya.