Two years ago today, life forever changed with the loss of an amazing individual.
He wasn’t amazing by the world’s standards. He wasn’t rich or famous. Not a celebrity or sports figure. He wasn’t a high-powered CEO making deals in Armani suits and a Rolex watch. He didn’t invent or discover anything important enough to make headlines. He didn’t travel the world, play to sell-out crowds or write a novel.
Instead, he was a husband and father. He raised eight children. He became a grandfather while still raising young kids. He was faithful to his wife. He went to work everyday, missing only in the worst illnesses, and didn’t retire until he was 80. He attended church every Sunday and served where he was needed. (I still have memories of him washing dishes in the kitchen after a church supper.)
He played frisbee, softball, badminton and yard darts with us in good weather. Marbles, Uno, War and puzzles in bad.
He laughed…a lot. Over newspaper comics. Saturday morning cartoons. Police Squad. Abott and Costello. Danny Kaye. The Three Stooges. Dumb blonde jokes.
He missed participating in WWII with his four brothers by one year — and was then told he was too flat-footed for the military. So he served his country in other ways: Being a good citizen. Paying his taxes. Voting conscientiously. Writing carefully-worded editorials on an old typewriter, laboring for a week or more before submitting his Letter To The Editor.
He never pushed any of his children into a particular hobby or career, but cheered them on from the sidelines, attending events and performances as he could. When everyone began to spread out over the map he drove to see them, called and sent cards.
He started his day reading the Bible and praying, and ended it with a crossword puzzle and more Bible reading and praying. I would love to know how many times he read it cover to cover.
He had a smile for everyone, and was always happy to run into someone at the grocery store to chat. He refused to talk badly about even those unkind to him, instead reserving his grumblings for politicians.
The last day of his life, I had the privilege of sitting by his bedside. Alone together for some hours, I read the Psalms aloud. I reminisced about dearly missed people he would be seeing again soon. I promised that we would take care of Mom. I talked about my little ones, who mutually adored him. I asked him to take care of my first child, lost too early to hold. I asked him to forgive me for all the times I was sure I’d disappointed him. I held his hand and told him how much I loved him.
And I thanked him. Thanked him for being a great father. For all his wise counsel. For really listening to me, and knowing me as more than just his seventh kid.
I thanked him for his example of hard work, loyalty and faithfulness. Of being upbeat even when cancer stole his voice and made life so difficult for a brief time.
I thanked him for loving me so well that there was nothing left unsaid between us. So that when the call came in the early hours of the morning, I knew everything was okay between us — even without those extra hours together where he was still a physical presence in the room, but already far beyond my reach.
The world can have its definition of amazing. I’m choosing to aspire to my Dad’s living definition of the word.
I’m quite certain it will last longer.