Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ten Years Ago Today

Ten years ago today my dad died.

Ten years ago today I was six months pregnant with my first child.

Ten years ago today my heart broke wider than I ever thought possible.

Ten years ago today I experienced one of my first "now I'm really a grown up " moments.

But today I don't want to dwell on the sadness or how long it took to feel normal again. I want to remember the man that I loved and the lessons he taught me.

My dad was funny, funny, funny. He was the funniest man I have ever known. He had a quick wit, coming up with nuggets of humor that one would never expect. I remember riding in the truck with him and I would admire something: the sunset, a nice paint job on a car, an interesting billboard. I would say "That's a really pretty sunset" and my dad would reply "Thanks". It never failed to make me laugh.

Once, in relating a story to me, he substituted the word "decaffeinated" for "decapitated. On purpose. So. Funny.

I loved to hear stories of his childhood, like the time he and his older brother covered my grandpa's WWII Japanese bayonets and their own shirts with ketchup and ran out of the kitchen screaming, scaring their younger sister nearly to death. Or the infamous laundry basket incident, in which my dad ended up sitting in a laundry basket, a rope tied to his dog and the other end securely fastened around my dad's neck. His older brother may or may not have been involved in helping to tie the knots, but my grandmother always stated that she knew she saved my dad's life when she quickly responded to the screams she heard coming from outside.

The best story, hands down, is the sheep story. As a teenager, my dad and his cousin were driving around the back roads of rural Utah as bored teenagers are wont to do. They came upon a few sheep that had escaped through a broken fence. Dad and his cousin promptly gave chase in the car and when they had chased one sheep until it couldn't run any further, they got out and coaxed the exhausted animal into the front seat with them. They propped it on its haunches between them in the front seat. Dad said that the sheep just calmly sat there, looking around, with its front legs resting on the dash. They drove to the local A&W and when the car hop rolled up to the window on her skates, they calmly ordered three root beers. I can't even think of this story without tears of mirth coming to my eyes.

These are stories that became family legend, lore that was told around the campfire in the summer, sitting in the family room visiting with guests, these tales were even told at his funeral. He was a funny, funny guy.

He also was the most honest person I have ever met. As a (stupid) teenager, some of my friends and I visited Burger King once and each of us left with a ball from the ball pit as a souvenir. It never crossed my mind that taking the balls was stealing, but the disappointment in my dad's eyes told me that it was.

He was an avid golfer and there was one friend in particular that he spent many hours with on the links. Occasionally they would make small bets, just a few dollars, on the outcome of the game. Dad always paid if he lost but the friend almost never did, even though he was by all counts a wealthy man. While it frustrated our family, Dad never said a word against the man. He just kept paying his share when called for and kept his mouth shut when he was treated unfairly.

He was a businessman and anyone who did business with him always came out with an honest price and good, hard work. He taught all of his children to work. Growing up, our family activities were things like cutting and splitting firewood or weeding our massive garden. Going out to eat was a rare treat and now that I'm a parent of four, I appreciate my parent's gift of a night out to eat for their brood of six.

Dad was also very tenderhearted. I remember many nights when we would watch a particularly emotional movie and Dad would suddenly notice that the wood box near the fireplace was less than full. "Going to get some wood" was code in our family for "going outside so you don't see me cry".

The first time I went skiing, it was for a church activity. It was Dad's job to drive me into the church early that morning but before we got in his truck, he took a few minutes and gave me my first skiing lesson in the garage.

I miss him every day. He was human and he had his faults. But he taught us well and he loved us. I hope that he is proud as he watches my siblings and me and sees what we have done with the lessons he taught us.


Cristina said...

What a wonderful tribute to an obviously amazing person. It brought tears to my eyes, and I've never even met YOU, let alone your dad. What a special relationship you must have had. All I can say is, he taught you well, my dear. He taught you well.

Nikki said...

I have to second what Cristina said. And I've never even been to your blog before! I was blog hopping and found you. Beautiful beautiful tribute. Love the sheep story. :)