Last Thursday I wrote Just What the Doctor Ordered, and talked about my stressful trip to Tennessee to help care for a loved one. I didn’t mention that I left sobbing. I didn’t have that feeling in my gut, that feeling that I’d never see him alive again, but I was afraid of what might happen. I told him that I loved him so very, very much, and he told me that he loved me, too. We never hung up the phone or left each other for more than a little while without saying, “I love you,” and I’m so grateful for that.
Sunday night at 11:47 I got the phone call everyone dreads. My dear sweet dad had just passed away from complications from pneumonia. I had planned to leave the very next day to go back to the hospital to spend another week with him.
It’s hard to believe that just three short weeks earlier, Dad had mowed the lawn and picked apples from his orchard to freeze, and then taught his Sunday school class on Sunday morning. Dad set the bar high when it came to getting things done. He worked harder than anyone I have ever met; and he instilled that work ethic in my brother and me. When he first got sick the week before Labor Day, he called to get my opinion on whether or not he should continue to do his morning cardio exercises of rowing and riding his stationary bike. When I suggested he cut that out for a few days until he felt better, he asked, “What about my crunches and push-ups?” He didn’t like not staying active. After a few weeks he felt a little better and his doctor told him he could resume his normal activities. Dad went home from the doctor’s office and cut the grass.
My dad was quite the athlete in his youth. He was captain of his high school basketball team, but his first love was baseball. In addition to his high school team, he played on local community teams and was invited to attend the Brooklyn Dodgers training camp and try out for the team. A previous hand injury limited his success at camp, but he continued to rule third base on his local community teams. Even today, his buddies still talk about what a great player he was. He said that he didn’t mind not making the team because if he had made the team, he might not have married my mom.
At 22 years old, Dad was drafted into the Army and proudly served our country. When he was discharged he returned to his family farm and took over the farming responsibilities for his father. He and my mom were married about a year later and started their family with a little boy, and then a little girl.
The year before I started school, I hung out with my dad on the dairy farm during the day while my mom taught school. I was a “Daddy’s Girl” from early on. To this day, I can use tools, discuss planting crops, or identify the different breeds of cattle like any good farmer!
On Saturday afternoon’s during the fall I’d hang out with my dad and no matter what farm chore he was doing he would make sure to have his pickup truck or radio nearby so he could listen to VPI play football. Back then Virginia Tech was called Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, or VPI. I remember when I was about four, I asked Dad what VPI was and why he liked listening to them. He told me that they were playing football and they they were his favorite team. If they were good enough for my dad, they were good enough for me and I became a VPI Fighting Gobbler football fan, cheering them on as we listened on the radio.
When I got married and moved to Utah, my dad always kept me updated on how our Virginia Tech Hokies (Fighting Gobblers evolved to Hokies) had done that weekend. Keep in mind that this was long before the internet, and ESPN was just an infant carrying mostly boxing, so I couldn’t easily find out how my Hokies had done. Eventually I moved back east, the Hokies got better, and their games were carried on TV most weeks. Somehow our tradition started that after a win and whether I was in Lane Stadium or watching the game on TV, the second the game was over I would call my dad and he would answer the phone shouting, “How ’bout them Hokies!” It was our thing. I even found this little framed picture and bought one for each of us.
You can bet that after every win in the future I will look up into heaven and shout to my dad, “How ’bout them Hokies!” and I’ll follow it with, “I love and miss you, Dad!”
Joseph and Daniel (and their two cousins Rob and Dave) loved their trips to the farm to visit their Granddaddy and GaGa. Once they turned four years old, they got to spend a week each summer with my parents and get properly spoiled (I called it Camp Granddaddy and GaGa). They loved helping Dad farm and loved having free rein to run and play on the farm.
Even though my dad didn’t make it to watch me at any of my marathons, he was my biggest supporter and so proud of me. I’d call him after every race and tell him all about it. He told everyone that his daughter was a runner and had run the Boston Marathon. After I ran my first Boston, and got my first jacket, he took this picture of me that I just found in one of my parents’ photo albums. I’d forgotten all about it…
His advice before my first race was to “get out in front and not let anyone pass me.” It was his silly sense of humor that was one of my favorite things about him. He was always a ten year old at heart, and he loved more than anything to tell his grandsons silly little riddles and jokes.
My dad was many things, and I’ll hold all of those precious memories in my heart forever. Mostly though, I’ll remember him for his dedication and love to my mom for over 60 years, his love of his family, his love of God, his dedication and contribution to his community, his incredible work ethic, his talent as a wood worker and furniture maker, his love of history, his athleticism, his love of his Hokies football team, his talent as a gardener, his love of reading, and his support of his family in whatever endeavors we chose.
Our family has been touched by the outpouring of love and kindness from our extended family, friends and the community. But when you step back and think about it, this is truly an example of you reap what you sow. My parents have always been very active in their community and church, and their friends are simply paying them back.
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
I love you and I miss you, Dad!
- What’s your very first memory of you and your dad?
- What activities and hobbies do/did you and your dad share?
- What trait do you have that’s most like your dad’s?