Monday, September 29, 2014

I miss my dad ~ my column from Sunday's paper

My office was a mess, with months of magazines and stacks of unread books. There were knick-knacks and souvenirs hanging on the wall that had been there for years.


Setting my jaw, I decided it was time to do some reorganization. However, my efforts ended abruptly when I moved some old festival badges and came across a pair of welding goggles hanging from a hook on the side of my bookshelf.

I sat down and studied the goggles for a long time, wiping the glass with my thumb. They’d belonged to my dad, who worked as a welder. Placing the elastic bands around my ears, I turned day into night with lenses as black as anthracite.

I remembered that his birthday is in a few weeks and he would have been 91 years old, but he died too young in May 1986 at the age of 63 ... the age I am now.

Those last few months, cancer had eaten away most of his health and vitality, leaving bone and a veil of skin that looked almost translucent in the light. Today, looking at the pictures we took of him then, was painful.

His mind was still good until the end, so I can only imagine what he was thinking during those waning hours as he sat in his recliner looking out the living-room window. I’d be willing to bet he thought about fishing.

When he was healthy, he loved to spend time near the water. I remembered a story he told me about when he and his cousin Leroy Robbins went fly-fishing at the Backwater, which is a slough off the Warrior below Dora.

Leroy didn’t have a fly rod, but he was content to paddle dad around in the old handmade wooden boat.

Dad had tried every lure in his tackle box, but the fish weren’t biting. However, catching fish wasn’t as important to him as being on the water with his friend. Smelling the earthy river, watching turtles sunbathing on a log, and feeling the gentle lap of waves against the boat was why he loved the river.

As the sun fell behind the trees, Leroy aimed the boat toward the launch as dad dressed his line and stored his lures in the tackle box.

They were a few hundred feet from the landing when Leroy bumped the side of the boat with a paddle.

A perch jumped out of the water, over the gunnel, and into the pocket of Leroy’s denim jacket.

I can still hear dad exclaim as he told the story, “That was a hell of a note. Leroy didn’t wet a worm, and caught more fish than me.”

My dad grew up during the depression and started work young. He only made it to the fifth grade, and I think that bothered him for years. But he learned to read and write which helped him get a good job, working for a company that made industrial fans and dust collectors.

Later, he went back to school at night and got his GED diploma, which made him happy.

He was a quiet man, quick to smile and slow to anger. He didn’t dish out much advice, but when he did, I listened.

“Go to school and get as much education as you can so that you can get a good job and take care of your family.”

All five kids heeded his advice and finished high school. None of us were afraid of work, and this made him proud. I know, because he told us so.

I miss my dad. His old fly rod and reel are behind the seat of my truck. I think it would please him if I went fishing on his birthday.

11 comments:

  1. Rick this was so touching, what a beautiful tribute to your dad...

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  2. That was a good storey. Fishing with Leroy was almost like fishing with Jesus. The fish came to him, lol.
    I bet your dad would like you to go fishing with his old rod as often as you can. Today's post is a nice tribute to your dad.
    JB

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  3. What a legacy he left! He would never know how he influenced you and your siblings. I know he would love to sit on the porch and swap fishing stories. A perch in a pocket?

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  4. This was a wonderful blog. Your Dad sounds like he was a very nice man.
    My Dad had diabetes and it affected how he behaved. One never knew from one moment to the next what would upset him. But he too was a wonderful man. Always busy doing something.I have his hat and glasses and his old oil can which I cherish. We kept his tools which he wanted for the grand children. I guess we have to grow old to understand the importance of the people and things we lost. Looking back, they were great things. and people.

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  5. I miss my dad, too.

    Love,
    Janie

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  6. What a touching post, our fathers are so special well mine is and I know I am lucky to still have him in my life

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  7. I love this one Rick. It is a wonder and joy when a man can remember his dad with pride. Love the way you expressed the feelings. My dad passed at 69 and that was too young.
    Thanks for stirring the sweet memories of another dad, who was also the greatest.

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  8. Enjoyed the recollections of your dad! Neat how Leroy caught the fish. My dad and brother are excellent welders too, and I've tried it a little, but am not very good.

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  9. I know how you feel, I miss my dad, too! His birthday is coming up next month. I know, too, how hard it is to watch someone you love die of cancer. I lost my aunt, who was like a second mom (she lived next door) die of cancer, and more recently, I watched my dearest and best friend of over 35 years die of cancer. I miss her so much, too! But, like you, I have great memories of them!

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  10. Your post & the comments made me cry--I miss my dad, too!!

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  11. A lovely story about your dad, who sounds like a wonderful person.

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