Monday, February 21, 2011

Hard To Believe It's Been 25 Years ~ Column from Sunday Paper

I pulled To Kill a Mocking-bird from our library shelf today and something slipped from between the pages. When I picked it up, I realized that it was the laminated obit for my dad who died in the spring of 1986.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 25 years since we lost him. I reflexively wiped my thumb across the the picture, and stepped closer to the light filtering through the window to get a better look. As I read the obit again, it occurred to me that I am now just two years younger than he was when he passed away. A wave of sadness came over me and I fought back tears.

Back in 1986, I remember thinking how old he looked just before he died. The last few years of his life had not been kind to him and he seemed to look tired and frail each time we visited.

He worked hard as a welder for most of his life and he spent every free moment in the woods or on the river. He loved the outdoors.

After he got sick and couldn’t drive, he spent most of his time sitting in a recliner in the corner of the living room. I think toward the end, he’d made up his mind he was ready to go.

I was in Atlanta on business when my mom phoned my office to tell me he’d been rushed to the hospital. They tracked me down in Atlanta to give me the message. My boss at the time wanted me to stay for a meeting, but I told him I felt like I needed to go home.

He wasn’t happy, but I really didn’t leave room for negotiation and when I landed in Birmingham, Jilda picked me up at the airport and whisked me to the hospital.

I went straight to intensive care to see him and he gave me a faint smile when I took his hand.

I hadn’t been there 20 minutes before the machines began to beep slower and his vital signs weakened. With my brother Neil and I holding his hands, he slipped away.

Even though it’s been 25 years since my father died, I still smell the aroma of his Rose Hair Oil, and remember the short black comb he carried in his right hip pocket next to his wallet. I can hear the clattering sound his keys made when he laid them on the dresser next to his bed at night.

He had an Army footlocker as old as the hills that he’d painted white with a brush. It’s where he kept his personal things.

After he died, mama wanted me to go through the trunk and try to figure out what to do with what he had left behind. Inside the trunk was a life time of souvenirs. An Old Timer pocket knife, and an ink pen with the image a woman in a bathing suit. When you turned the pen upside down, the bathing suit disappeared. He also had some cat-eye marbles, and an antique Zippo lighter with the cover worn smooth on one side from years of flipping and zipping.

It was an interesting experience browsing through the things that my father had kept for all those years.

A ringing phone snatched me back to the present, and as I cradled the phone between my shoulder and ear, I put daddy’s obit back between the pages of To Kill a Mockingbird. I know it will make me sad again the next time I run across it, but this bookmark will also help me to hold onto memories of my dad.


  1. This is very moving. Thanks for sharing thoughts of your father.

  2. Thanks Belle. I appreciate you. I wish you lived closer, Jilda and I would love to do lunch with you and your hubs.

  3. Beautifully written. It was a privilege to read your recollections of your father and his final days.

  4. As you think your father will remain alive in your memories. Mine six years ago that left me and I miss him.

  5. This was very moving to read. Thank you for sharing this.


  6. I think of my parents every day, Rick. Unexpectedly running accross things of theirs or hearing songs in church...many little things catch me emotionally. Since it has been more than 5 years, I'm thinking this will be lifelong.
    Your piece is so poignant and well written...very touching!

  7. Lost my father this year...this was very well written and moving.

  8. What a precious story...

  9. What a beautiful heart-touching post.. so wonderful to hear about your dad..our loved ones are so special and so treasured! You are such a wonderful writer..I was captivated till the very last word! Beautiful tribute to him..very's to your dad!
    Have a sparkling week!!

  10. Thanks to you all for your kind words. I am grateful for having such great blog-buddies!

  11. The memories of those we loved and lost are always fresh in our minds and hearts. I saw a bottle of the perfume my mother used in a shop just two weeks ago and had to supress the urge to purchase it. I did spray the perfume and there she was standing right in front of me in my minds eye.

    A lovely tribute to your Father.

    Nice to meet you too!

  12. How coincidental that you write this on the same day I lost my dad 14 years ago. Talk about connection. Wow. Those memories are all so real aren't they?

  13. Ornery and I lost our dads about a year apart over 20 years ago. I have a few of my dad's souvenirs, and it sounds like several of the ones your dad saved, as well. My dad had a stainless steel zippo lighter that he filled every week with lighter fluid. I remember those little flints in a yellow plastic package and blue cans of fluid up high in the kitchen cupboard.

    While Ornery's dad left behind a wife and son still at home, my dad had lived alone for several years, so it was up to my sisters and me to go through his massive stash of stuff. It took us a week or more, and even then we ended up leaving a lot of it to the buyer of his house--a personal friend of his who couldn't bear to see it go to a stranger.

    A couple of years after Ornery's Dad passed, his mom had us come to help with a farm sale as she leased out the land and had no need for most of the equipment. That was almost as difficult as parting with my dad's things.

    The end of an era arrived when we lost those men. It is wonderful to remember their lives, and I am glad you put the obit back in the book to remind you later of the days gone by.

  14. I blogged about my Dad on his birthday. (I think your commented)..and it's been 35yrs since he passed and I miss him everyday. You wrote a lovely and moving tribute to your Dad. How funny to have his obit just show up like that. I sometimes wonder if our loved ones are thinking of us when things like that happen out of nowhere? I'm always hoping anyway! Thanks for a beautiful post.

  15. Anonymous12:13 PM

    Rick, Thank you for sharing. Lewis Grizzard wrote of "Crying for your Daddy drunk." Your column did it without the alcohol. Jim

  16. I don't think I've ever read a sweeter post....Your words bought a lump to my throat & tears to my eyes....While coming across your Dear Dad's obit bought the 'blues' your way, it's wonderful you're able to remember him so fondly....!

    Thank you so much for sharing....!!


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