My dad was 98 when he died.
I think that when you’re old, and you know your time in this life is getting shorter and shorter, the past becomes really important because there isn’t much future remaining.
He passed away in 2020. Although I think of him often, I especially think of him on Father’s Day.
My dad was widowed in 2010. During those last 10 years of his life, when I visited him, I would tell him about all the things I remembered from my childhood.
Those conversations really brightened his day, because more than anything else, he enjoyed knowing that I had good memories of things we did together.
When I was little and it was bedtime my dad would let me climb on his back, put my arms around his neck, and he would carry me up the stairs to bed singing “I love you, a bushel and a peck.”
He read me stories at bedtime from a set of Uncle Arthur’s bedtime stories, a series of books with stories that illustrated values such as honesty, helpfulness, generosity, humility, and good manners.
The Uncle Arthur story I remember most was about a little boy who always wanted more than anyone else had. One time at a family dinner he took a really big piece of pie, leaving only smaller slices for everyone else, and then after eating it he got really sick while everyone with smaller slices was still well and having fun.
It’s a lesson that has stayed with me all my life … more isn’t always better.
My dad made winter a fun time. We lived in a very small town in a rural part of Pennsylvania. When roads were snowy he put chains on the tires of his black 1952 Studebaker, put ropes on my brother’s and my sleds, tied them to the rear bumper of the Studebaker, and drove us around on back country roads pulling my brother and me in the snow. We loved it!
Today that would be considered child endangerment. Not only could our sleds have slid under the car if he had stopped suddenly, we were probably inhaling fumes from the exhaust pipe. After all, this was before cars had catalytic converters. Dad and his Studebaker were our sleigh rides! I’m so grateful I grew up in simpler times.
My dad had a wonderful sense of humor. He loved fun, and jokes, and was always cheerful. When I think of his sense of humor I think of his “rock”.
He had a round smooth river rock, about 12 inches in diameter. On one side of the rock he painted the words “Please turn me over.” He put the rock on the floor of his retail business, just inside the entrance door.
He loved it when a customer noticed the rock, and being curious, turned it over. On the other side he had painted “Thanks, That feels good.” Silly, I know. But that was dad. When he retired and sold his business he put the rock in his house.
One day when I was visiting him I noticed the rock was gone. I asked what happened to it. He gave me a funny look and said, “Why? Did you want that?” And I said yes, if he wasn’t going to keep it I wanted it.
Sadly, Dad felt no one would ever want his silly rock. So one day he put it in his car and drove it to a place along the side of the road a few miles from where he lived, where there was already a pile of rocks and stones that had been dumped. He threw his rock into the pile with all the others.
When I said I wanted it, I asked how long ago it was that he threw it out and he said it was just the week before. So I said “We’re going rock hunting!”. We got in my car and drove to where he threw it out and started climbing up and looking through the pile of rocks for just that one. My dad was in his early 90s at this time, and there he was climbing over those rocks intent on finding his to give to me.
Miraculously, we found it! I now have it sitting in the front hall of my house. Someday I will pass it along to my son who always appreciated his grandfather’s weird sense of humor.
That silly rock is a treasured family heirloom for me!
I know how lucky I am to have such wonderful memories of my dad. Not everyone gets to have that.
Yesterday, on Father’s Day, I hope you got to make some new memories with your dad. Or, if you’re a dad, I hope you made some good memories with your children. If like me, your dad is no longer here, I hope you could reflect on lots of good times spent with him.
“Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.”Wade Boggs
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