I was a lucky little girl to have such a good role model to look up to. One of four brothers, Dad served in WWII and was stationed in the Pacific islands. While there, one of his fellow soldiers stepped on a landmine which killed the man and blew a good portion of my Dad's arm off. When he returned stateside, he refused to let them amputate his arm because he felt that having a part of an arm was better than no arm at all. It was in the hospital that he met my mom, who was a WAC stationed in the hospital where he was receiving his treatment. They fell in love and got married and returned to Indiana.
It's funny looking back at how different they were. Both grew up during the Great Depression but had entirely different backgrounds. Dad's family was relatively large and they lived in a small rural community so during the Great Depression, they didn't struggle for food like my mom's family did. Mom was from Indianapolis and I remember her tales of how they had to often go to the soup kitchen for meals because her father couldn't get work.
My parents soon found out, after several unsuccessful attempts to have a baby, that one of them were unable to have children. So they set about trying to find a baby to adopt and finally, through their family physician, they found me. And I thank God every day that they did.
Dad often worked two jobs for as long as I could remember growing up. He had a full time job at the Veteran's Administration and then sometime around the time I was about four, we rented a farm house and Dad worked for the farmer and continued to do so even after we moved to a house that my parents bought. So every spring and fall he would work during the day at his full time job and then every other available hour was spent either planting or harvesting crops. One of my favorite things to do when we lived on the old farmhouse was to go out and play in the abandoned hog houses. I thought they were playhouses. Another thing was to get to ride on the big tractor with Dad.
My dad was the person who taught me to read. I remember sitting on his lap every evening with the newspaper as he patiently pointed out words for me to "sound out". I think that I was about four years old when I mastered reading my very first comic strip all by myself. With Dad's patient tutelage, I found my first love. Reading. And it didn't stop there because not long after that, I was already making up my very own comic strips complete with stick figure drawings.
Of course, every little girl grows into a pre-teen and then a teenager and I was probably one of the most difficult. I'm surprised at times that he didn't send me back. I argued and rebelled probably more than was necessary considering most of our fights were over me not doing my schoolwork, wanting to go out with bad boys, wearing clothes that he felt were not appropriate, or not wanting to do my fair share of chores. None of which I blame him for because after I had my own handful of three daughters I understood exactly where he was coming from.
I remember his disappointment when I had to confess that I had gotten pregnant. I wasn't married. But despite his disappointment, he became the best grandfather as soon as he set eyes on the screaming little girl that I brought home from the hospital. He walked the floor at night when she had a bellyache and he sat and sang "You Are My Sunshine" as he rocked her in his arms. And as the other two came along and got big enough to take along with him, he would pile them all in his blue Toyota truck and proudly show them off to anyone that he could. And as they got older, he let them get by with things that I never would have been able to pull off. Like having boys in the house when I was at work...
Dad was taken from us all too soon. He was driving one of the girls to an appointment while I was at work and rear ended another vehicle. His injuries should not have been life threatening but at his age and in his frail condition, the seat belt tightened and crushed his chest. In a matter of hours he went from sitting in the emergency room fretting over whether he had hurt anyone to a coma that he never really came out of. The day he passed away was the most heart wrenching day of my life because my hero had gone home.
Dad taught me a lot more than how to read. He taught me to garden, cook, clean, do simple auto and home repairs (yes, because of him I can actually wire up a light fixture and hang drywall). He encouraged me to be the best I could be. But most of all, he taught me unending patience and unconditional love.
Until we meet again....