I recently heard it said that regardless of what we do in this life our memory will only last a couple generations. Our children and grandchildren will remember us and then we will be but a name on a genealogy chart. While this may be in part true it does not change the influence we have on our loved ones and the legacy that we create.
I was twelve when Dad passed away. It was the night of October 7, 1987. I will never forget. I was in the seventh grade, first year of junior high school, I was on the flag football team and was the starting quarterback. Being a quarterback had always been a dream for me as I had a good arm but was stuck in a lineman’s body. As I went to bed that night I told Dad to remember to come to my first game the next day and he promised he would. He stayed up to watch some television.
Dad always had the best way of waking me up in the morning for school. He would come in quietly and carefully and turn on the soft light in the bathroom next to my room. Before saying a word he would sit softly on my bedside. His manner was so gentle, at times it almost seemed as if I were still asleep and part of my dream was his entrance. He would gently nudge me and say, “wake up son”, “come on, time to wake up”, “time to get up for school”. This wasn’t the most effective method for getting a boy up quickly. I think it must have taken an average of 10 to 15 minutes each morning, but oh what a lasting impression it made on me. I have a big smile on my face right now as I think of it. What a patient act that was, getting his son up for school each morning. Some mornings he would have to eventually turn the bright overhead light on to get me out of bed, but he never raised his voice and his gentleness always remained the same.
That is why it seemed so strange that instead of the soft bedroom light being turned on first, the bright light above woke me up quickly and suddenly. Instead of Dad at my bedside it was my big brother Reid this time. “Dad’s had a heart attack, he’s in the hospital, we need to go see him”. It seem like we were at the hospital for a while and some of the family came. We returned home and sat in the family room and talked for quite a while. I think almost all of the family was there. His official time of death made it the 8th of October, so we must have been up most of the night. The next day I went to school. Part of me was still in a daze and the other part of me just wanted life to continue on as it was and going to school helped me feel that way. I played in the football game, threw three touchdown passes and felt like dad was there watching.
I know starting out my memories of him with a recount of the night of his death is not very uplifting. But I think for me it is necessary to do that in order to open up my mind and heart and remember all the images I have of his life.
All of my life with Dad I remember seeing him as a man that knew all the answers, sure and certain, not wavering, true to his beliefs and the ideals he upheld. One image that highlights these feelings in my mind is of him sitting in church singing the song, “Do What is Right”. He would sing all the other songs but this song he sang with fervor. Matter of fact, he didn’t sing it, he said it, and he said it louder than he sang any other song. The part of the song that he said the loudest was the chorus, “Do What is Right, Let the Consequence Follow. Battle for Freedom in Spirit and Might, and With Stout Hearts Look Ye Forth ‘Till Tomorrow. God Will Protect You in Doing What’s Right.” This was a sermon for him I believe, a belief statement and I never doubted that was the way he lived. Often times I would watch him in church, sometimes he could be seen with his eyes closed. You might think he had fallen asleep until you looked at his hands. His hands, not big hands, but strong from years of hard work, were always together with his fingers completely interlocked. He had a habit when he sat in church, he would twiddle his thumbs, but not in continuous circles and not at any rapid pace. He would move his thumbs slowly, almost as if he were feeling the texture of the top of one thumb with the bottom of the other and wanted to commit each line and groove to memory. When he had made a complete revolution or two he would stop and start the rotation in the opposite direction. I always thought this was a neat habit. At the same time I knew that Dad took his devotion to God and church very seriously and his attendance to sacrament meeting was not just a routine but a vital part of his worship. Looking back I’m sure he pondered many things while sitting and twiddling his thumbs in those meetings.
When Dad spoke in church or in prayer, he spoke from the heart. I remember him bearing his testimony a time or two and the feeling of complete conviction and seriousness that accompanied his words. I remember his prayers very well, he always spoke with such reverence and humility. He would speak as if he were truly talking to Heavenly Father, he understood the nature of prayer. I remember the feelings that I had as he baptized me and ordained me to the aaronic priesthood. I really felt that the priesthood power and authority that he held was real and special because of the feelings that I had when he performed those ordinances and by the way he acted and spoke. I was his home teaching companion for a time and he was a very dedicated home teacher. I remember visiting an older inactive sister in the ward. We went to her home a half a dozen times I think and spoke to her at the door step a few times before she actually let us in. We visited another family in the ward that my dad knew really well. Most of the time I just sat there while he visited and shared the message. One particular time however he asked me to give the prayer. I was so nervous that I prayed that this family would get over the sickness that they had and never get sick again. At the end of the prayer the family chuckled and thanked me. In the car my dad told me how proud he was of me and what a good son I was. I think he could tell I felt a little embarrassed and wanted me to feel good about my prayer. It made me feel better. I always knew by the way he acted and the way he spoke that he believed what he said he believed.
The last few years of his life he had his office at home out in the garage. He brought me out there once after I had turned 12 years old and said that occasionally we would have one on one interviews to see how I was doing. He said that I could ask him anything I wanted and that he would have the answer for me. He probably thought that if he didn’t have the answer we could figure it out together. I never had the chance to have one of those interviews with him and wish that I had. I hope to have those interviews with my kids one day. I used to play cards with him out there in the office. He knew all kinds of card games. Most of the time we played Rummy or Hearts together. I think his favorite card game to play was Pinochle. He knew how to play 2 handed and 3 handed Pinochle but the funnest times we had playing cards were the 4 handed games against Jeff and Denise. Dad was a good pinochle player and a fun partner.
Dad must have been a hard worker. Of course I was not around when he was having to provide for a large family but Mom says that he had to work three jobs at times. I remember him going out on appointments to meet clients to whom he sold insurance or for whom he did investments. Many other times I remembered him sitting in his office for hours talking and keeping up with clients. I’m sure he never considered himself a rich man but he did a great job taking care of his family and working hard all the days of his life to do so. I still run into people in the school district that knew him and used him for investments. They speak highly of him always.
My fondest and most lasting memories I believe are of him being involved with me in sports. He and I spent hours and hours playing catch in the front yard. At first I'm sure that I didn't throw very hard but as time passed I think it got a little harder for him to see my fastball. He'd be the catcher as he sat on a workbench that he had fashioned himself. I'd be the pitcher and in my mind I was actually throwing to real hitters as he would count the balls and strikes. A few times as I got older a ball would skip off the top of his catchers mit a go by him. Once I remember one glancing off his glove and cracking him in the shin. He had a huge bruise that lasted for a long time. He kept catching me though. He was my baseball coach when I was on the Pirates as an 11 and 12 year old. We had a great time and were very successful. I have great memories of those years and great friends that I still am in touch with. I was on the team as a 10 yr. old as well, yet he wasn't the coach. It is of this year that I have one particularly vivid memory. It was the last game of the year at the Championship game for the District of Champions. Our team was by far the best in our league and we had advanced to this particular tournament and now to the championship game. I was the youngest on the team and only played 3 innings a game. I had some success even though I was vey young but nothing for any other team to pay much attention to. We were getting beat pretty good yet had started to make a comeback. They put me in the game in the 4th inning and it was now the 6th inning (last inning). I had a single my first at bat, we were still behind by a few and I came up again with the bases loaded. The other coach called time-out and went to talk to the pitcher. Probably to tell him to strike this little kid out, he's the number 9 hitter in the order and can't hit. I hit the first pitch off the top of the fence in straight away center field for a double, just inches away from being a home run. The next batter singled and I was thrown out at the plate for the last out of the game and the end of our season. All the older kids on the team wouldn't even talk to me they were so upset, I was pretty upset too. After the game Dad told me what a good job I did and how he "would have given his right arm to see that ball go over the fence." It didn't make me feel any better, but the immediate image that popped into my head was my dad without a right arm and how he would have preferred that than to see me have to get thrown out at the plate to end the game. We always had fun together playing ball. I know he loved baseball and I'm glad he passed that on to me.
A funny memory of him that come to my mind: When I was maybe 6 or 7, he bought a little Honda Accord, hatch-back, blue-ish green. That became our family car. Back then people weren't as worried about wearing seat belts and I would sit in the back seat without a seat belt, leaning forward to have my head between Dad's seat and Mom's seat. The funny memory is that dad was not a very good driver when it came to shifting gears on a manual transmission. I can't explain it with words on a paper but when he would shift gears I think my head would move about a foot forward when the clutch went in and then a foot backwards when it came out. Funny memory, I hope it's not irreverent.
No more time to write right now, will resume later. Please post your memories as comments to this post and I will transfer them over to separate posts under your name.