“Who was that, dad?” I inquired of him as I placed the bread and milk on the counter in front of the clerk.
“I don’t know,” my dad answered as he reached into his pocket to retrieve his wallet. “He is new in town and wanted to know which aisle the cereal was in.”
“You’re kidding,” I thought as I shook my head. Once again it took us twenty minutes to purchase two items. It amazed me the way my dad could have long conversations with strangers. Everyone was a potential friend to him.
It was not until my dad passed away in 1999 that I began to appreciate the ways he interacted with others as well as some of his other quirky traits. I invite you now to pick up your favorite drink, put up your feet, while we stroll down an odd and yet delightful memory lane. I am sure that glances of my dad will warm your heart and tickle your soul.
My story begins with my cousin, Bob.
“How can we ever forget the Christmas’ with your dad?”
My head swirled with glee at the thought of those Christmas’ as a kid with his family. In preparation for our celebration, my dad and I would rush in search of gifts around the house for me to wrap for the family.
“You never knew what your gift would be,” Bob said, “It might be a pair of socks, a ski hat, or gloves, but you could always count on it being tucked in a Velveeta cheese box.” You know, I threw away at least twenty of those boxes after my dad was gone.
Now if that didn’t catch your attention, then I must tell you about the new friend I met the summer before I graduated college. A couple in my church introduced me to Kathi, because they believed we would be instant friends. They were right.
“Where do you work?” I asked.
“Are you familiar with the photo booth in the middle of the K-Mart parking lot?”
“My father gets his pictures developed there all the time,” I told her.
Kathi’s mouth dropped open, and then she smiled. “Is your dad’s first name, Bill?”
Slowly, with butterflies doing a dance in my belly, I hesitantly confirmed that it was.
Kathi proceeded to tell me when and where I was born, what college I attended, and details that a new friend should not know.
“How do you know all this?” I asked her.
“Every time your dad picks up his photos, he pulls them out of the envelope, and tells every detail about each one. There is no doubt that your dad loves you and is proud of you.”
Kathi began laughing, “The best relief to a difficult day is when he comes when it is windy. With all his pictures displayed on the shelf, inevitably a gust of wind gets a hold of them and sends them flying in the air. While others are waiting in line for their orders, your dad is chasing photos around the parking lot.”
When I was first told this, I was embarrassed. However, since all I have now are memories, I am thankful for ones like this. Every child needs to know they are loved the way my dad loved me, and how he was used to cheer others on a rough day.
Now, before you finish your drink and move on to your next read, let me share my last visit with my dad before he fell ill and died. It comes from a recording he shared with me nine months prior to his death. For years, he had not taken his diabetes seriously. After his appendix had burst and his numbers had skyrocketed, he finally took action. Each morning he told me he listened to this on his tape recorder.
“Good morning, Bill. It is a new day, and you are a diabetic. You need to take your medication, because you are a diabetic. You must take this medicine three times a day, because you are diabetic. You must always remember that you are a diabetic.”
For five minutes you hear his voice reminding him that he could no longer ignore his medical condition. Sadly, it came too late to save his life. The aggressive medication given to control his diabetes eventually shut down his liver and kidney, bringing him home to glory, where I am sure he is entertaining the angels today.
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