(My Dad, on the far right, with me and my daughter, Alex)
Father’s Day was Sunday. I know. Didn’t forget. Took time out to think of my own. And, give him thanks.
My Dad passed away in February of 2017, just a year and a few months ago. He left us just a couple of days before my birthday. All along, we knew that his days were numbered when he refused to accept the idea of a feeding tube, and retired to his home to spend the remainder of his days in the place he loved the best, and with the woman that he loved the most — my mom.
It was his decision. But he was comfortable with it. Never hesitated. Never second guessed. Never wavered. Never changed. You see, that was the way the man lived his life. And, that’s the way he died his death. Every day he was all in. Until the day he was all out.
It was his life’s choice. And, if you knew anything about my Dad, he knew how to make hard decisions, and keep a commitment.
You see, my mom and dad were married over 70 years. And, while they may have had their tense moments along the way, I never saw them exchanged a harsh word.
Not a single time.
On the other hand, I did witness one of the most amazing life lessons and stories nearly every single day.
Every single day of his life, my Dad awoke at 5 a.m., got ready and went to work. He took with him, in a brown, paper bag the same thing for lunch. A ham sandwich. A small bag of potato chips. And, a single cookie that my mother had made from scratch.
Every single day. I’m not kidding. Every single day.
On the weekends, if he wasn’t working around the house or at a second job on the farm, you could find my Dad in his chair in the living room. He was reading his Bible. Worn and thin, he worked his way through several copies and editions. In the end, he had read the scriptures from cover to cover over 10 times.
There was no better Biblical historian or scholar.
Every single word he read, re-read, and lived.
At night, he would finally allow himself to relax. He loved to watch the Cincinnati Reds, no matter how good or how bad. And, he would slowly drink one, 8-ounce glass of Coca-Cola. He made that refreshing drink last for hours.
Every single night.
Many would say that my Dad was a simple man. Didn’t need much. Didn’t take anything. He would have liked that title, too. He would think it was an honor and worthy of a badge.
But while my Dad may have had simple tastes in life, he was anything but simple minded, or principled. In fact, he figured out a long time ago what the most important things in life were and how to grab, hold on, and live each moment to its’ fullest extent. Perhaps one of the greatest inventions of all time. He was able to discover and keep happiness. Right in the palm of his hand.
He went from a share cropper — who had to keep an account at the local grocery to feed his family until the crops cashed in and he could pay off his bill — to a wealthy man who could retire at the age of 59.
He went from a work hand — who could cut 1,000 sticks of tobacco a day and hang it at night — to one of the most respected, and valued employees at William T. Young’s peanut butter factory in Lexington, KY. So important, in fact, that Proctor & Gamble promoted him several times just to keep him engaged and involved in the operation after they purchased the company.
He went from a man who could barely afford to rent a house for his family to owning two — including one on Cumberland Lake, where he loved to visit and spend time on his boat.
He went from a man of means by no means — as Roger Miller used to sing about — to a man of means by all means.
And, here’s the kicker. Not a single person knew it. Except for my mom and his banker.
My Dad never changed a lick. Never moved into a bigger home. Never bought an expensive car. Never went on fancy vacations. Never, ever flew in a plane bigger than a crop duster. Never splurged. Never spent a dollar that he didn’t have to, or want to, or needed to.
And, he was happy. Until the day he died — right where he wanted to; right where he intended to; right in the arms of his family.
(The great Pete Rose, my Dad’s all-time favorite baseball player, called and talked to my Dad before he passed. My Dad called it a “miracle.”)
When I think about my Dad, which is very single day, I smile. A simple smile. Just the way he would want it. Because that man taught me that the simple things in life are the best by living life on simple truths and simple terms:
Faith. Hope. And, love. And, the greatest of these is love.
Miss you Pops. Miss you every single day.