Buckeyes and Barbecues--A Tribute to My Hero
This blog is on the more serious side, but it gives you a snapshot into who I am and what I value. It may trigger some memories for you, too...
I still hear his voice greeting me with the words, “Hi, Babe.”
I hear him in my brother’s laughter and see him in my son’s love for fun. I especially hear his enthusiasm during a rousing Ohio State football game.
He loved the Buckeyes.
I remember when I was four years old and he bought me a little red record player, with 45 rpm records and read-along books. Since I couldn’t yet read the words, he taped corresponding pieces of paper on them so I could match them up easily.
He became my Hero.
Throughout my early years we played Cootie and Dominoes. He washed my hair with Johnson’s Baby Shampoo on Saturday nights and sang, “Alice, where art thou going? Upstairs to take a bath..” I’d giggle as I thought of poor Alice with legs like toothpicks going down the bathtub drain.
He could make the most ordinary activity into a game.
He had once been a Boy Scout Troop Leader. Every time we were at a State Park, he shared his knack for identifying oaks, maples, and shag-bark hickory trees. Having once been a sailor, he also knew how to tie really good knots.
He loved to Barbecue. Didn’t matter if it was summer, or winter, or in between. We had grilled sirloin steaks and marinated chicken fit for a royal family. One freezing January day he decided to see if he could cook a turkey outside on the rotisserie grill. The neighbors through he was crazy at first, but after going through five bags of charcoal, the turkey was cooked to perfection.
He was really good with numbers and worked for several companies as a CPA. Several job changes eventually took him to Northern Indiana. Growing up in Ligonier in the ‘60’s was kind of like growing up in Mayberry. Everyone knew everyone. He was well-respected wherever he went.
We always had lots of snow in the winter and that meant lots of snow shoveling morning and night. Our house on W Second Street looked especially pretty at Christmas because he trimmed it with colored lights.
The years went by quickly and soon I was going off to college. We never really talked much about me getting married while I was still in school. He didn’t seem to object. We really never talked much about anything that was really personal.
He was always the Peacemaker in our family, so it came as a surprise when he told me that he was leaving my mother. He started a new life.
Within a few years he had remarried. I was always welcomed in their home.
When my own marriage ended, he rented a U-Haul truck and moved me back to Ohio. I didn’t really know how he felt about all of this, but he never said anything negative.
He was really excited for me when I met Ray. I could tell he thought I was making a good choice. After we got married, he started going to our church and soon gave his heart to Jesus.
I was really proud of him as I saw him make new friends and get involved in different activities. He studied God’s Word faithfully and enjoyed teaching it.
Fifteen years after becoming God’s Child, a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer required major surgery and resulted in a lengthy hospital stay. For eight long weeks he was not allowed to have any food, yet he never complained. When the cancer returned in several months, he decided not to undergo chemotherapy. Instead, he poured his energy into making sure that his house was in order.
There were things I wanted to say; things I wanted to hear. He had kept so many emotions inside—what was he really thinking now that he was terminally ill?
In early November 1996, the disease had taken a considerable toll on his physical body. He was resting on the couch wearing his Ohio State sweatshirt. The clock on the mantle ticked with each breath. Pictures came to my mind of years past and years that never would be. In the quietness of that room, a question surfaced from my heart.
“Dad, have I been a good daughter?”
There was a long pause. Maybe he hadn’t heard me.
Then from the couch I heard these words…
“The right question has not been asked. The right question is, ‘Have I been a good father?’”
I walked across the room and put my arm around my Hero.
“You’ve made it easy for me to trust my Heavenly Father because you’ve been such a good earthly one. What makes this a little easier is the confidence that this separation is temporary.”
I leaned closer and whispered in his ear, “Daddy, I will be there.”
No more words needed to be said. My spirit was satisfied.
Several days later on November 6, 1996, my father entered the Gates of Heaven.
There are times when I wish I could hear him talk about the leaves on the trees or his favorite football team.
But one thing I definitely know.
The moment when I make that journey from this life to eternity, there will be someone waiting to greet me with the words,