It is with an extremely sad heart that I come to you tonight to tell you of the passing of my dad, Calvin Ray M. Although I realize 99.9 percent of you that follow along with this journal never knew my father, or met him, you have been a wonderful source of support for my family during good times and bad, so it wouldn’t feel right to keep this news to myself.
We knew he was terribly ill when we were home last month. He had been in poor health for years due to his muscular dystrophy, but still managed to get around pretty well at home with my mom. Although we had planned the trip before he became sick, I was so grateful, in hindsight, for the chance to be there and spend a little time with him; near what we worried might be the end. He had been hospitalized for several weeks and was on a ventilator when we arrived. Communication was very difficult, and I know he was frustrated attempting to talk to us. We tried to get him to write things down, but his handwriting is such chicken-scratch that we always joked he should have been a doctor. The grandkids also got to visit him, but couldn’t do much more than hold his hand and talk to him. What a blessing it was when our last day in OKC, they were able to remove the tube and I got to visit with him one final time. We shared about an hour together, and even chuckled a few times. The final words my father and I spoke to one another were “I love you” and “I love you, too”. I will cherish that until the day I die, and would wish that peace for everyone.
I could give you the typical obituary details: survived by his wife of forty-five years, Betty; two daughters, two sons-in-law, and seven grandchildren who adored him. Army veteran, serving four years in Germany, and physically there when they built the Berlin Wall. Twenty-year veteran of our local Fire Department before retiring.
But, I’d rather give you a few tidbits to pay tribute to him as the wonderful man we knew him to be:
Lover of hidden word puzzles
Lover of country music (and not the current, modern stuff, either. We’re talking Hank Williams ORIGINAL!)
Sneaker of Pecan-Sandy cookies
A sense of humor so dry it made the Sahara Desert look like a tropical rainforest. One of his favorite phrases was to respond to the question, “How are you feeling?” with a totally straight-faced, “With my hands”.
Devoted father. My sister played high school basketball, and my dad absolutely hated to miss her games. If she played a local game on a night he was on duty, it wasn’t unheard of for him to bring the fire truck to the gymnasium, just so he could watch and still be “on duty”. As for me? I was a band geek, and couldn’t tell you the number of hours my dad worked as a Band Booster Parent in the concession stand, serving up nachos and cokes at basketball games.
Proud landscaper. He loved nothing more than working outside in the yard, and was very proud of the fact our lawn was the nicest on the block. An older girl in the neighborhood was a cheerleader when I was in elementary school. She used to come to our house and ask my dad if she could practice her gymnastics on our lawn because we had the softest grass of anyone around. Do you have any idea how big his head used to swell when she did that?
My dad wasn’t in any community organizations or civic clubs. Didn’t serve on any boards or professional organizations. Rather, he lived a very quiet life, helping provide for his family. He would rather spend time with his grandkids more than anything else, and they were all seven his pride and joy. Whenever we would send him a new wallet-photo of one of the kids, he refused to discard an old photo. So he wound up carrying around this huge pile of pictures in his pocket, until I finally took them from him and made him a small scrapbook. My one regret is that my children have never lived near him, so their memories of him will be mostly photos, also.
I have two favorite quotes that I will always remember my father saying. One of them I can’t print here due to vulgarity laws, but it makes me smile every time I think it. The other, which is so quintessentially-Calvin, was what he would protest every time we caught him sleeping (and often snoring!) in his Lazy-Boy. One of us would holler, “Dad, go to bed if you’re going to sleep!” and his reply, every time, was a very indignant, “I’m not sleeping, I’m praying for the astronauts.”
And that, my friends, was my dad in a nutshell.
Daddy, I’ll miss you, and I love you.