It's a special day. Most people I know are doing something today to honor the fathers in their lives. Unfortunately, my father lives somewhere else. Not here . . . on Earth. So, as I did on Mothers Day, I will honor him posthumously in this blog. Because, boy do I have a great dad! And I love him so much--I was a lucky little girl.
I was his groupie; I followed him around everywhere. It was with his permission and invitation, I now realize. Many fathers are quite successful at ditching their children. He took me golfing, shopping, driving, used bookstore browsing (where we looked for books, not bookstores, to buy--he bought westerns; I didn't) and I helped paint his new classroom and organize papers when he started a new career when he was in his forties.
I was about 15 when he was hired to teach in Murtaugh, a farming community about 15 miles from Twin Falls. I think it came about when he was golfing one summer. Someone said, "Hey, Clyde, we need a Vo-Ag/Shop teacher. Want to do it?" "I don't have a teaching certificate." "You have a Masters degree. We can make it happen." And so they did. He took some classes at CSI and taught with a LOA (letter of authorization) for a year or two. So, while I went to high school in Twin and then to BYU, he went to 9th through 12th grade over and over every year. The spring I graduated from college, he left teaching. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April and died in August. He taught for 7 years and was as happy doing it as the students and other teachers were that he did. I have been a teacher for 11 years and also started this second career in my forties. I guess I'm still following him. (The stories I have heard about him from former students echo the stories my former students tell about me--go figure that we're both known for telling funny stories!)
My dad whistled. A lot. Everywhere. Me too. A lot. Everywhere. I also hum. I'm not positive about whether my dad hummed or not. I think he was too busy whistling. Here's how else I'm like my dad, in no particular order: Sway backs. Round noses. Arched eyebrows. Joke telling and appreciating. We talked a lot. (In fact, once when I was young and we were driving to Utah to see family, he offered me 5 cents if I could be quiet for 5 minutes. I earned no money that trip.) Solitaire playing. (He used actual cards, I use the Internet.) Reading. I also play golf, but instead of 5 days a week in the summer, I play once or twice. The whole summer. I play with one or both of my brothers. We walk around the course playing The Clyde E. Hunter Memorial Golf Tournament, quoting his advise to us: "Keep your d*** head down, Pam!" "The saddest words I've heard today; it's your putt, you're still away." "Pam, keep your head down!" "Always let people play through." "Shhh!" "Replace your divots." "Seriously, Pam, we'll watch where the ball goes. Keep your head down and follow through." "If I had your luck, I wouldn't need a license to steal." "Nice shot, Pam! See what happens when you keep your head down?"
He had other great one liners too. When I stood in front of the TV, "You make a better door than a window." When one of us was laughing over something silly, "Little things amuse little minds." When we made an excuse for why we didn't do something, "If frogs had wings, they wouldn't get their fannies wet hopping through mud puddles." (Thanks to my brother Larry for that one--I don't remember it--I probably did everything I was told.) I guess I lied a bit though because he had a whole repertoire of those--"You'd lie if the truth sounded better." "You lie like a rug." "You know, you can go to Hell for lying just like for anything else!" "You lie just hear your own voice."
He taught me how to play gin rummy; he tried to teach me what different crops looked like. Everything looked the same to me. I couldn't tell the difference between sugar beets, beans and potatoes, wheat and other grains, hay bales and straw. I usually got corn right. He gave up. I was pretty good at gin rummy, after all.
Mostly, he taught me things I didn't know he was teaching me. My best friend in 5th grade was Japanese. As a WWII vet, he could have said things that might have made me feel differently about her. In fact, I don't remember him ever saying anything about any group of people that indicated one color of skin was better than another or that one nationality was superior. Just a few years ago, I learned that some of our neighbors were having serious marital problems and that police were called from time to time. My parents never talked about it. Their daughter, one of my best friends back then, told me at a conference we both attended. I guess my parents didn't think it was my business or that gossiping about neighbors was a worthwhile activity. One day, after a long day of teaching school, he came up to me and simply thanked me for being such a good kid. He treated me like that all the time. I never doubted his love for me and always felt that he was proud of me. When he introduced me to his friends, I could hear it in his voice.
I wish he had lived longer. I wish he had met my children in mortality. I wish he were around to call me Suzy Q again. I wish I could hear him whistle.
Miss you Dad. Love you lots. Thanks for being a great dad.