Today I am overcome with the memory of my father and the things he did for me, my brother, my mom, his family and his community. He was a giant in many people’s eyes and my hero. His goodness touched so many lives, and I want to share a glimpse of his life.
My father was a Fire Fighter for over 30 years in Dallas, Texas. He learned to be a Master Gardner, accomplished furniture maker, and remodeled every home we ever owned, and built one from scratch. He was the stability of our family. He taught me and my brother to be kind, fair, dependable, respectful, patience, and how to love family, through his actions, not his word. He and my mom were married a little shy of 50 years. Everyone who knew him knew if they turned to him for anything, that he was there for them, if it was at all possible. I remember days before he died a townsman pushed past mom and I to ask him his advice on how to re-finish a piece of furniture. We were trying to protect him, because he was so weak. During the tutorial dad gave the man dads eyes were sparkling with pride and pleasure, to be able to teach one last time. In that moment I realized dad had touched so many lives beyond his family. I was reminded that Jesus was a carpenter by trade and a great teacher as well. I think if dad had lived in that time in history they would have been great friends.
I remember when Dad’s parents were no longer able to keep house for themselves, the siblings got together and decided two of the sisters would each take a parent to live with them. Dad did most of the carpentry work on both homes when rooms were added to their homes, to accommodate their parents. Other siblings helped with the cost of the materials. Granddad moved in with Aunt Hughlene in Fruitdale, near Dallas, and Grandma went to live with Aunt Mary in Ft. Worth. Dad made sure Granddad got to see Grandma regularly. Dad and his family taught me that family was important by their respectful actions.
Roles were clear and divided for mom and dad. I remember visiting from WA state where I lived. Mom was gone and I needed a certain pan to make something in the kitchen. I asked dad where mom kept it. His reply cracked me up. He said “I don’t know. Your mom handles the inside and I handle the outside”. And the outside he handled beautifully. He sent me a picture of his climbing roses and corn patch yearly. He raised an enormous garden, and had numerous fruit trees on their property. Mom was kept busy canning and freezing the produce of his labor.
Dad adored his grandkids to the fullest. My brother was a single parent in CA, and sent his two boys to spend many weeks with mom and dad in Mineola, Texas during the summer months, when they were young. I have pictures of them playing in the dirt in the garden with dad looking on with a huge smile on his face. When I visited with my boys dad could hardly wait to take them fishing. Once when my oldest was visiting, he was about 7, dad let him drive his riding lawn mower. My son hit a small fruit tree and almost unearthed it. Dad ran over and propped the tree up with a stake to save it and said, “Let’s not tell grandma about this”. My boys remember him as being a happy, fun-loving Paw Paw,(dad’s favorite name for himself), who made sure the big tree in our back yard had a swing hang from a strong rope and branch, in our back yard, before his visit was over.
I remember when my husband and I visited one year my husband noticed that dad had a bird bath that he had built and many bird houses lining their property fence. John, my husband, mentioned them, as he was an avid bird watcher. Dad said that he couldn’t understand why birds didn’t nest in the houses. John said “The openings are not the right size.” After my husband explained that, for safety reasons, birds had requirements for openings, to keep predators out. An hour later dad had the proper holes on all of his houses, and reported later that his houses were being used.
Dad built a Parsonage for his church when he lived in Allen,TX. He shared a story with me that he thought was funny. After everything was completed the minister asked him to drop by. The minister said “Ralph we have a problem. You know how we are always trying to keep expenses down? Well when I open the closet the light goes on, but there is no way to turn it off when we close the door, and that troubles me.” Dad went over to a closet and opened the door. He pointed to a tiny protruding button and said, “There is you switch. When you open the door that button comes out and the light goes on. When you shut the door the button is pressed in so the light goes off.” They joked about that conservation for a long time. Dad was a master at coming up with tricks like that.
Today I sleep on a bed dad built of solid Maple. I also have a matching double dresser and night stand. He made a bedroom set and painted it fire Engine red for mom, because that was her favorite color. A granddaughter now has that set. When he passed, and mom moved to live with me we tried to find homes for all of the items dad had built that we could not accommodate in my home. One such item was a coffee table built from walnut planks that had been in a post office in Oklahoma that a family member provided. A cousin got that jewel. It represented his dad’s side of the family (my dad and his dad were brothers) and his mother’s Oklahoma side of his family.
I could write a book about my dad. I am sure many children could do the same. I think family history is important to preserve, and writing stories about those who have passed and family albums are priceless ways to accomplish this. With the opportunities and options available today I hope many use them to preserve the past and present for future generations to enjoy. I spent the past few years making nine picture albums covering six generations for my seven grandkids and two nephews. Now I am busy using my writing skills to remember moments of loved ones that only live in my heart and mind. I want these memories to live forever for the generations to come. As sad as I am that my dad is not longer here his memory warms my heart.