Our Noble Pursuits

Living the good life. And writing about it.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

My Dad

You know those people who never meet a stranger?  The kind who walk into a room and immediately seem at ease, never out of place, confident?  My dad was that kind of man.  And you know those people who genuinely like to help people?  The kind who really pray when they say they will?  The kind who truly make others a priority?  My dad was that kind of man too.  And you know those people who brag about their family members...like, a lot?  The kind who love quietly, but unconditionally?  The kind that do everything they can to live the kind of life they can be proud of?  Well, my dad was that kind of man too.

On April 28, 2010, we lost my dad.  Suddenly.  Without warning.  One minute he was mowing the lawn on a clear, beautiful April evening.  And the next, I was getting the kind of phone call you know is inevitable...someday...but can never be ready for.  In some ways it seems like ages since we lost him, but in most ways it seems like yesterday.  Not because there is profound sadness or grief anymore -- not most days -- but because it just doesn't seem possible that our family has been without him for that long.

For months I have known that I would write a post today and that it would be about my dad.  For a while I thought about writing about that day.  Where I was.  The weird details I remember, like the exact outfit I was wearing when I got the news from my sister-in-law.  I thought about writing about what the process of losing a parent has taught me.  What it was like.  How devastated I was and how hard those days were.  But that doesn't seem like the best way to honor him now.  And honor him is what I want to do.

Our dance at my wedding.  The dance no one thought my dad would agree to.  Not only did he agree, but he loved every second of it.

So instead I want to think about some of the great things about my dad.  The things I still think of often and find comforting and uplifting.  The things that make me smile.

I loved the way my dad laughed...and I loved how my brothers were the ones who could really get him going.  When he really thought something was funny, he would smile and look like he was laughing, but no sound would come out.  He would actually shake with laughter, but make absolute no noise.  I have this mental image of him sitting at the head of the dining room table, shaking and turning red over something one of my brothers had just said.  No Sunday or holiday dinner was complete without a soundless laugh from my dad.  Watching him having so much silent fun made us all laugh too. 

I was always amazed by my dad's ability to trace the connections between two people - no matter how intricate.  He would mention someone to me, someone he assumed I knew, and when I pointed out that I didn't actually know who that was, he would first argue with me a little.  As in, "Oh Sarah, you know him. Sure you do."  When I had assured him that I, at the very least, couldn't recall at that second exactly who the person was, he would explain in great detail who that person's parents, grandparents, second cousins, and/or neighbors were.  It was remarkable.  Eventually he could always trace the connection back to someone I actually did know and he could continue with his story, assured that I knew who he was talking about.

My dad and I didn't have a lot of heart-to-heart talks about emotional, "girly" things.  That was more my mom's department.  We are, in fact, talking about the man who used to pick up the phone receiver in another part of the house when I was in high school talking to my boyfriend to tell me I had been on the phone long enough.    But there are some very distinct memories I have of times when he knew exactly what to say.  Like when I was having kind of an emotional time my junior year of college - probably something related to a stressful assignment or something - and I found a letter from my dad, typed on his old school typewriter on his business letterhead, in my mailbox at school.  A letter that reminded me that there are things more important than grades and that school is as much about what happens outside the classroom as it is about lectures and papers.  Or the day I checked my first semester law school grades online at my parents' house and had an absolute go-to-pieces when they were, um, lower than I expected, and my dad drove home from his office to give me a hug and assure me that no one ever asked him what his college or grad school grades were, life moves on, and my worth was not measured on an A to D scale.  He just knew what to say sometimes.

All smiles at my swearing in ceremony with the Kentucky Bar Association.
Of course, my biggest regret is that we lost my dad before we added Annie to our family.  But, while she will never get to meet him, she will know him.  We will make sure of that.  And there are moments when she looks just like him.  She'll know that too.  And not a day goes by that I don't think of how incredibly proud he would be of her.  And how much he would like to hear people say that she favored her grandpa a little.  I don't know all the details of what happens once you leave this earth for a better place, but I'm pretty sure he is looking down on our little girl and smiling.  I think about and miss my dad every day.  But I know he is so pleased with the life we have here.  Pleased with the amazing way my mom has carried on and honored him.  Pleased with the roads we are all traveling now, each of us carrying with us so much of what he taught us.  Because if there was one thing my dad was great at, it was teaching a good lesson.


  1. That wasn't mushy at all - but why am I crying??? You said it so well. Words flow with you. The same was true with Billy Joe. He was so genuine!!!!!!!! And yes, the greatest earthly thing we can do for our deceased father's is to live out fervently the truth that they taught us. And yes, your dad SEES. The verse goes something like this: "Therefore we are surrounded by a great host of witnesses cheering us on". Our dads are for sure on the front row. Proud of you Sarah.

  2. This post made me cry. I wish we could have met your dad. He sounds like a really special person. Emily

  3. Your life is a beautiful tribute to your father. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Your dad was the kind of person I was proud to have known and so are you Sarah. -Shannon

  5. Your dad was an amazing man. I have never met anyone that could tell you something nice about everyone he knew which I do believe was everyone. He was always able to tell you about some accomplishment they had achieved or some talent or gift they had. He was a walking history book of people's lives. We are so blessed and thankful to have known him and for him to have been a part of our lives. He is truly missed but never forgotten!-Kathy Perkins