Dad would have been 73 today. It’s still hard to believe he’s been gone almost 11 years. It’s hard to believe, because it feels like I was just at the house talking to him last week. Maybe it’s because I talk to him all the time. I mean, he always had the best advice, and he always knew the right answer to anything. And, I’ve had a lot of things where I’ve needed his advice in the past 11 years!
Sometimes I’ll find myself just wondering if he knows what’s happened since he’s been gone — he’s never seen our home, he wasn’t here when I started my business, he didn’t know most of the struggles I’ve had with my health. Most of all, I wonder if he’s proud of me, because that is what all of us kids strived for — to make Mom and Dad proud in everything we did — and to this day, I still make decisions around whether or not Mom and Dad would approve. And when the decision is a really tough one, I ask myself, “now, what would Dad tell me to do?”
I remind myself that at least he got to know Tom, and he walked me down the aisle and danced at my wedding. At least he was here for that. Then I shake my head, because I know deep inside my heart that he knows everything that is happening here on earth. And that he’s proud of all of us — I can see his grin and nod of approval as I think about that.
I know he watches over Mom. They would have celebrated 50 years of marriage this coming August. Together, they taught all of us how to love each other — through the good times and the bad. Dad just knew how to love. He would flirt with Mom all the time and was always joking around. His family was the center of his world. He showed me the kind of man I wanted to have in my life — and I didn’t care if it took me a long time to find it. When people talk about soul mates — there’s no doubt in mind that these two souls were one.
I remember a few years ago that one of the diamonds had fallen out of my Mom’s wedding ring. She looked for it everywhere. One day she was sitting on her bed and said out loud, “Bob, help me find my diamond,” and wouldn’t you know it rolled down the comforter beside her on the bed? She couldn’t believe that somehow the diamond had been in her bed all that time — and at that moment came into her sight. I know it was Dad, as he’s always with her.
Dad loved country music. He liked the old stuff — his favorite was Crystal Gayle, but he liked superstars like Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash and others. Dad loved to sing. I can remember car trips where he taught us songs from his boy scouting days. Song like “Wooly Undies or You Can’t Get to Heaven.” After 30 years, I still know ever word by heart.
Dad had a lot of charisma and rhythm that just made you want to get up and dance — whether at home, in the car, at a wedding — anywhere at all! I think I was probably 10 or 11 years old when Dad and Mom took dance lessons. They would practice in the living room at home with 8-tracks on their stereo. Us kids would sit and watch them every week. And then they went dancing with their friends every Saturday night in Ohio. Oh, how I loved to watch them dance.
Dad loved the outdoors. For a guy from the “city” (Beaver Falls, PA), he dreamed of living in the country, building a barn and raising a few cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens and other animals. He thought it would be good for his family. So, after getting married, that’s exactly what they did. This is where I learned that you can make anything happen, if you just believe and put in the effort that’s required.
So, Dad talked to a neighbor or two about how it’s done, built a barn, bought a few steers, a few pigs, a few sheep — and we joined the Beaver Country 4-H Stockman’s Club. Yep, here we came — to the Hookstown Fair as city slickers when all these other kids grew up on big farms — you know, the kind where they actually farmed their own land, growing their own hay and grain to feed their 100+ head of livestock. We had to buy ours at the store. It wasn’t quite the same thing. But you know what? It sure did what he set out to do — to teach us kids responsibility. My chores started early before school and wrapped up as the sun went down and it was good old-fashioned hard work. And in the winter, those chores were twice as bad as you can imagine. But those 10 years of my life were some of the most rewarding — I learned more than you can imagine.
Yes, he loved the outdoors — fishing, hunting and boating topped the list. The boat we had growing up was just big enough to fit the family of six. It was a fishing boat, and we learned how to fish. And like the family vacation road trips, our boating adventures had the same amount of mishaps. I remember one year Dad forgot the plug and the boat started sinking. This was literally the week after I saw the 1978 Piranha movie. Or there was the time that we were on Lake Pymatuming in a severe thunderstorm — Dad pulled the boat to the shore and we had to ride it out, exposed to the lightning. That was the time that Mom tried to get Dad to change out of his heavy jeans into her purple polka dot shorts while his pants dried out on shore. He refused and said he would rather sit in his underwear, because someone might see him in those shorts. Sure enough, the fish & game commission came around to check our fishing licenses. If he had been wearing those purple shorts… we laughed about that for years. I could come up with a story almost every time we took the boat out!
We know when he’s near us. I was in Walmart this past Good Friday (I know there’s something sacrileges about that), looking for a new roaster for Mom’s retirement party. And my sister texted me, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown is on in the beauty shop. Dad is here,” and I replied, “Better with you than me. I’m at Walmart and it’s a zoo.” Dad hated Walmart.
But, we know Dad is near when we hear “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” because it was his favorite song. My Mom and Dad danced to this song all the time — and they would cut the rug to this one! It’s just one of those songs that you never hear — it’s not like it’s a popular oldies song you’d even hear on an oldies station. It started with Debbie and Mom — they heard it somewhere and associated it with Dad. And from then on, we feel like it’s Dad’s way of telling us he’s present.
Debbie heard it at the Hookstown Fair one year, in the middle of the night — it woke her out of a deep sleep — it just came blasting over the loud speakers. She’s on the fair board and stays at the campgrounds all week long — Dad used to be on the fair board and spent a lot of time at that fair. She didn’t sleep much the rest of that night. She heard it in Wendy’s, grabbing lunch with my Mom after a funeral of a farmer who my Dad knew well. Seriously, why would Wendy’s be playing that song? I was driving on my way to work one morning and it was the most glorious day. I was literally thinking about how absolutely beautiful it was outside today — and boom, there it came over my radio — I had to check what station I was listening to, because I couldn’t believe it. I even recorded it on my iphone. I heard it coming out of town one day after talking to Dad in the car — I was singing that song at the top of my lungs! We always make note of when it happens.
I wonder what Dad would be doing today if he were here. Well, this past weekend was opening trout fishing. I think he would have gone to the mountains — and most definitely would have made us pick a different date for Mom’s retirement party so he could have stayed the whole weekend up there. I’m sure he would be fishing or sitting on the porch at the cabin. Or maybe he’d be plowing the garden for my Mom, getting it ready for summer vegetables. I know he would be blowing off the stink of this past, long winter. And he would be making plans. He was always making some kind of plans — and they were always grand plans!
And then I wonder what he is doing in Heaven. And, I hope it’s something really similar. I hope he’s fishing on the banks of the most gorgeous lake — but, then I think, he’s probably working on some kind of grand plans up there too. But whatever he’s doing, he’s definitely planning for the day that the rest of us join him for all eternity — where there will be no more tears — and only love.
Happy Birthday, Dad. Thinking of you today.
I wear my wooly undies in the summer when it’s hot
And I wear my wooly undies in the winter when it’s not
Sometimes in the springtime
And sometimes in the fall
I jump between the sheets with nothing on at all!
Glory, Glory Halleluia
Glory, Glory Halleluia
Glory, Glory Halleluia
His troops go marching on!
Oh You Can’t Get to Heaven
Dad: Ohhhhh, you can’t get to Heaven…
Us: Ohhhhh, you can’t get to Heaven…
Dad: On roller skates…
Us: On roller skates…
Dad: Because roller skates…
Us: Because roller skates…
Dad: Pass by those pearly gates…
Us: Pass by those pearly gates…
All: Oh, you can’t get to Heaven on roller skates, because roller skates, pass those pearly gates — Oh, I ain’t gonna leave my Lord no more…
As I was walking down the street, a billboard caught my eye
The advertising section, would make you laugh or cry
The rain and sleet that night before washed half that board away
If you were to read that billboard now, this is what it say:
Come smoke a Coca-Cola, tomato ketchup cigarettes,
See lily and lily wrestle with a box of oysterettes
BBD’s the best hotel in town, you’ll pay $10 down
Buy popcorn for your horses, you’ll find it’s the best in town!
On Top of Spaghetti
On top of spaghetti
all covered with cheese
I lost my poor meatball
when somebody sneezed
It rolled off the table
and onto the floor
and then my poor meatball
rolled out the door
It rolled in the garden
and under a bush
and now my poor meatball
is nothing but mush
The mush was a tasty
as tasty could be
and early next summer
in grew a big tree
The tree was all covered
all covered with moss
and on it grew meatballs
and tomato sauce
So if you eat spaghetti
all covered with cheese
hold on to your meatball
whenever you sneeze