It is almost Christmas and truly, the nights are silent around here these days. It's pretty quiet during the daytime as well, unless I'm talking to myself or my dog, who follows me around constantly.
I won't be morbid in trying to catch up. My Dear Heart and I had a sweet life together for 33 years … sometimes it was loud, sometimes adventurous, sometimes hard, much laughter. But our life was good and, in retrospect, as I looked over photos to use for a slideshow, so many memories came back about the fun and happy times we enjoyed together and the rich life we did share. We weren't that boring after all.
Several months ago, I signed us up for a bus trip with a group of seniors to go to Branson for a week. So two weeks before Thanksgiving we made that trip, made new friends, saw great shows, laughed and cried and came home refreshed with promises of more good times with our new friends. For Thanksgiving, we traveled to my brother's house where we had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family.
After returning home, DH did not feel well and for him to complain about an ailment was highly unusual and the next morning I decided he should visit the ER. Little did I know that morning would be his last in our home.
Such a sweet spirit he had during this three day stay, but in spite of that smile, he never could get comfortable, and during that time, only ate one small amount of food.
This past week, we had a memorial service for him and our goal as we prepared for it was to give people who hadn't known him back in the day to see his personality shine through. What a good man he was! Husband, Father, and Grandpa/Papa. The service did him great honor as our Pastor Garrett (who has been with me and our family from the minute he learned Jay was in the hospital) led the service. The chapel in our church was packed out and the Dallas Fire Department was there to do honors for this Captain.
We were supposed to arrive early at the church, and when we drove up were amazed to see the number of cars already there, along with two fire trucks, an ambulance and flags posted all around the parking lot. I was overwhelmed by the number of people there to express their love for us and Jay would have been humbled by the whole thing.
Jason is the big guy on the right!
Our son, Jason, spoke at the service and, ever since that day, I have received so many comments from so many people about how that service was the most beautiful they had attended, what a fine job our pastor did, how proud we must be of our son, and the emotional impact of the last bell ceremony with the firefighters' honor guard. As it wasn't possible for me to take any pictures, here is a link explaining that ceremony.
Elementary, middle and high school
Young Dad with Sara and Jason
In Fredericksburg for his 65th surprise birthday celebration
Us over the years
Our first cruise
With son Jason
At Jason's wedding
With daughter-in-law, Amy
Proud of his first grandson and ginormous zucchini from his garden
Kate was his girl!
With Brady and Noah
Being goofy in NYC
Grandpa and Jack
Kids watching over Dad
After the service
Farewell, but not good-bye. I'll see you again!
God promises me that!
But, in the meantime, I sure do miss you!
From son Jason who spoke at the memorial:
Thank you all for being here today. My dad would be amazed by the turn out. He loved his family and friends and would be happy we are all together. Thank you to Pastor Garrett, the members of Grace Church, and the fire department for all the support you have given us.
He wouldn’t like that we are in our dress uniforms, he hated wearing these things. I can hear saying him now, “Is that the particular ensemble you’re going to wear to this occasion!” He had many sayings and expressions like that and our family still uses every day. You’ll hear several more before I finish.
Every boy’s first hero is their dad and I am no exception to this rule. I’d like to share with you some of my favorite memories of him. Hopefully I can get through this to show you how much he meant to me.
Dad was fun to be around and had a good sense of humor. We always had a good time together. Some of the best memories are going to the lake with him to water ski. My sister and I would have a friend spend the night and dad would wake us up early to go out to the lake. We would be on the water at sunrise when the lake was like glass. He had a convertible we took to the lake and every time we got in he'd yell “Duke Boys” and we’d climb in over the top without using the doors. He taught Sara and I how to ski at an early age, and then he taught most of our friends too. He loved going to the lake. One time he pulled four of us skiing at the same time across the lake and he had quite a time separating the tangled ropes after we went down. He took us snow skiing several times as well and I will always remember those trips. We played hours of basketball in the back driveway. We played horse the most. We played with some crazy rules that as I got older I realized most people don’t play with those rules.
Dad’s idea of a good time was working on projects around the house with me. He taught me how to build a fence, how to work with concrete, electrical work, and we built a gorgeous red wood deck. He also taught me how to work on an old ski boat. I learned how to use tools and he would always say “We learn by doing”.... Especially when we made a mistake. Those were his normal projects. He had a lot of other projects too. Most people would call these the crazy projects. I need to give you a short list of these projects so you all can understand. We stored our boat in the back yard and he figured out if we blocked off the front with plywood and plastic, we could fill the front with hot water. So he ran a hose from the hot water heater into the Bow of the boat and now we had a boat hot tub. I can only imagine Connie’s thoughts when she came home from work and saw this. Of course she got in too and we were that family sitting in the boat hot tub until the water cooled off. He made the automatic mower. This was a steel post with a reel on the top that could be put into a sleeve in the middle of either side of the yard. A rope attached to the front of the mower. The self-propelled handle was strapped down and the mower would unwind itself or wind itself up depending on which way the reel was positioned. The result would be the perfect circles in each side of the yard. We would have to mow the corners and the center afterward. People would be driving by and stop and just watch it! It was crazy. He installed solar panels to heat our pool water. We built a two-foot shelf on the top of our entire fence and laid solar panels on top. He plumbed them into our pool. This worked too well! In August the pool would be an unrefreshing 95 degrees. Dad liked swimming in the evening though, so that was perfect for him. He was always thinking of his next project. We dug a water well in the backyard in the middle of Plano! I don’t think that the project was legal though, so don’t tell anyone. He had a hydroponic garden to start his seeds for his garden. That garden had to be the most sophisticated garden ever in a homeowners backyard. He made a windmill to generate electricity. He had an electric car and thought if he could generate enough electricity with his windmill, he could go for free. When dad built something he built it to last. Some people would say he overdid it. This quality was passed on to me. When I work for Dustin, sometimes I’ll overdo something, and Dustin will say, “Don’t overdo it Jay, it only needs to last our lifetime.”
Dad loved airplanes. He recorded his favorite show Wings (that show about military airplanes) every day and recorded over our favorite VCR Tapes with that show. We would get so mad when we put our movie in and that Wings show would come on instead of Swiss Family Robinson or whatever show we wanted to watch. His dream was to fly. He earned his pilot license in 1991 and flew small Cessnas. Connie, Sara and I would buy him hours of flying time for his birthday. I remember flying with him down to Buffalo one trip and to Lake Murray in OK another. We had two hours of flying time, so we would just go look and fly back. He got into flying gyrocopters. If you haven’t seen one of these things, Google it. It’s a tricycle attached to a helicopter. He loved riding motorcycles as well… but not just regular motorcycles. There were trikes, mopeds, and one with a sidecar. He made sure Connie had to go with him. It was always an adventure being around my Dad.
Dad was into Technology and tools. He was a computer nerd before computers were cool. He had a tool for every job. Captain Carlin told me that if he needed a tool on the fireground your dad probably had it in his coat. Captain said his coat had to weigh 100 lbs.
Dad loved the fire department. He was a private at 6’s, Second Driver at 2’s, Driver at 35’s. When he made driver, he went to paramedic school and was a paramedic for 8 years. He made Lt. and worked at 56’s and 7’s as a Lt. When he made Captain he went to 21’s and he retired out of Station 1. He enjoyed talking to me about the good ole days on the fire department. When I’d have a fire, he’d say, “did you get to squirt some water?” I’d say , no, I did truck work, he’d say I sure loved being on the nozzle. Dad was a true engine man. Never sitting still and always ready to go. He loved to hire back (working overtime) and we spent many holidays visiting the station. He said a hire back was “JUST GRAVY.” When I was a rookie I worked in the same district, I would hire back and the crew I was working with would ask me, are you going to buy cherry pie and ice cream too? Apparently, every time dad worked overtime, he’d give the cook extra money to buy cherry pie and ice cream for dessert. I asked him why he did this, and he said “I want them to be happy to see me coming.” My first day at the station I called him for some advice…. His only advice to me was to kiss up to the cook. That was it… the only advice for me to start my new career...Kiss up to the Cook! He said if you’re not laughing at the fire station breakfast table, you're not paying attention. He worked for 37 years and missed it after he left, He said he missed the fire station breakfast the most.
Dad loved being around his family and we loved being around him. I will always remember the way he cared for his mom, my grandma Millie. When she finally had to go to the nursing home, he took her lunch everyday he didn’t go to the station without fail. No matter what we were doing, he’d stop and get lunch and visit her. When my daughter Kate was born she had to stay in the NICU, dad came to see her every day. She couldn’t be held at that time, so he would stop in just to look at her. The nurses laughed as they started to time his visits. When I got there they would say your dad came by again and stayed a full 14 seconds this time. He just wanted to see her and make sure she was ok. Dad was always up to go anywhere at any time. Whether it was a long trip or just to drive and look at something or to go to the lake with us. Connie and dad tried to make every soccer game or softball game they could. He enjoyed playing cards, board games and dominoes with us and the kids. We can hear him say, “My dad can beat your dad at dominos.” He liked to rough house with the kids and would say, “You got a head like a rock” That saying is said around my house a lot. He rough housed with the kids the same way we used to rough house when I was a kid. As I got older, bigger and I wrestled in high school, dad and I started to wrestle. I finally got him, and made him say “momma help.” It was kind of scary the way he looked when I let him up, but I finally won one. The next morning at 5:00 when he was leaving for the Station, he came into my room, flipped on the lights, threw a blanket over my head and proceeded to pay me back…. He stopped, walked to the door, turned and said “I just want you to know I can get you anytime I want,” then flipped off the lights. He played catch with the kids for hours, every time they dropped it he’d say, “you couldn’t catch a cold” and if he dropped it they would give it right back, “Grandpa, you couldn’t catch a cold.”
Dad was very generous and always forgiving. If I made a mistake he didn’t hold it against me too long, but he would agitate me just the right amount and joke about the mistakes. He gave me good advice when I asked for it, and sometimes when I didn’t. He showed me what it looked like to be a good Dad and would give me advice on how to be a Captain. When I was about to walk out the door he would always tell me “don’t lie, don’t steal, and don’t do anything stupid, that way I can tell the judge at your trial, I told him every day sir,” He loved us very much and He never had a problem telling us that he loves us.
How do you sum up a life like his in 5 minutes…...I guess the best way to wrap this up is to leave you with the way he would with his expressions.
Brady, He would tell you to “do what you want to do, because that’s what you’re going to do anyway.”
Noah, he’d ask, “Where was Noah when the lights went out, In the ark in the dark.”
He’d tell Jack, “You’re a pretty fart smeller, I mean smart feller or you couldn’t catch a cold.”
He’d sing to Kate, “Put it in a Frosty mug for me!” and then he would whisper in her ear “I love you.”
He’d tell Sara how proud he is of her, but then follow it up with “who are you and where did you come from.”
Connie,…...he’d say “I still love you”.
Then he’d tell us all, “It sure has been nice seeing you again” and “take care of your silly self.”
And knowing that we’re going to have lunch after this service ...he’d yell ”Give me some Grub Bub”.
We Love you Dad and we all miss you.