So, my Dad passed away last week. I know this blog isn’t normally personal, except in the personal injury sort of way, but since my readership consists primarily of my office, a few friends and other bots, and Google, I may as well go a little personal this week.
This is because part of the grieving process when you lose someone you love is to remember and share every interaction, every experience, and every connection you have ever had with that person. The good, the bad, and the ugly. For my dad, there was so much good and a little bad. But buckle your safety belts because, well, I’m about to go into the ugly part.
The truth is, it’s hard raising seven kids. At least I imagine it is. That’s how many kids my mom and dad had to raise, and since I only have five children, I’m at least two light years away from understanding the difficulties of raising seven. It’s especially hard to raise seven kids when you grew up in a smaller family like my dad did. Since my mom was one of eight, and my dad was one of three, I guess they decided to split the difference and have six. And then, at the last minute, my mom was like, “Sorry, I know we agreed on six, but we really, really need one more.” So my little brother was the seventh and definitely [sent with echo effect] the last. But more on that somewhere else, preferably at a soda bar.
Not only was my dad one of three, but he didn’t have any sisters. He was the middle boy in his small family, so when my sisters became teenagers, he literally had no idea what to do when they had “bad hair days” or the like. You could tell sometimes that having seven kids at home, ages 3 to 17, heightened his sensitivity at times. And why wouldn’t it? It’s not like we had farm animals to raise or fields to till. As things were, it was no surprise one early fall morning that when my brother backed the van into the side mirror of my dad’s car, you would have thought World War III was upon us. “Doggone it, you turkey!” I can hear my dad exclaiming. Uh oh, things were going to get ugly.
You see, I never heard a curse word from my dad’s mouth. But, every once in a while when things were not going well, I would hear this minced epithet – “doggone it”. Like many phrases, we’re not completely sure of its origin. Another time, I remember him grabbing me by the ear and saying “You rummy!” I don’t know what I did, but I’m pretty sure I had it coming to me. Yet my dad wouldn’t even call me a dummy: he couldn’t even use the softest insult against someone else without twisting it slightly so you were left wondering what it was that he was trying to say. Thinking back on it, my mental response was probably, “Are you talking to me? Are you calling me a rummy?”
The reality is, this was the ugliest it got at our house. My dad was practically a saint. I say this not just for his inability to use harsh words against anyone, but because he raised me and several other somewhat obnoxious children to be good citizens who are genuinely seeking ways of lifting and helping the communities we live in. None of us, 37 grandchildren included, has committed a single crime… yet. Indeed, we rarely have even been given a traffic citation. More importantly, each one of his children has served in positions of community, religious, or professional responsibility. This is where Isaac Newton’s “standing on the shoulders of giants” quote comes into play: anything good we claim to have in this life is due, in large part, to Dad’s giant, yet gentle persona. Yeah, credit to our mom, for sure. But that’s also another discussion for another day. Dad was a transformative, transitional character who acted as the glue in our lives. And this wasn’t just for us: he was surrounded by people who were more outwardly successful than he was, yet he seemed to usually be the unsung reason for their success.
I don’t want to kick a horse while it’s down, and mix other metaphors like my dad would do just for fun, but I am grieving at his loss. I miss the guy so much. So it’s no surprise that on Sunday, as I was walking through downtown Salt Lake City, I would see a man on a bike that would remind me of my dad. He didn’t look like my dad, and my dad wasn’t too fond of riding a bike, but there was something… there was something hidden deeply in my memory, yet it was so obvious. It was the dog on the man’s back! After remarking that it seemed a little weird and maybe unsafe (yep, I’m a PI attorney through and through), I quickly realized that I will never see a dog on anything in the same way again. And if you knew Fred, hopefully you won’t either.