This is my dad. He passed away this morning after a long battle with throat cancer. He was a complicated man and we had a complicated relationship. Some people teach us more by the things they do wrong than the ones they do right and if I’m being honest, he falls in that camp. But it wasn’t all bad. Here are some of the better things I learned from his life.
Choosing people is more important than choosing sides. If you know me well then you know I’m pretty darn moderate. I swing left more often than I swing right but I can usually see both sides and I know how to argue with someone and still like them when we’re done. That’s courtesy of my dad. He loved discussing politics (and later religion). Some of the liveliest conversations of my youth I had with him, each of us making our case and ultimately agreeing to disagree. It’s a dying art in today’s climate and I’m glad he took the time to show me how it’s done.
My dad couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the famous Auburn vs. Alabama rivalry, which made him a bit of an anomaly among residents of the state. To prove his point, he donated his time to the Auburn University pharmacy school and donated his body to the University of Alabama medical school. For the last few years of his life he lived close to Auburn and served as a case study for the pharmacy classes there. Every couple of weeks “his” class came to check on him, ask him questions about his medications, side effects, etc. He was incredibly proud of his role in their education and of the students themselves. He got to know each one, always asking questions about what was happening in their lives. He also engaged them in the same sorts of lively debate we had shared, discussing religion, politics and even the pros and cons of medical marijuana (something he could never get on board with, though it would have served him well in his final months). But because Auburn did not have the market cornered on his loyalty, he signed up with the anatomical donor program at UAB. He took great pride in knowing his body would be used for the betterment of medical care for generations to come. His only hope was that he’d land in an all-girls class (a ladies man to the end) 😉
Give it a try. My father was not an educated man, but he was bright, resourceful and determined. More than once he created big things from little to nothing. He believed he could, so he tried. And he encouraged us to do the same. He owned a trucking company, ran a race track and eventually became a preacher. He took old cars, tinkered with their motors, slapped a fresh coat of paint on them and created hot rods. He wrote stories. He ran a hot dog shack. He was full of curiosity and was never afraid to act on it.
Fall down 9 times, get up 10. Probably the thing I will most remember about him was his ability to bounce back. He got knocked down a lot in his life, partly due to his own choices. But he always, always got back up. When he’d hit bottom, he’d spend his time on the ground figuring out how to get out of the hole. He went through business failures, divorces, the loss of a child, losing his home to a flood, the amputation of a leg, a heart attack and cancer. I always admired his ability to rebound but knew eventually the day would come when he didn’t. But it seems in a way he proved me wrong. In the last moments of his life he was literally on the floor. He was so weak he slid onto the floor from his wheelchair, something he’d done a few days earlier. Physically his body could no longer get up so he rose up the only way he knew how, by releasing his hold on this world to go be with his Creator. He died the way he lived-fall down 9 times, get up 10.
My dad had a restless spirit. That’s why he could never stay in one house, at one job or in one relationship for too long. But I’m told in his last moments he was peaceful and he passed gently. I like to think he finally found what he’d been searching for ❤️🌈