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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

My Dad

I don't talk about him much, but he's on my mind a lot. Maybe every day. It's hard to quantify something like that because the moment you ask "have I thought about Dad today," you have.

Dad was 5'6", which means I am 3 inches taller than he ever was. His driver's license said his eyes were hazel green, but they were the blue hazel that ranged from bright blue to gray-green depending on his shirt. I have his eyes. I have his near-sightedness and motion sickness, too. I wish I had his nose.

Dad finished the basement in the old house, including a free-standing gas fireplace with a suspended hood, but his favorite medium was metal, and his favorite projects were "things with engines." He built boats, trailers, cars, docks and an airplane. Many hours of my life were spent riding in Tolbert's Toy, a barely street-legal dune buggy he made himself.

Dad loved to ski slalom, chase hot air balloons, and go to Dairy Queen for banana splits. He loved cats (although you had to catch him at it) and kids, and they loved him back fiercely.

Dad spoiled me rotten. On Saturdays, he would be up and working in the garage by 6, and I would climb into his side of the bed to watch cartoons on their bedroom TV. I could call, and he would come all the way to the back of the house to change the channel for me. He brought my teddy bear to the hospital before my emergency appendectomy, and he once brought me some pads in a paper sandwich bag on an overnight youth trip when my period showed up early, and Mom was unavailable. OK, those last two aren't proof of spoilage, but just fond memories.

Dad never talked about growing up. He had a scar on his arm that he told me was the result of a wasp attack. That I believed him shows how young I was. Mom later said it was a knife scar from a gang fight, and he was terribly ashamed of it. He probably wouldn't like me sharing that, but he's not here so I'll share what I want.

Dad was incredibly strong. Mom told me they once came on an over-turned semi wreck, and Dad climbed onto the hood and pulled the windshield out with his bare hands to free the driver. I know there were jars we had to throw away after he died because he had twisted them shut.

Dad used to drive me to school because I didn't want to learn to drive, and he saw no reason I should have to. We listened to Larry Burkett together.

Dad worked for the State. I often wonder if he ever walked outside on his lunch break, or if we would lunch together now, and I would tell him about my job, and he would give me advice. Dad had amazing tact, and a true talent for getting along with jerks. Not that I work with jerks.

Dad would have been happy that I published two books, but I doubt he would have read them. His tastes were more biographies and technical journals. Maybe he would.

I don't talk much about my Dad, but I miss him. I miss him more every year he's gone. I know he would love his grandchildren, and would make spaces in the garage for stray cats and baby possums, and chase hot air balloons and stop for banana splits. I'm glad I have his eyes, and his motion sickness, and his tact. I wish I had his strength.

I should stop now. I can hear him: You'd better quit that crying or I'll give you something to cry about.

You kind of did, Dad, but I love you anyway.

Applaud the jellyfish.


  1. I knew your Dad a short time, but remembered him always! When you were twelve you were already tall, and I once he said that people thought you were older than you were, but you were still just a little girl! He treated PJ like a little princess, and she loved him. After you and your Mom had gone back to Kansas, and Jim stayed to finish his work, once he was staying at our house. Don and Jim were both at work, and I missed PJ and went looking for her. I found her in the front bedroom where Jim had left his suitcase open - she was curled up in it! Now, I'm getting teary! I'm so sorry that he was taken from you so early in your life, and so glad that you have such wonderful memories.

  2. Nice job Robynn. Your Dad is proud.


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