My Dad died in February 2020. He decided he was no longer going to take his medicine, which was painfully extending his life; the end came quickly and peacefully with family around him.
It’s been a tough 2020, so I am glad he went before all of the chaos of this year ensued.
This is the first Veterans Day that my dad is not here physically, though I know he is picking on my Mom from above. He’s sending bees into her house to watch her run around and swat at them; he’s sending her butterflies to watch off her front porch. He’s also giving all of his six children tasks to do for her – fix up her flowerbeds, clean out his workshop, clean her house, take her dinner.
He was a proud Veteran, even though he didn’t serve overseas. (He was about to be shipped out to Korea when he caught the measles. After that, they just kept him statewide.) He was a member of the mechanics pool and, man, was he a great mechanic. Dad could fix just about anything, and he passed that knowledge on to a lot of his children – whether boys or girls. We all knew how to change oil and sparkplugs, and when I challenged a mechanic and told that young man how to check for leaks in the hoses, he just smiled and nodded.
My Dad always wore an American Legion hat, and he attended many, many fundraisers to help raise money for soldiers and veterans.
He was proud of his grandson who did the Wounded Warrior challenge and raised funds for wounded soldiers. He said he would have liked to have been there, but, as he was confined to a wheelchair at the end, he just smiled. Like he always did.
He would get angry if someone messed with his flag.
But he also understood what the flag stood for – freedom to speak and do what you think is right. He said he didn’t agree with people kneeling during the national anthem, but he said that was their decision – and theirs alone.
He grumbled about Democrats and Republicans alike, depending on the day and what a particular politician was saying. While he tended to vote Republican, he was so very proud of his Democratic son-in-law who served as county commissioner here in Hays County. He split voting tickets all the time, because he felt that some people had better hearts than others.
Dad would not have liked to live through this pandemic. He would have been disappointed in the actions taken by President Trump following Joe Biden’s election.
He believed in the United States and thought that politicians, as they did earlier in this century, should step across the aisle and work with people of the other party.
When I talked to him about working for Congressman J.J. Pickle in Washington D.C. and how the congressman expected his staff to find co-sponsors from across the aisle on any bill we presented, he would smile.
Dad didn’t talk a whole lot. He listened, he showed his disapproval with a frown or a wag of his finger.
But he smiled a lot – at his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was proud of the fact that, though he did not finish high school, multitudes of his grandchildren graduated from college. His displayed all of those college stickers – University of Texas, Southwest Texas, Texas State, Texas Tech, Baylor University, Tarleton University – on the back of his pickup truck.
He sometimes would just sit outside, beside his truck, wearing his American Legion hat, and smile.
I’m glad he left this world with a smile on his face, a kiss from my Mom, and his rosary wrapped around his fingers.
I like to think that he is still smiling at us. Thanks, Dad, you wonderful old veteran.