Mom was always telling stories and I spent a lot of time with her (or hiding from her when I wanted to read a book rather than wash dishes). Dad didn’t tell stories, but he lived them, and he was an important thread in the fabric of our lives. Most of the stories I know about him came from his family or Mom.
When Dad met Mom, he owned the Dairy Queen in Dodge City, Kansas. After the folks got married, he bought the Dairy Queen in Pratt, Kansas, and they moved there where I was born. When I was about three, we moved to Memphis, Tennessee, so Dad could attend Southern College of Optometry. I have a favorite memory from before we moved from Pratt. Mom made a birthday cake for me. The cake was a Scarlett O’Hara kind of dress – the kind where you needed a hoop under it, if you were wearing it.
Mom worked really hard to bake the cake and Dad carefully cut out a whole in the top for the doll to fit in. He wrapped up the doll in plastic so she wouldn’t get cake on her and he put her into the hole, filling in the spaces so Mom could decorate the cake (and the doll). It was a beautiful cake, but the crowning glory was that Dad spent the time figuring out how he was going to get that doll in the cake with the least amount of fuss.
When Dad graduated from school in Memphis, we packed up and moved to Great Bend, Kansas. Dad established his practice and my brother, Rob, was born here. Dad like to travel but in the early years, our vacations consisted of loading up the car to spend the day at Lake Kanopolis with some of Dad’s friends. Once a year we would spend a week in Colorado where an aunt had a cabin. At one point, however, when I was probably in High School, Dad decided to take a ski trip to Colorado. It was so much fun! We stayed at a hotel at Lake Dillon. We got there pretty late in the day and it had started to snow. Dad knew right where he was going – the Ptarmigan Inn in Dillon. Unfortunately, they had changed names recently, so it took us a bit to find the right place. The next day after we got there, Dad drove around, checking out the various ski slopes in the area until he found just the right one.
Interestingly enough, I remember us staying in the car and watching Dad take ski lessons but it’s more likely that we sat in the ski lodge. Dad rented his ski stuff and watched a class, copying what they did, until he felt comfortable enough to try the slope on his own. I remember watching Dad get on the ski lift and go up the mountain. We watched bunches of people skiing down, hoping that one of them was Dad. I told him that I’d like to learn that as well, so Dad rented ski stuff for me and showed me how to stop and start and how to move the skis around. We practiced skiing down moguls (the small bumps in the snow). I was pretty good with those. I even handled the ski lift fairly well. It was when I looked down the 90 degree slope from the top of the mountain into a bottomless pit, that I realized I was in trouble.
Dad kept telling me to point my skis downhill, but I didn’t want to go that fast. I ended up doing this back and forth swag motion – kind of like the chains of popcorn that decorate a Christmas tree. I ended up skiing uphill all the way down. I took off my ski stuff and rejoined Mom. She said that she was having altitude sickness, but I suspect that she was really having nervous distress. At any rate, I ended up spending the rest of the day with Mom in our hotel room – she slept, and I read. I think that Dad spent the rest of the day with Rob and they probably conquered that mountain!
Dad had a way of giving advice that was kind of backhanded but was just the right kind of advice. I asked him once why love songs were always sad. He looked at Mom, grinned, and said, “Because love is ssaaaddd!!!” Mom gave him a funny look and I think retribution was dealt later. Dad and I talked about parenting and how hard it was to make decisions. Dad gave me the best advice I’ve ever received. “Just remember, Bec. No matter what you do, you’ll always be wrong!”
Dad was an amazing person. He could argue both sides of any issue with equal passion and then laugh and move on. He was all about family. Nothing was more important than his family and his friends and he loved learning stuff. He came down with a staph infection in his blood that sent clots into his brain, like scattershot. Eventually, that led to dementia and he passed away in 2012. He gave me a truly rich life and I’ll owe him for that forever!