My Dad marched to the beat of his own drum. He set his own standards, and while they changed through my childhood years, the bar and his expectations were always higher than I was tall.
Dad was a product of a rough and tumble father and a mother who only knew how to love and care for others – no matter what. I guess his lack of emotion, his inability to truly display love, only became evident in hindsight – because as a kid, even when he failed to properly parent, I felt loved.
We didn’t spend a lot of time playing ball in the backyard, because Dad owned a small business and put in long hours. So instead, I often biked to Dad’s shop and swept or cleaned the work benches until he was ready to lock up – usually after Mom’s third or fourth phone call. On the way out of the shop door, he’d drop a dime in the pop machine and hand me an Orange Crush Soda for the short ride home.
My best Dad memories, though, involve the after-hours deliveries we’d make on warm summer evenings. Dad sold outdoor equipment and he would drive within a 100-mile radius to deliver a lawn tractor to a good customer. I’d help unload the equipment off the trailer and he would demo the machine, chatting up the new owner while I kicked at the stones eager to head back home.
We’d climb back into the red Dodge van he drove (purchased the year I was born) and he would steer us down Northwest Iowa county blacktops – back to Spencer. At five or six years old, I marveled at how many people knew my Dad as we made these trips together. I’d see a car or truck approaching us and nearly every single time, the driver in the oncoming car would wave – and Dad waved back.
“Who was that?” I’d ask him eagerly.
“I couldn’t quite make out the face,” Dad would say with a grin. Or, he’d say, “I think that was Jim from the hardware store,” or he would make up the names of other people he knew, completely BS-ing me.
Eventually, it dawned on me that we were out in the country and these other drivers were just being friendly, waving as they passed every car they met. But for a few years, at least, I believed Dad was the best-known man in the state of Iowa – or at least our corner of the state. He was my well-connected Dad and I was proud of him.
Dad died on Sunday and he’ll be buried back in my hometown today. We rarely spoke these past couple decades. Distance created distance and days lapsed into years.
But I’ll call upon the best memories I have of him. And if there’s a Heaven, I know my Dad has been greeted by the hundreds who waved at him on those summer evenings when it was just the two of us on the road.
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