I do not know what age I stopped calling my Dad Daddy, but I know I made a concerted effort to be more grown up. These are the tender experiences that make him Daddy to me.
My Dad went to school and worked two jobs in Idaho before I attended first grade. We moved to Grand Junction, Colorado when he was hired to be a radar technician for the FAA. He worked at the airport for the first couple of years then drove to radar sites on the top of the Grand Mesa, Glade Park, and Douglas Pass. All the equipment needed to be maintained and he would work on giant computer equipment. Sometimes we could go up and be with him as he had to work 24 hour shifts over the weekends. He loved the mountains and that was a perfect environment to work and take a break for a walk, and hunt a little in season.
We lived on 19th Street in Grand Junction for the first five years in Colorado. We had an ample back yard with a swing set, and a silver barrel we would stand and roll around the back yard on. The favorite pass time for the kids and Dad was to wrestle. We had a small front room with wooden floors that had a large oval multicolored braided rug. When dad would come home we would all run, grab his legs, and he would start wresting with three little kids tossing us all around. He had an outdoorsy rowdy nature, and mom would always say, “Somebody is going to get hurt, go outside and play!”
We would go outside and he would swing us around and around by our hands at first, then he would swing us with one hand and one ankle around on the grass until we were so dizzy we couldn’t walk straight. We lived just a few blocks from the city park, pool, and zoo. The zoo only had a few animals. They had a fox, badger, bear, monkey, baboon, and the biggest smelliest lions. They would pace back and forth on the cement floor in the cage. Every evening the lions would roar and roar. Many a night I would have a nightmare about the lion escaping from the zoo. I would be swinging around and around and fall down on the grass and listen to the lions roar.
Dad would load all of us up to go to the Dairy Queen on North Avenue for an ice cream. His favorite ice cream on a stick was a Buster Bar. Most of the time the kids would get a Dilly Bar, my favorite was butterscotch. When he would go to FAA school in Oklahoma City, McDonalds had ice cream sundaes for a dime, so we would all get one. I liked pineapple the best. He would take us to the Oklahoma Zoo every month.
We went fishing a few times, but five little kids scare more fish than they catch. After baiting all the poles and keeping them untangled it was more fun to do something else. We did go cat fishing one time on Glade Park and we caught so many fish we could hardly throw our poles in fast enough. We went camping the most as a family. We went to Yellowstone Park, the Black Hills, and many state parks in Colorado. He would take us deer hunting too. I took my girlfriend Viv with us, and we had a great time until my dad shot the deer, then she wasn’t too keen on hunting.
My dad would take me to daddy daughter dates for primary. We would dance the Virginia Reel and I would make a box lunch. He was good about making time to spend with us. Dad would pick me up from dances and take me to go get a chili-dog at Der Wienerschnitzel. I am sure it was to talk.
I was grown with three little boys and I made a dress to go to my high school alumni homecoming. My husband was less than kind on his remarks about my homemade dress. My dad felt bad and he bought me a carnation corsage and told me to go have fun.
We always had a wonderfully unique relationship. We both strong, determined, liked math, computers, and family history. We worked together on family history. The last month of his family history mission we updated our family tree. We liked each other, valued each other’s opinion and knowledge. It felt like we were on the same page going the same direction. Birthdays and Father’s Day I would make his favorite cookies, oatmeal chocolate chip, walnut, raisin cookie, always saying, “You never can have too many raisins.” When living in Grand Junction I would bake his favorite lemon meringue pie.
He passed quickly, in less than 48 hours after his stroke. Before dawn he passed, surrounded by his family. I had not let myself drop my guard, but after he took his last breath the tears came and I found myself sobbing out affectionately the word “Daddy.”