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Perhaps Val has been remiss in her weekly graveside chats. A possibility which occurred to her at 1:55 a.m on the night/morning of Tuesday/Wednesday, April 11/12.
It is no secret that Val stops to chat with her dear departed mother on the way to Walmart every week. And that while she cuts up and pours out her heart and sometimes even holds discourse with the wrong grave...she seldom speaks with her dad, who is HELLO laying right there beside her mom! Yes. That IS quite rude, isn't it?
Let the record show that my dad was a fantastic guy. We got along great, and he did everything he could to support me both emotionally and financially. I got my sense of humor from him. The fact remains, though, that I was closer to my mom, I had an extra 20 years with her, and I'm still trying to let her go. She's the presence I sense around me all the time. Not Dad.
My dad died of cancer. He knew it was coming for about a year and a half. He was in pretty good health for someone dying, right up until the last four weeks. I went out to the house every morning with The 2-week-old Pony, to visit from 8:00 to noon. Sorry, Little Toddler Genius. You went to daycare during the week.
Dad was a big believer in me. He bought me my first calculator, when calculators were uncommon. Seventy-five dollars it cost! A thick Texas Instruments brick that I needed for my sciency/mathy courses. Becoming a valedictorian ain't cheap, you know! Dad knew when to tell me to cool my jets, and when to believe there was actually something behind my rantings. I remember him taking a half-day off from work to go up to school and have a chat with the principal, because I felt that I did not deserve the grade I had gotten first quarter in my history/geography class.
"Dad! I've NEVER gotten a B+ before! We haven't even had a test! Or turned in any papers! All we do is sit, while the teacher talks to his football players! I don't know how that gets me a B+. We don't even have BOOKS! Just pamphlets to read. But nobody does, because all he does is talk to the football players and make fun of that boy Wendell who doesn't play. They call him Wendy!"
So...even though I didn't want Dad to go up there because it embarrassed me, he did. And the principal called the teacher in privately afterward, and later informed Dad that the teacher said, "Who? Oh. She must be one of those girls who sits in the corner." He thought he was doing us a favor, giving us all B+s. But you know what? We started doing presentations out of the pamphlets twice a quarter. I'm pretty sure the football players loved me for that...
Anyhoo...another time there was a big deal about an all-day track meet that conflicted with visitation at my grandpa's funeral. It was my mom's dad's funeral, right there in town. I went to visitation the night before. But this track meet had been scheduled way ahead of time, and I was part of the track team. My mom and grandma said I should go to the track meet, that Grandpa would have understood. My dad said I should forget the track meet and go to the funeral. At the last minute, he let me go to the track meet. After the funeral, I saw him outside the fence at the track meet. I went over to see what was wrong, and Dad said he just came by to apologize for making things difficult.
Yes, Dad taught me to play baseball, to shoot a basketball, to shoot a BB gun, to bait a hook, and even take the fish OFF the hook. He taught me to drive, to change the oil, and change a tire. He taught me that having no curfew made me bring myself home earlier than the time he would have specified. That paying as you go is better than relying on credit. And that you always do your best, look out for the other guy, and stand by your word.
Dad even got me a teaching job! The very one I just retired from, after 18 years. Funny how Dad was no longer living when he got me that job. In fact, that's HOW I got my job. At Dad's funeral, I sat next to my favorite gambling aunt, who had been married to Dad's brother. She said they had an opening at school, where she worked at the time, and that I should apply. "Oh, they fired me once. They're not going to hire me back!" But I applied. And they did.
On the morning of the first day of school, I was diapering The Infant Pony, getting him ready to drop off at daycare. Genius was handing me a Huggie when I smelled it.
"Do you smell that? It's tobacco! Like your Grandpa mixed for his pipe!" It was part Kentucky Club, part cherry. Captain Black, I think. He kept it in the square plaid Kentucky Club can.
We smelled that on another first day of school, when the boys were older, both riding with me, back when I still drove on the highway. We had just passed a local motel/lodge by where we always turned off on the way home. And there it was, inside the car, the aroma of a cherry blend pipe tobacco.
Tuesday night, I was burning the midnight-1:45 a.m. oil in my lighted basement lair, trying to figure out how to redeem series E and EE U.S Savings Bonds. My sister the ex-mayor's wife and I both have quite a stack of them. Mom had put half of them Pay On Death in my name, and half in Sis's name. The original bonds were bought by Dad, once a month, rain or shine, regular as Hick going to Goodwill on a Thursday night.
Hick and I had been to our bank that day, asking about cashing them in. We had held off, due to the taxes we'll be incurring, until I retired and his income was also less. We kind of got the runaround at the bank. Nothing is ever easy. The barely-twenty-year-old teller said SHE could cash a bond. Then Hick shoved a stack at her and said, "I've got this many." She called a supervisor.
Anyhoo...I was online that night, typing in serial numbers and issue dates, using a tool from treasurydirectdotgov to compile a list, and check maturity dates. It got me thinking about Dad buying those bonds back then, with our future in mind. I finally called it quits after I barely got started. It's going to take a while. But it's a good problem to have.
I went out to sit in my OPC (Old People Chair) and watch some DVR Dawson's Creek before bed. I had not even gone though one cycle of the OPC's heat and massage settings when I smelled it. Cherry blend pipe tobacco. It lingered for about five minutes.
This week marks the 19th anniversary of his death.