By Del Duduit
This past week has been a bit emotional for me. I’ve been helping a fellow author do some research on dads for another project, and it made me ponder.
Twenty-one years and two days ago, my father passed away. He died on Jan. 21, 1997, his 41st wedding anniversary and one day after he turned 65.
He had bought a fishing boat for his retirement, but he never got to set sail.
A life of cigarettes and pipes took its toll on his lungs, even though he quit 10 years earlier after a heart attack. He was diagnosed with cancer in December 1996 and died six weeks later. He went fast.
No one suspected he had a terminal illness because he had received a good bill of health the year before.
He was a good dad to us, and I am the youngest of four boys. To say he was involved and supportive is an understatement. He worked at the school, so it was difficult to get into trouble without him knowing. If we were punished, we got it harder from him when we returned home.
“A father is neither an anchor to hold us back nor a sail to take us there, but a guiding light whose love shows us the way.”
I cannot recall a game of mine he did not attend, and I played three sports. Every time I looked up in the stands at a football game, there he was on the left-hand side of the bleachers with his clipboard because he kept stats for the coaches. After each game, we always got a pizza and discussed my performance.
I remember one baseball game at Green High School, I was at bat with bases loaded. I heard him encourage me and say: “We just need a base hit.” I ignored him and blasted a grand slam, and as I rounded third base, he came up and slapped my hand to congratulate me. He was more excited than me.
Another memorable moment we shared was painful, yet funny. I was a sports writer and got him down on the sidelines with a media pass for a Bengals/Giants NFL game. A player came toward us, and we could not get out of the way. Gary Reasons, a linebacker for New York, wiped us out, along with about four other people. We felt the aftermath in the morning, and we had a good story to tell.
I wish my boys could have known him better. Gabe was blessed to spend his first five years with his grandpa. He doesn’t have too many memories, but one that stands out is the time he got away from Papaw’s house and Dad could not find him. Finally, he heard Gabe yelling at the top of his little lungs because he was trapped in a thorn bush in the woods. Dad found him, and soon Gabe wished he had never been discovered – he got whooped for running off! (Thanks, Dad!)
Gabe learned his lesson and still loved his grandfather.
Dad babysat Gabe often and loved taking him to the grocery store in his blue truck and watching Barney!
Eli doesn’t really remember his grandpa because he was 20 months old when my dad passed away. He managed to say “Papaw, night night,” when he saw him in the casket in his sweatshirt and ball hat – his trademark attire.
They would have enjoyed fishing with him, as I did on the banks of the Ohio River. We caught many catfish and carp in that dirty water in the wee hours of the mornings.
They would have enjoyed going to theme parks with him because he liked roller coasters.
Dad had a good nature about him, and everyone loved “Buddy.”
That was evident the night of his visitation when more than 1,000 people paid their respects. What a testament.
I have tons of memories of his life, but perhaps the best one I have is how he died.
My wife, Angie, and I had just been in the hospital to visit him two days before, and he sat up on his bed and laughed and ate. He knew he didn’t have much longer to go and had raised his arms in spiritual victory a few weeks earlier at church.
The next day he went downhill. Then on the 21st – his and mom’s anniversary, he went home. His death was surreal and calm. All of his boys and their spouses were in the room, along with Mom at his side. We sang hymns to a lifeless body. Then, suddenly, his eyes opened and he stared at Mom. A single tear fell from his left eye and quietly rolled down his cheek as he smiled. He took one last breath while Mom held his hand. Then he closed his eyes for good.
What a beautiful way to leave this world.
The next day, Angie and I boarded a bus for Washington, D.C and took part in the National March for Life. We felt we needed to honor his legacy at the same time we grieved his loss. Besides, that is what he would have wanted from us.
Dad was by no means a famous person, and he never changed the world with some break-through invention. In fact, I don’t know how he even supported his family on his salary, but he did. I never went without.
“Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance.”
Ruth E. Renkel
The best lesson I learned from my dad was to do your best and to be there for your kids. Be dependable and slow to speak. If you mess up, make it right and learn. He demonstrated a mild demeanor unless he was really bothered, but that was rare.
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Everyone loved “Buddy” because he was just that kind of guy.
I tried my best to make him proud, and I’m sure I failed at times, but I never knew any different from him.
I’m sorry for any disappointment I may have caused you, Dad, but mark my word, I will give you every reason for you to meet me in Heaven and slap my hand again as I round third and head to home.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Proverbs 22: 6
What are your memories of your father? If you still have him, let him know he means something to you.
Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and author who lives in Lucasville, Ohio with his wife, Angie. They attend Rubyville Community Church. Follow his blog at delduduit.com/blog and his Twitter @delduduit. He is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency.