Monday, November 12, 2007

A year without

Sunday marked one year without Papa. I spent the better part of the morning shedding intermittent tears, especially during the Veteran's Day service at church.

I just miss him so much.

The following is what I wrote after he passed and what I said at his funeral. It was hard, but I did it. And I wasn't alone. He was there with me.

This past week has kept all of us family members in pretty close quarters and oh, the stories we’ve shared about Papa. Scott, Keith, Sis and I have all mentioned how exciting it was riding in that orange truck. And now in the summer if we were in shorts we’d try as hard as we could to find a position to sit in so that those seat covers wouldn’t rub the hide off of the backs of our legs. Riding in that orange truck was a very big deal and even a bigger deal when that orange truck took us to the Townsman. Walking in there and being met with a cloud of cigarette smoke and the smell of grease was a big deal for us grandkids. We’d sit in those booths and not have the slightest idea what anyone was talking about, but we’d sit there and itch the backs of our legs that were still raw from riding to town on seat covers made from God knows what and feel pretty darn important just being with Papa.

If there was a way to calculate all of the hours of Hee Haw and Lawrence Welk that we watched with Papa I’m sure that number would be in the millions. And if we were fidgety and not really into the show that night we were given a classic Papa "Be still!" Heather said it was years before she realized that when Papa said "be still" he just meant be quiet and that she really didn’t have to sit there not moving.

Heather and I both remember him saying ‘Hey Sugarbabe!" when we’d run and hug him. Keith said he’ll never forget how Papa would come in that back porch door at the end of the day. You’d hear the screen door open and shut and then you’d hear "HOWDEE!" as he walked into the kitchen. I don’t think any of us can forget it - no one could say howdy quite like Papa. Courtney told us about how they greeted each other every time - He’d say, "How’s my baby?" and Courtney would reply, "I’m good. How’s my Papa?" And he’d give her the same answer every time - "I’m better."

He was a man of few words, but the words he spoke were memorable.

Keith said the other night, "I will never ever forget the sound of the milkers" and before he could say another word Heather and I joined him with donk chhh, donk chhhh. I’d sit in the corner of the milk barn on a bucket turned upside down, the radio would usually be playing either some very twangy country music or sometimes the news, the milkers would be making their own music and I’d swat flies and watch Papa do his job.

I’m sure it was incredibly dangerous the places we played and the things we did on that farm, but we all survived and seem to be fairly normal adults in spite of it. If it hadn’t been for hanging out in the milk barn, prowling around the shop, climbing on farm machinery and spending hours and hours playing on the propane tank, picking blooms off the trumpet vine on the well house and making glass after glass of Ovaltine, I’m not sure I’d be the person I am today. We are all better for having known Papa - not just his kids and us grandkids, but every one of us here today.

As I grew up I spent less time at the farm and with Papa due to being a teenager, growing up and such. But as I had my own children I found myself getting reacquainted with him again. All five of Heather’s and my kids loved their Papa Leo so very much and we couldn’t make it into Mom’s house without them running across the yard to give Papa hugs and kisses. He was so proud of those great-grandkids. He’d see us drive up and come out onto the porch to see the kids. And he always kept a can of peanuts next to the couch. Now, I’m sure he ate a few himself, but I’m fairly certain that he kept that can there for the kids. Those kids could obliterate a can of nuts in no time flat and the next time they’d come over there’d be another one waiting on them.

Heather and I got to take him to his school reunion in Edmond twice. The first year Uncle Homer was with us. It only takes about 3 hours to get to Edmond, but he insisted on leaving at 5:30am. Of course, when you only drive 45, you allow a lot of extra time. That’s why Heather always offered to drive - but we still left at 5:30. We girls just wondered what we were going to do in Edmond for 2 ½ hours, but Papa took care of that. We got the guided tour of Waterloo and heard so many stories about growing up in a time that it took an entire day to get from Edmond to the City and back in a wagon. There were tons of stories. But the best part of the entire day that first year was on the way home. Heather was driving that big Lincoln and was just trying her best to keep it between the lines. You know Papa wasn’t a big conversationalist, so the car was pretty quiet. Heather and I were talking quietly about the kids or something when all of the sudden a semi started honking at us. She had just passed the big truck, but didn’t think she had done anything wrong. She said, "Kristin, why is he honking at me?" Then we heard a snicker from the back seat. We turned around to find Papa slumped down in the seat doing the arm pull thing to get that trucker to honk at us. He was grinning from ear to ear and said, "Ah, I haven’t done that in years."

There isn’t a person in this place today that wasn’t touched in some way by Papa. Your lives are richer and better in some way because of him - whether it was because you were related to him, you were a neighbor, you worked for him at the farm or because he helped you out at Ken’s Farm and Home. While people were coming up to visit him at the hospital last week, the one thing I heard over and over again was what a great man he was. We really did have the best.

I remember once when I was little, walking with Memaw back up to the house after we’d gone to see Papa out in the shop. I was holding her hand and looked up and asked her if Papa was saved. She looked down at me and said, "Your Papa is a good man." I said, "Yes, but is he going to Heaven?" She squeezed my hand and said, "Heaven is full of good men." That particular conversation stuck with me for years. And well, it took him awhile to get around to it, but Papa did take Jesus as his Savior and I know today that there’s one more good man in Heaven.


Lori - Queen of Dirty Laundry said...


Anonymous said...

Damn you! Can you hear my sniffling from 4 miles to the SW of you?

Carrie said...

Awwww. This made me laugh and cry at the same time!
That's awesome!

Anonymous said...

Wow. I love this. Very touching. Inspires me to write what I always wanted to say after my Nannie's passing.

We....the people

Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...