When I was 8 years old, I found a small black-and-white photograph of my dad on the kitchen table. I picked it up and stared at it for the longest time. After a heartfelt sigh, I said, "Oh, he's a beautiful man." That seemed to sum up my complete adoration of him.
I'm sure that by any worldly standard, he was just an average, small-town man. He owned a dairy and was known as the town milkman. He knew everyone in town and they knew him. He delivered the school milk and I was always so proud to point out that he was my dad.
He was a quiet man and only said what needed to be said. He never felt a need to fill empty spaces with empty words. There were times when that bothered me because I was sure his head was full of profound thoughts and I wanted to know them all.
He had a few simple philosophies that governed his life, including: "Pay yourself first, then pay everyone else. When you build up a little savings, put some in the stock market and some in the bank. If you gamble, only risk what you can afford to lose, and never expect to win."
He dropped out of high school during his senior year because his father had a heart attack and needed help with the dairy. After his dad died, he felt obligated to keep the business going even though he dreamed of doing something else. He wanted to own a fishing lodge and take tourists on fly fishing trips to his favorite, secret holes. He was a master fly fisherman and no one knew the local mountains and rivers better.
He gave little advice, so when he doled it out I paid close attention. When I went to college, I majored in business. He asked whether I liked it. I said it was boring but it seemed practical. "Study what you love or you'll never be happy," he told me and he was right. I changed my major to journalism and never regretted it.
He had other good advice, too, like never buy a Chevy truck because they're for sissies, and never buy a used car because you're just buying someone else's problem. Pay your bills. Never lie and never try to be someone you're not. He hated phonies and hypocrites most of all.
I remember when he took my mom to see John Wayne in the movie "The Cowboys." When they came home, she couldn't wait to tell us that Dad had actually laughed out loud in the movie. We couldn't believe it because he was too reserved to really laugh out loud. To prove it she took us all back to the theater with them to see the movie. There was a scene when John Wayne taunted a stuttering boy until he was so mad that he unleashed a stutter-less string of obscenities. And then it happened: Dad laughed out loud. It was a memory for the family history books.
Twelve years ago my dad died of a heart attack. He was only 57 years old. His advice still runs through my head and influences my life. I have never bought a Chevy truck and bought used cars only in college. I pay my bills, invest in the stock market and never lie.
I still yearn for his straight talk, his way of cutting to the core and saying only what needs to be said and nothing more. These 12 years of his pure silence have been deafening. The shock of his sudden death has worn off, the grief is gone, the mourning is over, but the missing him never stops.
When I moved away from home, I rarely talked to him on Father's Day because he was always fishing. Even though I knew he wouldn't be home, I'd still call. I needed him to know I was thinking of him. I adore him as much today as I did when I was a little girl looking at that picture of him. Twelve years have come and gone; yet each year, on Father's Day, I still feel like I need to let him know I'm thinking of him.