Sometimes you don't realize how important a father is until he is gone.
My father was my role model so I knew how valuable he was, but with his passing I have become more thankful for him than he probably ever knew. I recently read, "When I was younger, I thought my parents were dumb; it's amazing how smart they got as I got older."
When my dad retired he drove my mother crazy. After he had a mild stroke he drove everyone right around the bend. Always an adventurous sort, the stroke didn't impact his wanderlust, it just, for a while, made us all his chauffeurs.
His honesty about everything in his life became heightened because he didn't bother to sugarcoat anything and while he was often funny, sometimes it was embarrassing. (Like when he would tell our waitress how old each of his daughters was and how many pounds each needed to drop.)
His tool bench had a sign my sister made, Junqueologist; he was a well-known personality during yard sale season. His mission was to buy things for 50 cents or less and soon his shed was packed to the ceiling with his finds. His specialty was anything in its original box; it gave him goose bumps.
One year my mom had a yard sale to get rid of his stash and she pocketed enough for a weekend in New York City. The yard was packed with six sleds, enough pairs of ice skates for a hockey team, a dozen sets of dishes, four telephones, four Frisbees, nine snow shovels, three rockers, multiple pairs of new shoes still in their boxes, eight televisions, two sets of dining chairs and more pairs of sunglasses than anyone could count.
When not yard sale shopping he was doing yard work or watching Gunsmoke or The Rockford Files. Sometimes he would regale me with descriptions of what would happen but would forget to tell me that his breathless stories were from the tube. One night, after he told me that three shots had been fired and there was a rifle in the neighbor's garage, I was ready to dial the police.
His biggest entertainment was touring million-dollar properties that were for sale. Freshly showered, shaven and looking really sharp (my dad was a very handsome man), he would be ready for me to take him to open houses.
At one huge mansion, I felt guilty as the broker devoted a half-hour to the tour, so I dutifully reviewed the property's listing sheet and asked polite questions while my dad wandered around the yard.
Happy as a clam at high tide, he wandered into the neighbor's yard and as the broker and I watched from the window, he began to poke his face into the windows of this house (which was fully inhabited). The broker looked embarrassed and as a dog began to bark, I ran outside and drew him back inside.
Our visit ended by touring a three-bay garage that had been carved out of the property's hillside. There was also an impressive temperature-controlled wine vault. Near one of the garage doors there was a large box filled with discarded dishes and sundries. My dad went over and began to pick through the pile. The broker looked at me and smiled. I smiled back, "It's a hobby, I said sheepishly." She laughed, "That's okay, he can pick out whatever he wants." We went home with two really nice coffee mugs.
My dad went to heaven on December 7, 2007.