Why I’m loved the most…the letter

Five years ago this weekend, in the early morning hours of Sunday, my father passed from his life of pain into Heaven.  It was expected.  He’d been under Hospice care for a week, at a nursing home.  He couldn’t communicate very well, if at all.  Struggling to be comfortable.  Struggling to breath.  Struggling to live.  The call came in around 2 in the morning.  “Your Dad is dying”.  I didn’t make it there in time to say good-bye.  At peace…finally.

By the time I came along in 1966 (I was an “oops baby”) he and Mom had two sons ahead of me.  The closest in age is Brian, seven years my senior while Dan’s at the top of the batting order being eleven years older than me.  By the summer of 1977 I was pretty much an only child.  Just me, Dad and Mom.  I got spoiled. (if you couldn’t tell that already…)  I didn’t wear my brothers hand-me-downs like my next closest brother did.  It was Dad who told me repeatedly “You should be a comedian!!”  He was always telling us boys how proud he was of us, our wives, our children and how much he loved us and Mom.

Dad was ahead of his time.  He communicated really well.  Part Archie Bunker, part Mister Rogers, Dad could let you know exactly how he felt.  Sometimes bluntly (that guy is as worthless as tits on a boar) or softly when I was old enough to drive myself to parties where prior to leaving for the night he’d square up with me, look me in the eyes and tell me “If you need a ride home tonight…call us.  WE LOVE YOU.”  I took that seriously.  I had a reputation as being a “mama’s boy” in high school.  When you’ve got parents as cool as mine…YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT. 

Sometime in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s all of us were at Mom and Dad’s for Christmas.  All three sons and their families at the same time.  Dad and Mom were loving this day.  In the tree there were three envelopes.  One for each son, a letter in each.  I started to read mine, but really didn’t READ it until a day or two later.  It was nice.  I filed it away in my dresser drawer.  I might want it someday.

As we approached the day leading up to Dad’s visitation and funeral I had a strong feeling that I should share the letter that he had given me many Christmas’ ago.   I put a copy of it in my pocket and went off to his visitation.  I ran into his Pastor, a lady who farmed with her husband in a nearby community.  “They’re good people” Dad used to say of them.  I gave her the letter and said something along the lines of “if you think this will apply to tomorrows sermon…feel free to use it.”  She took it without looking at it, or commenting.

At Dad’s funeral the next day things were progressing along as well as could be expected when the Pastor pulled out Dad’s letter and read it aloud.  While I’m glad that I shared it, it was extremely hard to hear it being read and not become emotional.  Here it is:

THOUGHTS AND MEMORYS OF THE THREE

GUYS THAT MEAN THE MOST TO ME

Dear Daniel…I’ve loved you the most because you were our first born.  You were the beginning of a marriage, a fulfillment of our Love for each other.  You held us together through our first years, the first apartment in Furth Germany, our first mode of transportation, FEET.  You were new, BOY, we were too.  You were the prototype model.  You are one of a kind, and you are OURS.

Dear Brian…I’ve loved you the most because you were the center of our family, a tough position.  I believe you’re stronger because of it.  Your clothes were someone else’s, as were most things.  You were the one we started to realize that you were not made of eggs and had a personality of your own.  You came at a time of life style change and marriage routine.  You were the love of our ambitious years.  Our Love for you is SPECIAL.

Dear Richard…I’ve loved you the most because while your Mother and I have grown more experienced we’ve found that things in the beginning thought to be important aren’t necessarily so.  Generally endings are sad, but we are not sad, you give us much happiness.  You are our link with the past; dates, girls, ballgames, cars, beer, and troubles, and our hope of the future.  You’ve quickened our step, lightened our heart and straightened our shoulders and given us a humor that maturity doesn’t provide.  You are our Love of Life.

We miss Dad dearly.  If there’s a lesson, a take-a-way, from his letter its that you should let your loved ones know how you feel about them. Whether in spoken word, a letter that gets stashed away in a dresser drawer or some other means.  Say it.  Write it down.  Whatever.  Do it.  They’ll want to hear it.  If not today…eventually.

Dad and Mom Ripley

Dad and Mom Ripley

God bless.

R

 

2016 Ripley year in review

The highlights and lowlights of 2016 (make yourself comfortable….I might go on a rant)

February…I was assigned three post-season basketball games, a personal high for me.  It’ll be a tough number to beat but every night on the court I try not to suck.  So far….so good.  I used to get butterflies before each game, hours before tip.  Nowadays I get a little nervous, but only to get the game started and start having fun.

April…I took a cruise in the Caribbean with my best buddy.  It was a banner year of travel for yours truly.  Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico and Japan.  Some of my favorite photos of the year were taken during this cruise.  Dave’s my wingman.  Has been since August of 1984.

KICKIN' ASS SINCE 1984

KICKIN’ ASS SINCE 1984

The Tequila Kid and The Ripper

The Tequila Kid and The Ripper

June….a family vacation to Colorado.  All five of us.  Again…lots of fun, great food and a few memorable photos.

Hurricane Pass

Hurricane Pass

We were all over those rapids like a hobo on a ham sandwich

We were all over those rapids like a hobo on a ham sandwich

August…the unexpected death of a young friend.  I miss him.  I was working yesterday when a young man wearing a hoodie turned towards me asked a question, he looked like my friend.  It took me aback.  His death has affected the way that I manage our young employees.  I can’t say that its a better way of managing, but more aware of what’s at stake.  Over the course of 27 years I’ve known five employees who’ve taken their own lives.  I’ve never come to a reasonable answer for any one of them.  As I said before…I miss him.

2016...With our friends daughter, Lilly. She'll never know...

2016…With our friends daughter, Lilly. She’ll never know how great of a person Jordan was.

 

August…..they flew the coop!!  Our two youngest daughters left…in a big way.  One to Germany.  The other to Japan.  Our closest daughter is in Miami…1500 miles away.  My wife and I are all alone.

September….we’ve lived in this neighborhood since 2002.  We’ve been the “new” neighbors for almost 15 years to our next door neighbors.  With Pat and Ed moving into an assisted living apartment and our other neighbor moving to a nearby town…Connie and I are now “old” neighbors.  The young couple living next to us put up a privacy fence and don’t let me pet their dog (of all things…?) but at least Jerry and Claire seem more like our kind.  Nice…wave if they see you…stop and talk.

October...at my workplace, I started posting videos on our stores Facebook page with the charge of “engage our customers”.  Many of the videos that I see on Facebook for our company are…professional though fairly bland, in my opinion.  What I did was become Rowdy Rich.  I  started putting stuff out there with the idea of trying to catch our customers attention with #1…a gimmick (me wearing a pig nose for National Pork Month or something else) and #2…a great price on something that our customers may want.  Its resulted in folks enjoying our Facebook videos but as far as driving us towards a sizable sales increase, don’t hold your breath.

November….I traveled to Japan to visit our daughter Karalee.  Its a long-ass flight…dead serious, but quite an adventure…and I totally enjoyed myself.

At some falls in a gorge with Karalee

At some falls in a gorge with Karalee

December…I read my Facebook “Year in Review”.  Can’t say that I liked it, so I didn’t post it.  What I did find interesting is that I “liked” 5300 times.  REALLY?!  Am I that promiscuous with the “like” button?!  Broken down daily…that’s like 15 “likes” a day.  I was wondering if I was being too liberal with it, then I realized that I was being totally stupid because I’m always going to “like” or react to dog and cat videos, beautiful sunrise/sunset photos, memes that are probably inappropriate and a friend of mine posted her Facebook in review and she had over 10,000 “likes” (BTW…she rarely posts, what she does post isn’t funny and she’s a fairly quiet person….so if anyone has a problem it’s her….not me, cause I’m normal).

Connie left me alone for the holidays.  Dead serious.  For the last week I’ve been totally alone.  Christmas Eve…alone.  Christmas morning…alone.  Thank God my brother and his wife had me over for Christmas dinner (where I was fed like a King!!).  Before you get the tar warmed up and feathers ready, she’s visiting our two daughters.  One in Germany and one in Japan, with a quick visit to Sweden where she’s touring where her ancestors lived, not to mention the moose burgers she ate and wine she’s been drinking…all the while “missing you sweetheart!!”  That old ruse!!  Someone needs to start a business where you can rent a pet for the duration of your wife’s vacation.  Her absence would be greatly eased with either a puppy or kitten greeting me every nightDead serious. 

My boss had a baby.  So I’m trying to do my job and hers.  I can’t really half-ass either and get away with it…so I’ve been going into work on my days off for a few hours and working.  I’ve worked 25 hours in two days so far this week!  Its okay…I’m just getting a little grumpy towards the end of my work day…especially with no puppy or kitten or wife to greet me at home.  Also…since its Christmas break there’s no basketball games to officiate to work off my stress.  Honestly…that brings me down as well.

I’m part of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, an organization that pairs at-risk kids with mentors.   I’m a Big Brother to a 14 year-old young man.  I try to be a good influence on him, take him to movies, dinner, games, try to teach him life-skills, etc.  We’ve been together for 2+ years.  Recently his mother (and him) won’t respond to me taking him out like we used to do.  I’ve been trying for two months with nothing happening.  If his mother does reply she says that “he’ll get back to you”.  I understand that he’s 14, probably doesn’t think replying to my texts are a big deal…but I wonder if we’re “done”.  It kind of made me mad, at first, but perhaps I was only to be a part of his life for these past two years and that’s his journey, not mine.  Our case worker is reaching out to him…but I have a feeling that its “over”.  If it is…I’d be sad.  He doesn’t have a good male role model (not that I’m a Boy Scout by any measure….) in his life.  His friends are shoplifting and such, I told his mother that. He might be done with me.   I’ll just wait and see.

Ripley's...jumping for joy

Ripley’s…jumping for joy

I hope that your year was a great one.  Take care and thanks for coming along.

God bless…

R

 

You’re not here….

I stopped in to see you today.  I was minding my own business when Gun’s & Roses “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” came on the radio.  I’ve heard that song three times since you chose to leave us.  On the drive to your visitation.  Once in September when I was a block away from you and I stopped in, and this morning when I was three blocks from you.  Its like you, or someone else, is nudging me towards you, again.

I honestly don’t know why I stop to see you.  You’re not there, just a marker with your name, date of birth and the day you left us.  A relatively fresh bouquet of red roses, and one withered arrangement of lavender roses.  Some autumn decorations and one heartfelt Ziploc baggie with hearts drawn on with a few cookies in it.  We still miss you bro.

As if the holidays weren’t hard enough, a cold cloud of melancholy sadness lies over many of our hearts.  “What if…?” still crosses my mind.  I’m not alone. 

December 2013 you and Dalton asked if you could stripe the mannicans of their holiday clothes and wear them that night.  I said "why the hell not..?"  You were always looking for a laugh.

December 2013 you and Dalton asked if you could stripe the mannequins of their holiday clothes and wear them that night. I said “why the hell not..?” You were always looking for a laugh.

I looked forward to you rolling your eyes at me as you flashed across the front end of our store, on your way to another supervisor call.  To you sarcastically telling me how amazed you are at me being able to navigate from one country to another.  To you telling me to “get to work”, to how much I looked forward to discussing my trip to Germany with you.  I miss your work ethic.  You left a huge professional void at our store.  I miss talking football with you…and movies.

Probably being naughty...but nice around Santa this year

Probably being naughty…but nice around Santa this year

I’ve wondered why I visit your grave?  Throat tight, eyes watery, chest heavy…I guess that I’m no good at grieving someone who shouldn’t be dead…someone whom I love.  Do me a favor, Jordan, the next time that you nudge me…nudge me somewhere happyThanks bro.  Until then…rest my brother, rest. 

Rip

I’m done

I’m done crying, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.  I’m wired to live in life…not death.  I’m tired of hearing from others how sad I look.  I’m tired of folks pulling me in for a hug.  I’m tired of sadness and death.  I’m done. Instead of crying…I’ll celebrate your life.  Remembering your laugh, your energy and orneriness.  I’ll be kinder, maybe a little more attentive and better than ever.  My hugs will be happy hugs.  I’m going to start giving people some good-natured shit.  I’m going to start being me again because “sad me” ain’t me.

What’s my “take-a-way” from your death.  Life’s short.  Touch someone in a positive way like you did.  Be someone’s hero.  We all like hero’s…right?  Be one. 

  • Donate blood
  • Drop off food to a food bank
  • Take some clothing and toiletries to a mission or shelter
  • Bake someone cookies and drop them off just because you can
  • Buy someone a flower
  • Hug…nuff said
  • Share your time and attention
  • Be nice when everyone else isn’t
  • Text someone a nice note
  • Forgive a debt
  • Reach out to a friend who’s having a tough time and then reach out again
  • Call someone and leave the following message “WWWHHHHHAAAATTTTZZZZZUUUUPPPPPP?!” 
  • Encourage
  • Don’t be so critical of yourself
  • Teach
  • Coach
  • Volunteer
  • Tip well
  • Act like a bigshot and order hot fudge sundaes for the whole table
  • Encourage high fives when its so awkward that its funny “don’t leave me hangin’ homie!!”
  • Bring a dozen donuts when no one expects you to
  • Show up
  • Laugh
  • Do what it takes to show others your love for them

I think that our good and gracious Lord talks to us throughout our day.  On the way to your visitation I turned on the radio and Guns and Roses “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” was just beginning.  On my way to your funeral this song came on.  I had to smile, if even through the tears.  Its one of my favorites.  It rings so very, very true to me these days.

 

Crying won’t bring you back…celebrating your life keeps you alive in my mind…in my heart.  They buried a body…they didn’t bury my friend.  My friend lives on.  I’ll see my friend again.  I’m going to start living again.

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Why Jordan…why?

 

I hired you on July 19 2011.

We became friends shortly thereafter.

I’m not supposed to have favorites.  Like every manager I have those that I like to work with more than others.  Some employees need supervision on everything, while others do not. Some go the extra mile without asking, others barely make it to the end of their shift.  Some make me work on making them better while a few select, a very small percentage, excel and challenge me to keep them busy.  I’ve been abundantly blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life through my profession, some have even gotten their way into my heart.  You were one of them.

You were reliable, energetic, funny, bright, handsome, hard-working, quick-witted, fiercely competitive, stubborn, a world traveler, but most of all…you were my friend.  I took you into my confidence.  You were one of the few who teased me back and busted my chops.  I trusted you.

 

December 2013 you and Dalton asked if you could stripe the mannicans of their holiday clothes and wear them that night. I said "why the hell not..?" You were always looking for a laugh.

December 2013 you and Dalton asked if you could strip the mannequins  of their holiday clothes and wear them that night. I said “why the hell not..?” You were always looking for a laugh, and you usually found it.

You and Becky...ugly sweater contest

You and Becky…ugly sweater contest

...did I mention that you liked to clown around? Here you are with Alysarose...two knucklheads

…did I mention that you liked to clown around? Here you are with Alysa…two knuckleheads

 

You and Bailey for Halloween

You and Bailey for Halloween

You, Jared and Blake...three super dudes.

You, Jared and Blake…three super dudes

Probably being naughty...but nice around Santa this year

Probably being naughty…but nice around Santa

...was there anyone that you didn't take a selfie with?

…was there anyone that you didn’t take a selfie with?

Swiping my phone and posing with Gwen 2015

Swiping my phone and posing with Gwen 2015

2016...With our friends daughter, Lilly. She'll never know...

2016…With our friends daughter, Lilly. She’ll never know…

Wednesday 8/17/2016…you were uncharacteristically late.  You didn’t answer my phone calls.  You didn’t answer my texts.  I grew concerned.  I called your grandmother.  I was on the phone with her when she found you.  Her frantic screams at the other end of the phone are still ringing in my ears.  I hung up and called 911 then rushed to your home.  It was too late. I stood on your lawn.  What do I do now?  Your neighbors gathered on the sidewalk, away from your house.  I took a wide walk away from them to avoid their questions.  I’ve always prided myself on knowing what to do, who to call and how to brush aside the emotion and stress of the situation and get my job done.  27 years in the hot seat will do that, but this…the death of a friend who’s a big part of our store?  That’s altogether unchartered territory. What’s my job now?  Why…?

Who do I call first?  What do I tell them.  How do I keep the present crew in the dark while I try to wrap my head around this….all while mourning you myself?  I go over the last conversation that we had that day.  It was all business.  Did I say something wrong to push you over the dark edge that you were at?  Was I curt or a prick?  Didn’t you know how much we loved you?  How much I loved you?  Jordan…all you had to do was call any one of us and you would have had an army of friends and family to hold you until the darkness passed.  Now…its too late.  Why…?

Arrangements to be made.  Hollow heart.  Scattered brain…I can’t keep my thoughts on track.  Orders to be written.  Customers to wait on.  Coworkers to comfort.  Customers ask why everyone on the crew is forlorn, so sad.  It’s a bitter pill to swallow, to repeat the story and hear their shock, their disbelief.   I have to go in, to work, to comfort to try to get everyone else and myself through this.  My head hurts from crying so much.  I’m told that I can go home.  Spontaneous crying, cold shock and unanswered questions are the ingredients of this horrible day.  Why…?

At night I try to sleep.  I’m exhausted but memories of our exchanges cross my darkened minds eye like flames that flicker at a candles end.  Bright flickers…just asking to be replayed again and again.  Why…?

When I finally leave this earthly home, I wonder if God will look the other way once you and I finally meet again…because I feel like punching you hard in the chest…not violently…just to knock some sense into you.  We trusted you.  We called you our friend and now we’re hurting because you took you away from us.  We’re selfish, Jordan.  We wanted you here for a long, long time…to watch you complete college, to excel and get a career, to get married, raise a family to travel the world.  That’s all gone from us now and…quite frankly…we’re hurt.  We’re pissed and hurt and sad.  My whole body hurts.  Why Jordan…why?

 On our way to Career Day 2015

On our way to
Career Day 2015

This will hurt for a while…but I’ll never forget you buddy.  You were a blessing to those around you…maybe we should have told you that a little more often.

R

Finally home….

Next week it will have been a year since Dad has passed.  It’s remarkable how quickly time flies.  This time last year we were planning Dad’s funeral as he had just been admitted into Hospice care and wasn’t given much time to live…but they couldn’t be sure.  Nothing is certain.  Death is God’s domain and He’ll allow it in His time, not at our convenience.

On the day Dad died I received a phone call from Mom around 2:30 in the morning, he didn’t have much longer to live.  The day before he was really struggling to breathe…it was awful watching him battle for air and comfort.  I got up and made it to the nursing home within a short time, but by the time that I got there he had passed.  I entered his softly lit room.  He looked…at ease.  Damn…I wish that I could have been there at that last moment…just to be with him.

Moments later my brother, his wife and Mom arrived.  Not much was said, I won’t attempt to guess what others were thinking or feeling.  It was a surreal moment that was calm and, I’d say, a relief.  Dad was in Heaven, let’s meet later and get the ball rolling on the visitation and funeral.  It was the beginning of a whirlwind week.

In the months since Dad’s death I’ve found myself thinking less about Dad at the end of his life and more and more about the ‘whole’ of his life…in his prime.  To be sure…I loved Dad throughout his life…though the last two years were definitely unchartered waters for all of us.  Dad had Alzheimer’s and a variety of other ailments that inhibited his ability to get around.  Still…he was Dad.

I’d finish my day at the store and drive to the nursing home to visit him.  I’d walk into his room, he’d wake up and we’d visit.  The conversations were short; Dad’s memory was “back on the farm” that he and Mom raised us boys.  It was a good place for him “to be” in my opinion.  Here are a couple of excerpts that I wrote down of our conversations:

Rich: How are you doing Dad?

Dad: Fine.  I’ve been bustin’ my ass around here.

Rich: Doing what?

Dad: Getting ready for a trip your Mother has planned.

Rich:  Where are you going?

Dad: (shrugs his shoulders)

Dad: Did you see your Mother downstairs?

Rich: Yep.

Dad: How are your girls?

Rich:  They’re good, Dad.  Ornery.  But good.  I love them to death.

Dad:  I’ll bet.  Girls can be ornery….your Mother can be ornery, sometimes.

Or another time that Dad wanted to get out of his wheelchair, but couldn’t.

Rich:  Dad…you can’t walk anymore.

Dad:  Since when?!

Rich:  For a couple of months now…it’s the disease.

Dad:  Well that’s a bitch.

Rich:  Yes Dad.  Yes it is.

As I said before…death is God’s domain.  He teaches, loves and gives us enough to get through it, though we may not feel like it at the time.  He puts angels along our path to lift us up as we falter, to comfort us as we mourn, a Savior who hung on the cross for us with a rock solid promise of redemption, salvation and an eternal life thereafter where we’ll meet again with our loved ones.

I choose now to think about Dad as the man who helped raise us boys, with Mom.  I choose to remember Dad as a loving husband to our Mother, loving and fun Father to his sons and their families.  A happy, family oriented man who the Good Lord put into our lives.  I choose to believe, to remember and be thankful.

A week of grace

My Dad passed away a week ago today.  It’s been the toughest week of my life, made easier by the prayers, kind deeds and thoughtful words of many, many folks. You were an angel of sorts, sent to lift us…to walk with us through this valley of sadness and loss. Though I might not mention you by name, your act of loving kindness isn’t forgotten or overlooked.

 

  • Thank you to all of our family, friends and old neighbors who drove from as far away as Florida, South Carolina, Colorado and Illinois to help shoulder our loss.

 

  • Thank you to my co-workers who drove an hour out to Tipton then an hour back just to express their condolences.  To my co-managers who took on my responsibilities, as well as their own, so I could minister to my Mother and grieve on my own.  I may not have any biological sisters, but I have several gals at work who’ve adopted me as their “little brother”.  They don’t know what they’ve gotten themselves into.

 

  • Thank you to all of me and my brother’s old high school friends stopping by and visiting with us.  We haven’t seen some in a long, long time.  I introduced myself to one of my brothers friends and told him “I always wanted to ride in one of your cool muscle cars back in ’76 Chuck, but I was always too young.”  The guy gave me a quizzical look, then literally a couplea minutes later turned to me, pointed his finger and announced “YOU’RE DICK RIPLEY AREN’T YOU?!”  Yes, Chuck…yes I am.

 

  • Thank you to Pastor Barb.  You did a great job at Dad’s visitation and service.  I understand now why Dad and Mom hold you in such high esteem.

 

  • Thank you to the American Legion Honor Guard sending Dad off with a U.S. flag draped coffin, the playing of Taps, and gun salute.  So honorable, so cool, so very, very touching & moving.  It was a privilege being with you that day.

 

 

  • Thank you to David Fry Funeral Home.  Your professionalism, courtesy, kindness and thoughtfulness of you and your staff blew us away. 

 

 

  • Thank you to the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary putting on a fine lunch after the service.  Small towns do themselves proud

 

  • Thank you to the cemetery caretaker hand digging a grave in January, in a lonesome, windswept country cemetery surrounded by barren fields. I swear I could smell fresh cut hay on the wind out there.  It’ll be pretty come spring out there, and as weird as it sounds…I’m looking forward to visiting.  In a word it will be peaceful.

 

  • Thank you to all who’ve commented on “Thanks Dad…”.  Your kind thoughts are appreciated.

 

It’s time now to get back to a normal routine….and I’m looking forward to it.

Thanks Dad…

 

My dad recently passed away.  He was a good man. A good husband to our mother. A good family man.  A Christian.  I’ve been compiling a list for the past couplea weeks, that even though it’s not entirely complete, I’m posting now. I’d like to take a moment to thank him, in no particular order, for the following:

  • For his love of our family.

 

  • For teaching us to honor our parents and elders by watching him honor his.

 

  • For wrasslin’ us boys in the middle of the living room floor, then years later…wrasslin’ his grandsons and granddaughters in that same living room.

 

  • For leading us in prayer before meals.  You and Mom taught us to pray.

 

  • For playing catch with me until your arm dropped off. Then showing up at our ball games to watch us play, or ride the pine…either way…you and Mom were there if you could be.  For teaching me your “running jump shot” while cutting through the lane.

 

  • For teaching me (and my two brothers) to drive…on gravel roads with a manual transmission no less.  For teaching us to counter-steer when we started to fishtail, and teaching us that if we accelerated then popped the clutch we could peel out.  (maybe he didn’t teach us that….but he didn’t discourage it either).

 

  • For buying me my first car, so I could have something to drive to school and take to college.  It wasn’t Camero or Mustang, but it sure beat walking.

 

  • For letting me use your cologne when I started dating.  Cedar & Scott counties women were never the same after that.

 

  • For providing for our family, both with your city job and on the farm.

 

  • For teaching me and my two brothers how to pick out a woman as a wife; to love, cherish and respect her.  Dad and Mom were married for 55 years.  He adored Mom.  He backed Mom’s decisions (at least in front of us boys).  He and Mom were a team.  Teams sometimes have disagreements…but at the end of the day….they were still a team and they still loved each other.  I remember a time when Mom left for a week to help with the care of one of our newborn nephews.  Upon her return to our farm Dad had made a big banner that said something like “Welcome Home Marcy!! I love you!”  I was a teenager at the time and thought to myself “Jeez…the old guy still has it going on for Mom.”

 

  • For welcoming our fiancées into the family as genuine daughters that he and Mom never had.  Both Mom and Dad made our wives feel accepted and loved, because they were.  It’s a true testament of that loved returned when I saw my sister-in-laws & my wife sitting with Mom at Dad’s bedside at the hospital and at the nursing home.  When the chips are down, love shows up and waits it out.  Love.

 

  • For taking time to listen to me, and encourage me when the situation called for it.

 

  • For letting us know that being “disciplined” is a form of love.

 

  • For teaching your sons a strong work ethic.  One’s a captain on the fire department with 30+ years of service and a medal for valor in the line of service.  The middle son travels the world for the company that he works for, and has several patents in his name and has worked  20+ years for that company.  And me…I’ve worked 22 years for the company that I’m employed by.  I may not have the technical brilliance or book smarts of many others, who surround me, but the good Lord gave me a quick wit and enough commonsense to stay out of trouble….and that’s been enough up to this point.

 

  • For saying to an eight year old Rich Ripley “sure you can try my snuff!  Take some!”  For anyone who hasn’t tried snuff…it’s horrible tasting finely cut tobacco that burns your mouth and gets into every crevice, makes your nose run and your eyes water.  I couldn’t wash it out of my mouth fast enough at the barn water hydrant!  I haven’t touched the stuff since. Lesson learned Dad.

 

  • For allowing me to try alcohol at home.  I found out that it, too, was nasty tasting stuff.  And when I was old enough to drive he’d square up with me, look me in the eye and tell me “if you’re going to drink tonight, call us….we’ll come get you.  We love you.”  I doubt that it was reverse psychology…my parents never made any bones about telling you what was on their mind and what they expected out of you, but when Dad said that, I was usually home, sober, by ten at night. 

 

  • For being a super Grandpa…dollhouses and toy farms built for our kids.  For wagon rides behind the lawnmower for our kids. 

 

  • For Dad and Mom showing up and helping out at countless moving in’s and moving out’s at colleges, first apartments, first homes and second homes. 

 

  • For the free technical advice/service on home and car repairs. 

 

  • For loaning, sharing or just giving us whatever Dad and Mom had that we needed at that moment.  Whether it was a hug, advice, a loan or some kind of tool….if you two had it….we could use it.

 

  • The interest-free loans in college and life from Mom and Dad.

 

  • For the advice…whether we wanted it or appreciated it at the time.  It was given out of love and concern.   I know that now.

 

  • For the love of hitting the road early when leaving on vacation.  I don’t remember how many times we’d leave on vacation in total darkness.  Mom and Dad in the front seat, my brothers and I piled into the back seat.  One of my fondest memories is waking up, a couplea hours later, the sun rising, smelling coffee that Mom was pouring from the Thermos for her and Dad to drink.  I don’t necessarily like to travel far for vacation, I didn’t inherit this from my parents….I don’t know how as my two brothers love the open road.  In my childhood Mom and Dad drove us to Disneyland in California, then four years later drove us to Disney World in Florida (from Iowa) There were other trips too, though I was too young to remember, but old timey super eight movies prove that I was present…a scowling tow headed toddler that looked none to pleased to be away from his dog and cats on the farm.  Mom and Dad drove us to places far and wide in either a pick up truck camper or in a ’72 Ford LTD with Aristocrat trailer in tow.  Lots of miles behind the wheel for his wife and boys.  I’d go back to school in the fall and tell the other kids where I’d been and what I’d seen only to find out that they hadn’t gone anywhere.  I realized at a young age that I was blessed to have these parents.

 

  • For serving our country during the occupation of Germany after World War II.  His love of our country was wide and deep.

 

  • For letting me know how proud Mom and he were of their sons and their families.  Some people never hear those words come from their parents, but I heard it just about every time I saw them. 

 

  • For comforting me as I tried to comfort him in his final days.  Try as I might….I couldn’t not cry as I told him “it’s okay to go Dad.  We’ll take care of Mom.  You’re work is done here.  You and Mom did a great job of raising us boys.”  He’d look up at me, hold my hand and whisper, “I know.  I know.”

 

  • What gives me great comfort is a conversation that we had a couplea years ago.  I was taking him for a drive one morning, out in the country.  We weren’t talking much; just me driving, him looking out the window at the snowdrift covered farm fields.  I asked him “how are you doing spiritually Dad?”  He replied, “Jesus is my Savior.”  That’s what gave me comfort then.  It’s what gives me comfort now. Thanks for showing us the way Dad.  We’ll see you later.

Love,

Richard

 

Everyone has treasure

Everyone’s treasure.

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed the recent abundance of “treasure shows” on TV the last year or two. A&E’s “Storage Wars”, The History Channels “American Pickers” and “Pawn Stars”, TruTv’s “Hardcore Pawn” and not to be left out PBS’s “Antique’s Road show”, which preluded everyone else’s show by starting out in 1997. I’m sure that there are others that I’ve left out, but I’ll focus on the theme of these few. The basic premise of each show (in this humble man’s opinion) is that the stars of their shows come across odd stuff, collectibles and other hard to find items through either customers coming into their stores, buying storage units that have gone delinquent, or go out and scrounge around the country side looking for things to buy for their store. The viewers are drawn in when the stars perhaps find something of value and intrigue. Then the stars have to negotiate a reasonable buying price from, sometimes, reluctant sellers so they can buy it and then resell it to one of their customers at a good profit. It’s “Commercialism 101” and I can watch hours of it. I especially enjoy American Pickers and Pawn Stars, with a tip of the hat to Mike and Frank of American Pickers since they’re from Iowa and seem like nice, fun loving guys (just like this forty-five year old Iowan). I’ve wondered why others, like myself are so drawn to this theme. Is it that each one of us has a bit of “treasure hunter” living in us? A kind of treasure hunter that doesn’t have to travel to far away countries like Indiana Jones, fighting tribes of spear chucking locals (or worse yet…machine gun toting locals who are working in cahoots with the Nazis?) Maybe we all like the thrill of the chase towards the treasure, knowing that we’ll be snug in our beds that night instead of trying to sleep on a cot swatting at mosquitoes? I think that’s why flea markets and garage sales are so popular is that treasure is in the eye of the beholder.

 A couplea years ago my parents moved off of the family farm where they had collected and stored stuff for around forty years. For me…some was treasure and some was stuff that I just knew shouldn’t leave the family. For instance…what does a guy who lives in a city of over one hundred thousand do with an antique wheat scythe? Well…he takes it home and hangs it in his man-garage, and if he ever wants to play the part of the Grim Reaper for Halloween he’s readily equipped. That’s essentially what I did with around four pick up truck loads of old farm tools, old toys, sports equipment and the like…it’s treasure to me so it’s coming home. I have old baseball gloves from the 1950’s that my dad and his brother probably used, an old Boy Scout uniform that Dad wore, some military stuff from when Dad was based in Germany during the occupation of Germany after WWII, some old photos and miscellaneous stuff from Mom’s life mostly displayed in either my man garage or in a lawyers bookcase (which I jokingly refer to as the Ripley-Wagner Memorial Museum) in our family room. It’s probably not worth much monetarily but it’s a touchstone for me to my ancestors. I don’t “do” genealogy…it’s way too much like homework for this guy, and this morning I received a bunch of old photos (from the 1950’s and earlier) of our family and a tin cup that had been used by my Mom’s side of the family since…I don’t know when…forever? And it looks like it too…all dinged up and misshapen. It’s probably been used through the Great Depression, a World War and maybe even the Korean War…holding well water that was hand pumped up to thirsty people in rural western Illinois like my uncles, my aunt, my Mom, my grandparents, maybe great grandparents and probably thirsty neighbors as well. I like it and it’s going into my museum.

 There’s way too much other “bric-a-brac” for me to mention that has touched me in a sentimental way, though recently another one has come across my path that I can’t place in my “bookcase of memories” though it’s one of my favorites. Allow me to explain, my Dad is in a nursing home. He has a laundry list of health issues. Life is winding down for him, slowly and uncomfortably. He has Alzheimer’s as well. Simply put, it tears at me to see my father who loves me, provided for me as a child, loves my wife and our children, has been a loving husband to my Mother for 55+ years, and has mentored me in so many ways…dying before my eyes. I love him and thank God for the time that we have had these last five years to share. A month or so ago I sat close to him, as he lie in bed in his dimly lit room, and asked him if he ever thought about Heaven. His reply “I think about it a lot.” I told him “it’s okay Dad…if you want to go…to Heaven. You could see Uncle John and Grandma….you don’t have to stick around here for me, Mom (and my brothers)…you can go. It’ll be okay.” I’ll admit it was the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to say, but I felt that it needed to be said, and it took me a while to get it out…between the tears and crying…but it came out and Dad…seeing that I was having trouble reached out and held my hand…comforting me as I was trying to comfort him. He was crying too and said “but I’ll miss you guys too much.”

Love…it’s what I treasure.

Local Man Killed By Falling Space Junk (film at 11)

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think about death a whole lot. I have my beliefs and have an idea of where I’m going whenever my Creator decides to call me home (which ideally would be about 10 years after I win the multi-state lottery) but I digress. As I age, and my loved ones around me as well, I’ve begun to think of death more often. First….I don’t fear it. I’d prefer to go quickly, in my sleep, after a great day and night of doing my favorite things, but as luck would have it I’ll probably be killed by a falling piece of space junk, which would be a wonderful epithet “Here lies Richard Ripley. Killed by space junk shooting from Uranus.” Short and to the point.

Anyway, we visited Effigy Mounds by Marquette Iowa this past Sunday and that prompted me to think again about death. The natives that lived in North America, at least for several thousand years, buried their dead then mounded dirt on them. Then as the years passed they continued to pile dirt on them, making the mounds quite large and especially noticeable in the plains states. Some mounds are in the shape of bears, birds or have other distinguishable shapes. No one knows for certain why these ancient people did this; some theorize it was an act of ceremony to honor their family gone before them, or whatever. This I do know…it was a lot of hard work. Maybe it was to keep the critters of that time from carrying off the dead in shallow graves, but this went on for thousands and thousands of years. Interesting stuff. Google it if this interests you.

Anyway…all that talk of mounding dirt on the dead got me to thinking about my death and the arrangements for my interment. My wife doesn’t like to talk about these details so I’ll just put this out there….I wanna go “green”. Just leave me out in the open; in the country…in some farm field in the middle of nowhere…on a rusty mattress springs. Let my body return to the earth…then after a few summer months old mother nature and her critters will have left nothing but my bones to address. Just take them and pitch ‘em in the nearest woods, or river. I don’t wish to be buried for prosperity inside a nice cedar coffin inside a concrete vault (what’s the point?). Anyway…I’ve read the “Body Farm” and feel that, that particular way to decompose would be good and a lot less harmful to the environment. Take the money saved on the coffin and vault and cater in some kick-ass BBQ and throw a nice party; now that’s the way to go, in my humble opinion.