He had cancer. He had battled with it for the last 4 years and on Sunday morning, September 8th, his body finally went to rest. He was 72.
the week leading up to his funeral I learned SO much about him that I never knew. Or maybe never realized. My dad retired from the police force when I was two, so My version of things was "my dad shoots and builds guns". Because that's pretty much what he did. But I didn't quite get that he was a championship pistol shooter, founded the Norman police competitive shooting league in 1967 that is still going today, STILL holds the record for his national championship score in 1977, holds the record for most championships won consecutively (12 years in a row), and won countless awards, medals, trophies, guns, cash prizes, newspaper articles, etc.
Two days before his funeral some police officers visited us and asked to honor him with a police ceremony, 21 gun salute, traditional bagpipes, flag folding, the works. We were all so touched by that, but most of all by the officer, who was head of the honor guard. He told us that he had been trained by my dad, was current head of the pistol team and they were leaving in a few days for nationals. one of the lead shooters was competing with a gun that my dad had built for him. He said my dad was a legend. That all the police officers held him in such high regard. that they were still, 30 something years later, trying to live up to his standard and beat his records. It was pretty incredible. I bawled my head off. A week later they dedicated all their winnings to him. More bawling.
He was a good dad. He was a tough love kind of guy, but he left plenty of room for fun. He loved to laugh. We had tickle fights, mud fights in the garden, he would take us out on the lake tubing in the boat, he let me stay up late past my bedtime to watch Johnny Carson so many times I can't even count and he Always shared his popcorn. He taught me how to pet a cat, shoot a bow and arrow (and guns, of course), raise a veggie garden, tell a joke, stick up for my friends, listen to my gut, and even rebuild the engine in my '65 mustang so I would know how to fix it myself.
Speaking of mom. Man. He loved my momma. He acted like he was in charge, but he always knew she was quietly and gracefully running the show. She's a saint, that lady. They were married 41 years. True, real love.
All the head-butting that we did just faded away the instant he was gone. Besides, I knew it just as much as he did- we were too much alike. Through all our "differences" we were exactly the same. Stubborn. Driven. opinionated. passionate about the things (and people) we loved. I just wanted to talk to him one more time. I wanted to hug him again. I wanted to go shoot skeet with him at the range one last time because it meant so much to him. And -- I have to admit-- i secretly liked shooting skeet.
I guess the thing that really sticks with me now is his dedication. His practice. His persistence. Seeing any parallels here? As an artist, I do. I know he wanted/wants me to be great at what I do. He was supportive. He stuck right by me when I was learning to change my oil, play the piano, cook. he came to my plays, choir concerts, basketball games. But even more so He taught me to do things myself, not wait for the perfect conditions, to create them for yourself. You want to be better? get better. You want something? Get it. It's that simple. No waiting. No excuses.
All I want now is to make him proud. To be the classy lady he wanted me to be. To dedicate myself to my craft just as he did. To never give up. To rehearse, to do a million improv shows, to miss the target but get back up to the line and shoot again. and again and again. Until I hit the bullseye. I will follow in his footsteps and live by his example. He was my dad. And he was a super great one.