• Rhonda Layton

Hey, Dad!

Hey, Dad, I can't believe it's been FIVE years since you passed. It's a bit strange to think how much things have changed and how we have adapted without you. I'd be curious to see what you thought about a lot of things right now. But actually, I think I already know the answer. You still show up a lot to remind me of the things that are most important when my mind wanders off to the things that are not.

I know when I did somewhat of a "formal" interview with you in 2016, that you knew the purpose in why I was doing it, but I needed to capture your thoughts and record the things that you valued in your life. I expected magical nuggets of wisdom to spew from your mouth, but I guess I should have known better. That’s not who you were. The way you lived your life was how you answered my questions. But thanks, Dad. You still took the time to share your thoughts with me and I kept those answers. Even in their brevity, they speak to exactly the man, husband, father, and grandfather you were to our family.

Your greatest lesson: "No matter how much money you have or make, don't spend it foolishly."

When we were kids, we used to go on a lot of family trips. We didn't fly anywhere...ever. But we had so many fun road trips, traveling throughout the Midwest and west coast. We stayed at cheap motels that always had a pool or some aspect that made it seem like a lavish trip. And we had the coolest van for traveling. I remember going with you when you purchased it from an ad in the paper. You always paid cash for bigger purchases like this and bargained until you got a fair deal. You almost walked away over $200. We begged you to change your mind. But you were never impulsive in your spending and made sure value lasted. I knew you knew it was worth every penny when you decided later that night to make the purchase. I couldn’t imagine taking trips without that brown conversion van complete with carpet on the walls and a table to play all sorts of games. It even had a bed for us to sleep while you drove through the night, logging many miles and creating the best memories for our family. Sometimes on the way home from visiting Grandpa, much to our delight, you used to swing by the Dairy Queen. You would run in by yourself and would come out with a half gallon of vanilla soft serve and a cup of chopped nuts. When we got home, you would cut up bananas and cherries and use the grocery store hot fudge. You made us special “banana splits". You said they tasted better when you made them. I think I believed you. Every night we would watch Wheel of Fortune, followed by the Nightly Business Report on PBS. We would all laugh as we recited the intro to the show, "well, it looks like the bulls and the bears are at it again" having no clue what that meant...but you sure did, and eventually we would understand too. You worked so hard and took so much pride in your job. When my girl scout troupe took a field trip to visit the Post Office and YOU gave us the tour, and EVERYONE knew you and loved you, I was certain you were the boss and ran the entire postal service. You made an honest living, and with five kids you amazingly provided us with so much. More than I could have ever wanted. Hey Dad, thanks!

What you are learning about yourself: "Some of my beliefs kind of went down to my kids."

Your faith was really important to you. You modeled consistency and reminded me FAR too often that you missed church on a weekend less than the number of fingers on your hand. Showing up was important. Sometimes your approach was a bit 'unorthodox', like waiting until midnight on a Friday during Lent to have a ham sandwich, but I understood your logic. It still makes me laugh. I used to challenge your definition of sacrifice and questioned why you sometimes had to drag me to church when I was younger. I eventually learned why. Your beliefs didn’t just “kind of go down to your kids”. You laid a solid foundation for us.

My faith is so important to me today. And your example of consistency with showing up in life in good days and bad days is how I approach my life. You taught me that my life, no matter what I do, has purpose and no good thing shall ever go wasted…not even a ham sandwich. Hey, Dad, thanks!

Your definition of success: "Without your health, it's....phooey."

I hate that I never really saw a healthy version of you. When I was about 8 years old, we took a family trip to Minneapolis to see a Minnesota Twins game in the brand new Metrodome. I'm not sure how you did it, but you somehow managed to get us front row seats right next to the Boston Red Sox bullpen. (I guessed it was because you were the "boss" at the Post Office). You didn't like the big city or the cost of parking so we had to walk so far to our car. But your back, Dad! Your back hurt so badly that you'd had to stop every couple of blocks to stretch it out. I hated seeing you in so much pain. "C'mon Dad!" I'd yell as I turned to see if you were ok. It was like I could feel your pain when I saw you struggle in yours. It seemed like it was always something. "Phooey!" You'd say that many times over the years. You battled a lot. And if your pain was really intense, you’d groan a bit and say you felt like “horseshit”.

I’m not even sure what to compare that to, but I do know that you had a lot of “horseshit” pain days that last year.

I guess, Dad, I am the way I am about my health today because of you. I take care of myself probably the way I wish you would have…or could have. But, in a weird way, you having cancer was probably the best gift you could have ever given me. Because it gave us time. Time to really appreciate each other. Time to reconcile our differences. Time to laugh at the dumbest things together...like learning to take a selfie with a ring light. Time to love you in a way that I can’t explain. Time to just love...unconditionally.

Hey, Dad, thanks for the lessons you lived each day. I miss you so much and love you forever.

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