I have some wonderful memories, of course. When I was 12, probably the summer of 1965, they held a fair in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and we went. We rode the ferris wheel, and I remember my dad clenching his teeth when they stopped us at the top and rocked our seat back and forth. We met some TV "celebrities" from a station in West Virginia, and I saw my first camel. Huge and smelly.
We didn't see it, but some guy I didn't know tried to wrestle a 165-pound gorilla. Within seconds, the gorilla pulled the guy's pants down, and the fair operators turned off the lights. It's a funny memory, but it's hear-say.
I remember us throwing the baseball just one time. Every time I watch "Field of Dreams," I have the same regrets. And no matter how I wish, I can't get him back for a game of pitch.
My dad had a wonderful singing voice, but it was hard to sing beside him in church. He drowned everyone out within two or three rows in each direction. Certainly, no one could have heard me.
Oddly, one of my favorite days with him came when I drove him to the nursing home in 1996 (his idea). I had a hard time getting him to fasten his seat belt in the first place; then I stopped to get gas, and it felt like an earthquake! My dark-red Nissan pickup was rocking back and forth while I was standing behind it, and I finally realized that he was trying to get out of the belt! I went around and let him out — he probably wanted to go into the store to buy a pack of Nabs or buy the gas — and I was happy he didn't use his knife to cut his way out.
We also sang one of his favorite songs, the Wabash Cannonball, that day. He had a wonderful voice and would sing anywhere, any time. We sang the same song together in 2003, a few days before he died.
There are other stories, of course, but I'll save them for another time.
Happy birthday, Dad.
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