Recently, my precious Daddy was laid to rest. It happened suddenly, even though looking back, there were signs. His service was this past week, and it’s hard to believe he’s really gone. Hundreds of family and friends came to pay their respects for this one-of-a-kind man.
Earlier in the week my family was discussing his service, and one by one announced they weren’t able to speak. I knew, I was the one that would speak on behalf of the family. Both my brothers and sister didn’t think I would be able to pull it off without breaking down. It was a challenge I needed to master….for him.
In honor of my Dad I’m sharing my tribute:
For those of you that don’t know me, I’m Charlie’s youngest daughter Sheryl, or lovingly referred to by my Dad and family as Buzzy, even though this past week he referred to me and my sister as waterworks one and two. I’m going to try and get through this without going into the ugly cry. I’m guessing my sister and brothers have placed bets on whether I do.
You know my Dad as an uncle, cousin, neighbor, farmer, fellow-racer and friend. You called him Charles, Charlie, Chuck, Chuckles, Chas, Chazy-Moto and the High Priest. He was as a man’s man, that had the greatest handshake, was humble, tender-hearted, generous, fun-loving, had a fist pounding laughter, knew how to keep someone in check, wasn’t afraid to shed tears, and the expert at planting the straightest of rows.
Everyone loved this man. He was a mentor and father figure to many. I know you have plenty of stories about your lives together that I would love to hear someday. When friends and family came to visit during his final days, he made sure to tell each and every one he loved you. Most left the hospital or home in tears because you loved him equally. I often heard “he was my guy.” That brought great comfort to the family even though we already knew it. For those that weren’t able to make it to see him, he knows your heart.
Today, I thought I would share a little about what it was like to be one of his children. He was our rock, mentor, and hero. He taught his children many life lessons we carry with us today. He taught us the importance of a good firm handshake and always said “shake it like you mean it.” I would bet if you shook any one of his children’s or grandchildren’s hand, you’d find a firm grip that had Charlie’s name written all over it.
He taught his boys and girls how to tie a tie. We never had training wheels on our bikes. He taught us about hard work. In the late summer, he let the kids sell his yearly crop of sweet corn, and what we made in sales was ours to keep. His only condition was we had to do the work. From painting the signs on big scraps of plywood and strategically placing them down the road, making sure they were visible from both directions, to gathering the bags, setting up the stand, picking the corn and loading up the #80 wagon and hauling it with the John Deere 110. Charlie was famous for his sweet corn and shared it from his heart to family and friends. He’s asked Jeff to keep the tradition alive.
We had plenty of chores like, weed pulling, hay bailing, grass mowing and everyone’s dreaded “rock picking” in the farm fields. He loved his children equally, but treated the boys and girls differently. The boys were all about racing, speed and treating women with respect. The girls were taught the importance of being respected. He treated us like we were special in every way, like buying corsages at Easter which included mom, and of course, the girls weren’t allowed to race.
One winter day I was trying to show off a bit for a boy and jumped on one of his favorite sleds, the Ski-doo TNT 400, I went speeding through the woods. As I came over the hill, I saw him sprinting from the farm, across the road and into the woods to meet me at the bottom of the hill, he yanked me off the machine and yelled at me for going too fast and how I could have crashed. I retorted “I feel the need, the need for speed.” I was grounded!
We had wonderful family traditions that included:
Sunday night suppers made up of homemade popcorn and his famous chocolate malts
Saying grace before family meals, connecting our hands and hearts in a circle while he prayed with grace and humility.
My Dad had a tradition of taking each child out for their birthday; just the birthday boy or girl and him. We got to choose the restaurant. He and I used to tell the family we went one place, but actually went to another, it was our secret to share. He always stopped at the nearest Fannie Mae to bring home a treat for the children left at home.
He kept his children in check. If you got out of line, you would feel his hand rest along your shoulder or base of the neck and give it the “you better wise up” grip, which always stopped us in our tracks. Mom had a wooden sorority paddle that was perched on Dad’s bureau, ready if needed. It was our reminder to behave, even though he never used it on any of us.
I’m a Daddy’s girl through and through and years ago I gave him a song from me to him “the wind beneath my wings.” He was and will always be the most important man in my life.
Beside his faith, his three loves were farming, racing and the greatest of all, his wife and family. He was the happiest when we were together. He loved his family unconditionally.
As I close today, most of you will remember, anytime you asked him how he’s doing, his answer was always “Damn near perfect.” Daddy, you are perfect now and forever.
Did you ever know that you’re my hero?
And everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
For you are the wind beneath my wings.
Now……I’m pretty sure someone owes me a buck and a shot of Patron.
I love you Daddy.