I sat on the enclosed porch today in his chair. I found comfort there. It’s been two weeks today since we said our so longs. Not goodbye because I will be with him one day again.
It still doesn’t seem real to me. I walk to the porch several times a day and my eyes are drawn to the right to his chair. I still expect to see him sitting there reading his ever present book or newspaper. He read the paper. Every article, front page to last. Every comic, every obit, he read it all.
I’ll miss sitting with him and discussing the books we read. We liked the same authors, Patterson, Grisham, Clancy and a few others. Whenever I came home we would sit for a while and tell each other of must read books.
So today I sat and thought about the dad I knew. I sat there while scenes from my life flashed through my mind….
Four years old and helping my dad wash the car, six years old and watching my dad play pool at the Officer’s Club, nine years and it was just me and him for a whole week when my mom was in the hospital having my brother, (yeah, they actually stayed a week in the hospital back then) twelve years old and him taking me ice skating with other Guardsmen’s kids on the pond at the air base, sixteen and taking me out driving and then going with me to buy my first car.
In my minds eye I watched him give me the oath when I joined the National Guard and I remember how proudly I marched at graduation from basic training because I knew he was in the audience. My mom and brother were there too but I was marching a little taller because I so wanted him to be proud of me.
I remembered our father/daughter dinners out when we had National Guard summer camp at the same time at the same place and local restaurants sounded much better than the mess hall. I remembered the lecture about how when we were in uniform he wasn’t my dad anymore but my superior officer and I had better salute him and call him sir. And he was serious! He drove this home when one time we passed each other on the walkway from the street to our front door. I was just coming home, probably from Happy Hour somewhere and he was going out for an evening staff meeting. I looked at him and said something like, "Hey dad" He stopped me right then and there and let me know that he wasn't Dad but that he was LTC Rhoads and that I had better render a salute. He was doing this for my own good. The Delaware Guard is proportional to the size of the state which means in actuality the Guard is a very small community of citizen soldiers. It would serve me well to remember this lesson.
I remembered his arms around me, holding me close when my heart was broken in two at twenty five.
He proudly welcomed Bob into our family when I was twenty seven. Through the years he gave me/us advice on household/parenting/financial matters. It wasn’t always asked for, but we got it anyway.
I remembered that he was always my rock. The first man that ever loved me and the first man I ever loved.
This doesn't seem real yet.