Ten years.....my daddy has been gone for ten years! It doesn't seem possible that it's been that long, but it has. He passed away from small cell lung cancer on October 19, 2001, at the age of 79.
My daddy served in the Army Air Forces during World War II. He was stationed at Freeman Field in Seymour, Indiana, and it was during this time that he met my mom.
Even though this is a tribute to my dad, he wasn't "complete" without my mom. So, it's only fitting for her to be a part of my tribute to him. They were married for 57 years and she was right by his side to the end, nursing and loving him. Mom passed away last February. After daddy died, she was very lonely. She had been with daddy since she was a teenager and it was very hard for her to lose her "best friend" of so many years. It was a very hard year for me last year and so much changes after both of your parents pass away. I go back to my childhood and teen years in my memories, as they are some of my fondest memories. Everything seemed to be so much simpler back then. Sometimes I find life today to be confusing and many times I find myself just having to tell God that I just do not understand.
Daddy used to like to tell us about his service days at Freeman Field, where he told us many stories of driving an ambulance. He was diagnosed with cancer in January of that year and passed in October, so we had less than a year with him after learning he had cancer. He had always talked of his service, but I noticed he talked about it more than ever those 10 months and I could tell how proud he was of that time in his life. He was also stationed down in Florida at one time....I think it was for a short time....and I am so proud of the military cards mom gave me after he died. One was an identification card that Mom had to show to get on the base in Florida and the other was daddy's card to enter Freeman Field. I will forever treasure these, as I know how proud daddy was of his service. Freeman Field is no longer a base....it was turned into a manufacturer complex. It's hard for me to imagine the time in life when men were actually stationed out there and living in barracks. Mom and dad met at a local park. It's a time that is just hard for me to imagine!
My daddy was raised in Tiff City, Missouri (near Joplin, Anderson, Neosho). It was an itty bitty town that I have very fond memories of visiting every year. I remember a grocery store, a post office and a tavern. Did you ever notice that no matter how small a town is, there always has to be a tavern? :=) I remember the ice cold creek with the sharp rocks that daddy would take us swimming in...we loved it and always begged to go! I remember the cookie factory he took us to where we could get a big tub of broken cookies! As kids, we were in heaven with that big tub of broken cookies! This was the time before children had so much....pop, candy, cakes, cookies....even pizza were a special treat! Probaby the treat we got most often was ice cream! Now these things seem to just be everyday life. I remember a big hill, wolves, grandma and grandpa's outhouse and the nighttime "pot/pail", snakes and lizards, and their well on the back porch and the woodstove they cooked on. I remember the linoleum floor that had a "hill" in it. I remember no air conditioning and June bugs hitting the screen door when you went to bed. There was no running water, so we had to draw water from the well and heat it up to wash up. As kids, we loved to draw the water from the well. This was so different than the way we lived back home! But, this is how my dad grew up, in a family of 10 children and I'm glad he took us there so often and gave us a glimpse of his upbringing. We came from a small town in Indiana, but felt like big city folk when we visited there. I mean, we had all the comforts of city folk...running water, indoor plumbing, a furnace, air conditioning.
I will never forget my memories of the 12 hour ride to my daddy's homestead....back before seatbelts were a law. I'm not even sure the cars were made with seatbelts back then, but I almost bet they weren't! I don't remember any! Just imagine 5 or 6 kids and two parents in a 2-door sedan. We learned to curl up into a ball on the floorboard to sleep. LOL! I'm surprised we survived our childhood without all of the protections from the government that we have today! I remember the restaurants/truck stops we would stop at to eat. That was a "treat" for us as kids, as we grew up in a time where there was no McDonalds and if we had pizza, it was a frozen pizza....not delivery. We didn't go out to eat, so stopping to eat at a restaurat on these trips was a "special treat" that has turned into a "special memory". We never really went on any vacations....no Disney World or cruises or waterparks.....but I will always treasure my trips to Tiff City, Missouri!
When daddy was stationed here in Seymour, Indiana, and met mom and married her, he settled down here and this is where he stayed and raised his family. But, he was not the first one in his family to live here. His father, George Ruddick, had originally lived here before moving to Missouri before my dad was born. I find that so wild that daddy would get stationed in the same town where his father came from and end up living the rest of his life here. God had a plan!
My mom and dad had six children....I was the third child and the third girl. Daddy didn't get his boy until the fifth child and Randy was the only boy he got. The rest of his five children were girls!
Daddy worked as a carpenter....many homes in Seymour were either built by him or remodelled by him. He may not have went far in school, but he was very smart and an excellent carpenter and I was just amazed at what he could do. I don't build houses, but I do like to think I got some of his creative juices, since I have always liked creating things! Daddy was a hard worker, often working his regular job during the day and then working in concrete at night, to support his family. As a child I didn't necessarily recognize the sacrifices he made for us, but as I grew up I realized just how much both he and mom did for us. He was an honest man who cared about the job he did. He (and mom too) taught me integrity. I didn't get by with much growing up, but it has made me who I am today. And to be honest, I didn't even try to get by with much.....yes, I was pretty much a "goody two shoe"! LOL! I grew up in a period where kids knew if they did certain things their parents would "kill" them. LOL....nothing like a healthy fear of your parents to keep you out of trouble~! Now, would they really "kill" me...no! LOL! But, just the thought of dissappointing them was enough to keep me on the straight and narrow.
As kids we played outside all day every day! We didn't sit in the house and watch tv or play video games. We ran and played hide and seek, or jumped off the garage roof (lol), or threw rotten apples or walnuts back and forth at the neighbor kids (hey, I'm sure they started it! lol), or hop scotch or jacks, ghosty ghosty, and splits or made tents with blankets over the clothesline with clothespins and bricks. We played "store" by going thru the trash barrels down the alley and collecting vegetable cans and cereal boxes, etc. to set up in the garage that we turned into our "store" . We played til we were so dirty all over! Our bath water turned black...lol! I remember Juicy Fruit gum, and a twinkie left in the lunch box. I remember hearing dad pull up out front when he came home from work and as soon as you heard that sound, you would take off running as fast as you could to greet daddy! And if you were the first one there you got to see what he left in his lunch box and there always seemed to be a banana or a cupcake....and if you were the first one, it was your's! Oh what memories! As I grew older and looked back on that special memory, it hit me.....why didn't daddy ever finish that? Surely he could have eaten it! And in my heart, I know now that he purposely left that "special treat" in his lunch box for one of his kids! And he always had a pack of Juicy Fruit gum to pass out to all of us, so none of us were left out! We may not have had all of the "luxuries" that kids take for granted today....but we had everything we needed and we had love....we had so much love....and it just made the "special treats" that much memorable!
I remember the van he owned one time, and the station wagon another time. I remember the pencil behind his ear, the cigars, the house on 4th Street that he bought when I was in second grade and where I spent my childhood and teen years and where he remained until his death, and the Hog Report on the radio waking me up every morning....LOL! I remember him taking us camping and to the Brownstown races, the Homecoming Carnival at Brownstown, the cotton candy as we were leaving, and the County Fair. I remember him liking the Ferris Wheel! We may not have had fancy things, but daddy worked hard for us and was able to provide us with these special things. I remember the brand new bicycle he bought me! I may not have realized where that money for these special things came from as a kid....but I sure did when I became an adult! Daddy worked hard for his family and he loved being able to "treat us".
I remember sitting as a family and watching television in the evenings.....Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Ed Sullivan....even silly shows like Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres! Us kids didn't control the tv...our parents did and we watched what they chose. And Daddy loved these shows! And I remember my daddy's love of ice cream and the many times he would send me and Sheila to go get a gallon of vanilla ice cream and a can of Hershey Syrup! Sheila was in high school and driving...I was in Jr. High and got to go with her. And it always ended up with scooping the loop, a teen tradition back there....it was basically driving a certain loop around town, sometimes called "cruising". It was what the teenagers did back then! So, even though the store was only a few blocks away from home it would always take us at least an hour to go get that ice cream and I remember many times when we were flying by the seat of our pants to get to the store before they locked the door! This was before "24 hour stores" ....this was when the store closed at 9 PM! We always made it even though I don't know how (maybe we had done this so many times that the store clerks were waiting on us and taking bets on whether we'd show up...LOL). Can you imagine us being gone for an hour and then going home empty handed! And you know what I remember....I remember daddy always just sitting there patiently waiting. He never got mad....he had to know why it took us so long, but he never said a word! Looking back on it now, I figure he always knew not to expect us back until a bit after 9. LOL! He was such a patient man.
Everyone who knew my dad loved him! He was kind hearted, he was mild mannered and slow to anger, he was honest, he was respected and as a child, he was the bravest man I ever knew! He always made me feel safe, even against the window peepers. I always knew daddy would take care of us. He still was the bravest man I knew until the day he died. He faced cancer and death as bravely as he faced life. He never complained. And he talked with me when he was sick and went through each one of his children by name and how we each one were in a "good place" in life. It was important before he left us to know we were going to be ok. That was my daddy....always thinking of us above himself. He was a good man. He was a good daddy. He made me feel safe, secure, and loved. I miss him so much! It was so hard to see him age and even harder to watch the cancer rob him of his life. And I had a hard time with anger after daddy died. Both of my parents were smokers and I admit to being angry with them about it because it was robbing me of my parents too early. It took me some time to forgive them. I know that sounds terrible, but in reality, anger is part of the grief process and I felt like tobacco robbed me of more years with my parents! I still feel like tobacco cheated me, but I am no longer angry about it. I know it was an addiction and I also know they started smoking at a time when it was "popular" and the health affects were not known.
I was blessed to have the best daddy a girl could have and I miss him terribly. Ten years.....and it still causes me so much pain. Things are just never the same after your parents pass away. But, I have my memories tucked away in my heart and have my hopes of seeing both of my parents again. I thank God for my daddy.
I love you and miss you daddy. You never knew I got cancer too. But, I know it would have made you sad. You always wanted to protect your children. Someday I'll see you again......
Until next time, hug your loved ones today and let them know you love them!