My dad died five years ago today. He was duck hunting in North Dakota with my uncle and another man. The boat tipped somehow and it was too windy to swim it to shore. My dad and uncle sent their friend in with a bunch of decoys and he made it. Then my dad sent my uncle in with the last bunch of decoys, and he survived only because the first man was able to help him when he got to shore. My dad was in that water for about six hours before he passed out from hypothermia and drowned.
This day means a lot to me and my family, and while I usually think of what happened during the last few hours of my dad's life and how he must have felt to know he wouldn't make it, I think of some of the good times I had with him, too.
He loved to play games with us. We played this one basketball game where he would say something like, "If I make this shot you kids have to clean the playroom." And he'd make it, and then we would have to make the same shot to cancel it out. Or we could try a new shot saying something that we wanted, like a new toy. My brother was our saving grace; otherwise my sister and I would have ended up cleaning all year long. We would play Monopoly and he was so intense and had the worst luck. My sister would end up with a big monopoly or all the railroads and he would hit them every time around the board. It's a wonder he even liked to play it. He was a mastermind at Clue; he had such a good memory and won pretty much every time. He would take my brother, sister, and I on in baseball (his favorite) and he would win every time. We would each take a turn hitting, and then when it was his turn at bat, he would get three hits to try and score a run. He could hit it so far it would take us forever to get it and tag him. He played baseball in high school and actually had his two front teeth knocked out by a ball, so they were fake. He could never eat corn on the cob because of that--always had to cut it off and eat it with a fork.
He was a hard worker. He built our house and laid our wood flooring by hand. He drove bus, he worked at a bait shop/gas station, he worked at Scamp, he worked at an auto body shop, he did anything he could to provide for us. We never had much money growing up but I never realized that until later in life because I always felt cared for. He did so much around the house it was hard to pick up when he was gone. I remember the first Christmas. Dad had always put the tree together and ALWAYS complained about what a pain it was. And then he was gone and someone had to do it. I've put the same tree up for the past five Christmases, but it's not too bad since he color-coded all the branches. :)
He hated messes. I'm a lot like him in this way, only not as crazy about it. :) Everything had it's place, and if it wasn't there, boy was there trouble. He was ultra-organized, a perfectionist, and a little bit of a pack rat, but only because he held on to things with sentimental value. He was super paranoid about being on time. He actually had two alarm clocks that he would use every day.
He loved his friends and family. I never saw my dad laugh much unless he was with friends or family. He was a jokester, but he did it in this sneaky way and it was hard to catch him unless you were paying close attention. He was always out to get you when you least saw it coming. That's a side of him I never got to know very well--I wasn't old enough, I guess--but I hear a lot about it now from aunts and uncles. He would give the clothes off his back for you if you needed them; he was generous that way.
He loved to hunt. We have a safe full of rifles and shotguns that are rarely used, two shell loaders that sit untouched, and rubbermaids full of hunting clothes. Someday my brother will take them all, but for now they sit as reminders of what once was. He hunted deer, grouse, pheasant, duck, goose, and shot crows with his friends for kicks. One summer they shot 200, and we actually have a video of the 200th one they killed. Most women don't understand or appreciate when men love to hunt, but for me, it's all I've known. My entire family is that way, and I wouldn't change it. My dad died doing something he loved, and to me, that's better than any other way to go.