My dad passed away on May 7, 2013. He was 73.
As often, I process a lot of what I am thinking by writing, so here goes.
His name was Robert. Not Rob, not Rob, but Robert. That was his preference, and, for the most part, people honored his wishes. There were a few who could never shake the “Bob” name for him, but most called him by his name.
He was born and raised in Ash Flat, Arkansas. That is another one of our funny names for a town. Ash Flat was known for Preacher Roe, former Major League Baseball player.
I try to think of the things he passed to me. I suppose, some of them were good and some were not so good. That’s how it is with dads, right?
Here were some of the things that influenced me.
More so, his love of food influenced me. That isn’t always a good thing, but, when you think about it, it’s not always bad. People fellowship around food, or meals. That is a sign of intimacy. He welcomed friends to our table to share what we had.
This is a representation of his love to meet and get to know people. He probably could have made friends with a fence post. He has stories about people he met on trips, from the new friends in Texas, to the young person he met in Salt Lake City, UT, to people he met in Branson, MO and all across the country. He met people on cruises and bus trips and planes.
I didn’t share his love of coins, but I told one of his granddaughters that when he gave you a coin, that meant you were alright. That was true. He liked to give out two dollar bills for tips.
He simply loved to meet people and always loved meeting our friends. I can remember him meeting and fellowshipping with my friend Aliou Niang who is native of Senegal, West Africa. They talked about everything including coffee.
He was a communicator. When he was younger, he was a part time DJ at the local radio station. That translated in some opportunities to announce at the local dirt race track. He had a booming voice. He could project at a distance unlike most people. He probably could have been a regular public speaker if he would have concentrated on that.
One of his quirks was analyzing the on-air TV personalities at the news stations in how they enunciated. He had his favorites, and he had been known to email some of them. He even got a reply from one of the TV news reporters regarding traveling through her hometown.
But hey, I have done the same!
Family and Faith
I hope that I have adopted this. He was raised to believe in caring for his family, and he did just that. Even though he had no siblings, he loved his cousins like they were brothers and sisters. He kept up with so many, even when they lived as far away as other states.
He always attended church where he had an abiding faith in Jesus. He did more than just attend, he was involved. My parents barely lived in Conway a year when he became class president for his Sunday School class. He led a Saturday morning breakfast and even put together a class cruise. If there was some kind of Sunday School or church fellowship, he was right in the middle. Oh yes, he also sang in the Senior Adult Choir.
Sometimes, he may not have taken certain things as seriously as should have, but he loved to laugh. In fact, in most of the notes received after he passed away, the most common mention was his love to laugh or tell a joke. He was jolly if you will.
He laughed at shows and movies. He loved Everybody Loves Raymond and King of Queens as well as so many other shows. I really think he lived longer because he could laugh. Laughter is, sometimes, the best thing we can do. He was a teaser. He could tease anyone with a wily grin.
His love for racing was an influence for me. Mostly, dirt track racing, but I remember him watching a lot of NASCAR. Indeed, he was watching to see how Mark Martin would do, but he also became of other drivers.
As I mentioned before, he announced at the local dirt track. He said he first went to the dirt races in Springfield, MO. Then, a family friend asked him to announce. He was a DJ, so it seemed like a good idea. We loaded the station wagon on Friday nights for, at seemed like, years and headed to the race track. On the way, we would stop at the Minute Man and get a burger.
I loved dirt track racing and still do. And yes, when I was a kid, and he was announcing, a kid named Mark Martin started racing in a number 2, orange 55 Chevy. You may have heard of him.
That track, in Locust Grove, made for many fun Friday nights. The Batesville Speedway sits there now. Dad also filled in a few times at race tracks in and near Heber Springs, Heber Springs Raceway and Wynne Stadium.
When we lived in Jacksonville, he announced at the I-30 Speedway. I believe it was the first year it was called I-30 Speedway. Before that it was called the Benton Speedbowl.
I have never stopped loving dirt track racing. While I lived in Fort Worth for 13 years, I visited four different dirt tracks. I also had the honor of attending Media Day at the Texas Motor Speedway.
There were a lot of things that my dad passed on to me. The past few months have been a time of remembrance, and I know the holidays will be tougher. It is easy, at this point, to immerse ourselves in our own lives and projects keeping us from thinking about it too much. That is fine. As long as we never forget.
Rest In Peace Dad. I know you are not cold anymore.