Saturday, September 25, 2010

David Hall - A Remembrance

I've been composing this in my head for weeks.  It seemed impossible to condense a life into just a few paragraphs.  Where do you even begin? There are so many stories to tell, because Dad was someone who was always up for an adventure.  When his Uncle Harry would say, "C'mon Joe, let's go", Dad never asked where. It didn't matter.

In that spirit of adventure, he was always on the lookout for hidden treasure.  Coming through Newport News on Thursday, it was like a greatest hits of Dad's favorite thrift stores.  He loved a bargain, and he loved to show off his latest find and ask, "How much would you pay for this stunning item?" His dumpster diving is legendary.  I had a housewarming party years ago.  Mom walked in alone, and someone asked where Dad was. I jokingly said, "He's checking out the dumpster." Point of fact - he was. A neighbor was moving out of her apartment, and he was happily loading up the truck with gems she no longer wanted. They were still perfectly good.

He was a member of the NRA and the ACLU.  Dad believed in personal freedom.  He also never missed an opportunity to stick it to the man.  Cars were registered not where we lived, but where the tax exposure was lowest.  This is a trait he passed down in varying degrees to his children.  Kyle worked at a little restaurant in high school, and at Christmas the owner, Hans, sent him and another kid out to buy a Christmas tree.  Dad found them in the garage looking for his small collapsible hand saw.  Kyle didn't see any reason that Hans should be out 50 bucks when Christmas trees grow free on the state right of ways.

Dad took his time.  He moved at his own, slower pace.  That was a gift that he shared with his family in so many ways.  He took time to help with science fair projects, boy scout projects, showed me how to change a tire, took us fishing, fossil hunting, biking through the Dismal Swamp, on Sunday drives, and trips to museums.  He taught Kyle and I that we were capable of doing anything, but if we needed his help, he would be there, without question.

On the day of my wedding, about an hour before we needed to leave for the church, I realized I hadn't eaten anything.  I raced into the kitchen to grab something.  Dad had been sitting at the table, reading the paper, trying to avoid the chaos.  Without saying anything, he stood up and hugged me.  He just held me, and for a moment, time stopped.

Dad's illness was difficult on all of us, but certainly hardest for a man who was happiest when he was outdoors - digging in his garden, or walking through the woods stalking the always elusive bambi.  Through it all he faced each challenge with good humor, and rarely missed an opportunity to crack a joke, or tease the nurses and therapists who helped care for him.  When he was coming out of anesthesia after his surgery, one of the residents put him through the usual cognitive drills. What day is it? What year were you born? What is your name?  To this last one, Dad answered, "Sarah Palin".  We quickly realized that we needed to warn the hospital staff of his sharp wit, and dry sense of humor, before they began worrying about his mental state or confused gender identity.

He also rarely lost his temper, or raised his voice in anger or frustration.  This may come as a surprise to many - especially those of you who remember the great lawnmower incident, when a truculent starter met a messy demise at the end of a 50-pound monster maul.  He endured it all with grace and dignity.

Dad was a big man, and his passing has left a huge hole in our lives and we mourn his loss deeply.  We knew we didn't have much time, but we thought we had more than this.  Even so, the time we did have was a gift.  We were able to enjoy and appreciate so many little moments together.  We can take comfort in a life lived and loved well.  Please hold him in your thoughts.  When you plant a seed, and watch it grow into something green and beautiful, think of him.  When you go out to dinner, order dessert.  Order two.  Ask for the corner piece of the birthday cake.  Don't be shy about inquiring if there is supplemental icing.  When you travel, if you're going by car - check your fluids.  Before you go home, buy a patch as a memento of your trip, and think of him.  When the weather turns crisp and cool, take a walk in the woods and think of him.

Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind

November 20, 1942 - September 8, 2010


Michael Burt said...

While a few paragraphs may not have told a lifetime of stories, a few words expressed a lifetime of love, support, encouragement and joy.

May the God or Chicken Dance of your choice hold you closely and give comfort. Indeed the world lost a very fine gentleman, but we are all richer for who he was, for the children he shared and for the stories that will never fade.

Big hugs, Whit

Sharon said...

A beautiful tribute. I've always been a corner piece of cake girl but I promise the next time I'll add even more icing in his honor.