This is my father’s world! I rest me in the thought Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; His hand the wonders wrought. – Maltbie D. Babcock (1858-1901)
The following is the tribute I paid to my father at his memorial service on March 7:
My mother wanted me to mention that in 1948, after she and Dad returned from their honeymoon and settled into their first week back home, she cooked up dinner that Friday evening, and when Dad came home from work, he went and changed into his Scout uniform. As he kissed her goodbye, she asked him, “Where are you going?”… to which he answered, “To a Scout meeting!” And so a pattern of a lifetime was set…
My sister wanted me to mention the fact that when my husband-to-be first began showing up at our house back in 1972 … I warned him that you must not honk the car horn to pick up a Simpson girl. There were “rules”, and even though our parents probably had no idea who we girls were out with on any given night, whoever that young man was had to come in and meet “Mr. Simpson”, which I imagine must have been a scary proposition, especially if one had long hair and drove a sports car.
The in-between years were filled with lots of love and laughter, hard work, service for others, dedication to causes, selflessness, penny pinching, routines, responsibilities, the aforementioned RULES, and a whole lot of Fun. We have copies of all the letters that Mom wrote to friends and family from the years 1950-1968, and I’d like to share some representative quotes from the mid to late 1950’s:
· Thursday night- “10 p.m. (yawn) waiting for Ray to get home from a meeting at the church… this is the third night this week he’s been gone- Sunday night he worked, Tuesday night he was at a dinner meeting. He is really working hard, and I’m sorry we still have so much to do at home! (note they were adding on a room to their house, BY THEMSELVES)
· on another Thursday night: “Ray came in tonight at 8:15- in the dripping rain- from all day in the field (he left at 4:30 this a.m.)”
· Friday morning: “Ray is going with the church Boy Scouts on an outing tomorrow, and I plan to work in the yard all day.”
· Sunday night: “Big Ray is studying tonight, but that, too, is coming to an end soon. Just eight more weeks, and we’ll have our Daddy back on Sundays, but I’ve got enough for him to do to keep him busy for another year!”
· Thursday night: “Ray had to go back to work for the fourth evening this week. He had planned to study for his final exam in his reservoir course this week, but he’s having to do plain old work, too!”
· Monday night: “Big Ray has been teaching Sunday School and working with the Boy Scouts, plus finishing up odds and ends on this silly house.”
· Last one… “Thursday night: Well, my engagement ring is ten years old tonight. Ray remembered, even though I didn’t. We both had to go to a meeting of the educational commission at church tonight, so we just went in two cars, and after I spoke my piece, I gathered up the kids and came home. He’s still there- they’re not noted for brevity.”
You can get the picture of what Dad’s life was like by these letters. This pattern continued through the years… but interestingly enough, I don’t recall his ever shortchanging us with his time, even as busy as he was. What I most remember are hilarious family dinners, doing yard work on Saturdays and sitting together in church on Sundays.
I like to say that our Dad may not have been a “prominent pillar of the community” so to speak, because that wasn’t the way in which he chose to serve. Yet he was very important to scores of people in his own quiet way over the years, and it has truly warmed our hearts to hear from so many who were somehow touched by our Dad in some way. *****************************************************
Alzheimers is a terrible disease that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. On the other hand, having Alzheimers usually means that one has lived a long life. Are those extra years worth suffering the indignities of this disease? As I’ve thought about it, I’d have to say yes.
Recently some of my youth choir friends suddenly lost their father way too young; he was only 59. True, they will never have to watch their dad fail physically and need help like mine did. But I bet they’d agree to that, if they knew that they would have him around for another 20 years or so. I know I would, and so I did.
Because of Dad’s hard work, frugal nature and wise investments, he provided well for us all. We were not “rich” in the sense of having worldly luxuries. Dad was so frugal, the cars he drove all had rubber floor mats and AM radios only, and of course, one actually rolled the window down with a crank handle. It didn’t occur to me until much later when he shocked us and bought a Lincoln with carpeted mats, automatic windows and an AM/FM radio… that he figured we kids would probably just trash the earlier cars, so why spend a lot of money on them? My point about his frugality is that as a result of his efforts, we were able to provide excellent help for him in his final years after he developed Alzheimers. He was comfortable and well cared for during these years and loved by many.
I never knew what to expect when I would go visit Dad in his later years. Sometimes he would be sound asleep. Other times he would be alert and bright eyed, which was always a treat. The best times were when he would actually be somewhat communicative.
Two occasions stand out in my mind. One was when my daughter Shannon accompanied me to visit him on one of her trips home from college. He was sitting in his wheelchair, looking around. She said to him, “Hi Pepe!” in her lilting tone, and he brightened immensely and answered “Well!!!!!!!” He probably had no idea which granddaughter she was; he had enough trouble keeping track of his four daughters’ names; poor Mary was often called, “Ka-Ca-Ca-Mary!” Nonetheless, he knew it was somebody who loved him.
Another time was last July 4 when I brought him a United States flag for his room. I said, “Dad, look what I’ve brought you… a flag for your room!” He clearly said, “Oh Boy!” to me … with great enthusiasm, I might add! His patriotism ran deep, and I was delighted that he still recognized the stars and stripes.
Each time I took leave of him, I’d always ask him, “Dad, I love you, do you love me?” He’d say, “I sure do” in his own way, sometimes I could understand him and others not quite, but I knew what he meant. Even in his diminished state, there was an essence there. His life still had value, and I hope that I will never forget that lesson that he taught me in these final years. I’d say to Shannon, “Remember him for who he was then, and just love him for who he is now.”
I am so fortunate that Dad’s final journey came at a period in my life when I had the time to be there for him. It’s only fitting when I consider how much time he made for us in his busy schedule when we were small. I found a particular quote from my mother’s letters that still resonates with me. This was written in July of 1957, when I was two years old: “Big Ray goes so fast that some of us don’t see him for days at a time! He left yesterday morning at 6- got home at 10 last night- then he was off again this morning at 6:30. The only reason he saw Carol was that he helped her in the bathroom at 4:30 this morning… “
I can only imagine how tired he must have been that morning, and yet he still took the time to help me. I would always remember this story whenever I thought I was too busy to go visit Dad.
It was an honor and a privilege to walk this final journey with my Dad. And standing here in this church that he loved so much, I want to thank all of you who have surrounded me and my family with your love and your prayers. We rejoice and celebrate that those prayers were answered as he slipped away peacefully into eternity.