REMEMBERING MY DAD
BORN: June 13, 1935, LaGrande, Oregon
DIED: July 16, 1995, Wichita, Kansas
My dad was one of my all time favorite people. That's not to say he was perfect.....HARDLY!! Most people will tell you that I got my stubbornness from him.......LOL. He was, to put it kindly, a know-it-all and could be somewhat arrogant. But he was also a very intelligent man, a good husband and a terrific father. I miss him very much.
My dad was a musician who not only played instruments but had a wonderful baritone voice. He is probably the main reason that I learned to play so many instruments myself. He and my mother gave all of us kids strong voices and a great love of all kinds of music. In my dad's case, especially classical music.
One of my mom's fondest memories is of my dad lying on his back on the floor between two speakers that he built. He had me (at about 6 to 9 months old) lying on his chest and both of us were sound asleep while the speakers were blaring out classical music.
My dad spent 12 years in the Navy, mostly on Aircraft Carriers and Minesweepers. He was an electrician and learned about nuclear power while still in the Navy. As you can imagine, since he was in the Navy, we moved around a lot. Consequently, all of my siblings and I were born in 4 different states.
My dad was from LaGrande, Oregon and my mom is from Monticello, Arkansas. They met in California and disliked each other on sight......LOL. My mom thought he was the most arrogant man she had ever met. He was the minister of music in their church and one evening (after the singles cleaned up following a social honoring the pastor and his wife) my dad drove her and another lady home. From there, they started dating and got married 2 months later. My aunt kept telling my mom all the way up the aisle, "Trisha, you don't have to marry him!!"....LOL. I was born 9 months and 10 days after they got married.....I know this because my aunt kept count.....LOL.
My dad left the Navy and went to work for Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock as a Quality Assurance Inspector. He worked 3rd shift and then would go to work as a maintenance man at the private school we attended to help pay for our tuition. When I was in the 8th grade, he got a job with the Bechtel Corporation as a Quality Assurance Inspector of their nuclear plants. We had to move to Salem, Virginia.
This started us on a four-year cycle of moving. When I was 24, we moved to Wichita, Kansas. It was a typical summer in Kansas - 106 degrees in the shade, blast furnace winds and relentless sun. My mom took one look at this and said, "James, what hell have you brought me to!!!!"......LOL. We've lived here for many years now and I don't think her opinion of Kansas summers has changed much......LOL
On December 25, 1987, my dad had a massive heart attack. Jack and I were living in Melbourne, Florida at the time and we couldn't get back right away. When we did, we drove straight through. It was in the 50's in Florida.....It was in the 20's in Kansas!! QUITE a change!! There were several times that we didn't think my dad was going to make it. At one point, my mom had just finished eating supper with my dad and turned her back to put the trays back on the cart. All of a sudden, people started pouring into the room....my dad had flat-lined. All she could do was stand there and watch them use the paddles on him and try to get him back. They did......but it really shook her up to realize how close it had been.
My dad was also a diabetic and had other health problems. His medicine cabinet (combined with what my mom also takes) looked like a pharmacy. His being a diabetic helped me out, though, when I was pregnant with my daughter, Crystal. I developed gestational diabetes and he was able to answer my questions for me and help me out with my diet. He died the Sunday before she was born. I went into the hospital to have her the day we buried him. One of my biggest regrets is that my dad never got to see my daughter born. When she was little and would smile in her sleep, we'd say that grandpa was talking to her. We figure she has her own personal guardian angel.
When my dad died, it wasn't his heart that gave out.......it was his liver. It just shut down and then his kidneys failed. He was in a coma for several hours before he finally died, and you never know what people in a coma can hear, so we said our goodbyes in our own fashion. My dad wasn't a solemn person.....he had a great love of life and laughter....so we didn't want to send him out with tears and wailing. We sang to him (in 4-part harmony, of course....LOL) all the songs that we had sung together as a family. When it came time for Brother Andy to lead us in The Lord's Prayer.....for some reason, we all lost the thread of it at the same place. My sister, Mary, suggested that we do the prayer in our own way. And so we sang "The New 23rd". It's very hard to sing when your throat is tight because of tears. But, we did. I sat beside my dad's bed, holding his hand, and sang my alto part as best I could. I believe he heard us.
The next day, my sister-in-law (Donnita), was going up in an elevator with one of the nurses from the cardiac floor. The nurse asked her if she was one of the Huffman family. She said yes and the nurse told her that she had never seen a family send a person off that way and they were all touched by it. We had sent my dad off with love, laughter and song......just the way he lived.
Bye, Daddy......I Love You.