Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dearest of the Dear Papa Jim

This is, admittedly, a belated post.  Welcome to my life.  I also was late to my second day of work yesterday.  Late in a I'm-so-fetching-lost-that-the-road-just-came-to-a-dead-end-in-the-middle-of-a-swamp-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-sort-of-way.  So that I'm wishing my him a happy day (albeit late) in   a class that I was EARLY to and not in the middle of a swamp is kind of a big deal.  And also the dress I'm wearing is intentionally backwards, instead of being accidentally inside out.  Cheer for me guys.

Well Papa Jim.  He has been mentioned on here once or twice before.  Mostly because I give him all credit for any swearing tendencies I might have.  The d-a-m-n spelling trick, the occasional nice loud, "oh HELL"... all Jim.

Yeah he's the best.

But not just because he cracks me up with a good curse every now and again.

Papa Jim and I go waaaaaaaaaaaay back.  Like twenty years back.

I love this man.

I mean seriously, how could you not?

Exhibit A

Just look at that bearded bespectacled wonderfulness.  I know I got my sense of (ahem *fantastic* ahem) style from him.  Literally.  I'm currently wearing one of his woolen vests.  I also have two pairs of his socks, one, two, THREE sweaters, and a pair of loafers.

Exhibit B

Don't we look alike?

Don't even waste your breath trying to tell me we don't.  Actually YES.  WE DO.  In seventh grade I went to my friend's house for her birthday party.  When my dad came to pick me up, her mom yelled downstairs, "Sierra your dad is here!  I didn't even have to ask who's dad it was because you two look SO much alike!!!"

Which really did wonders for a seventh grade girl's self esteem.

Exhibit C

This needs no caption.

I consider him one of my best friends.  He listens better than almost anyone I've ever met.  He doesn't say anything, he doesn't interrupt to offer advice while I'm talking, he just. Listens.  He lets me talk and talk and talk until I've almost figured it out.  As John Green put it, "that's who you really like, the people you can think in front of."  I feel completely safe thinking in front of him, without any worries that he'll judge me or think I'm stupid or shallow.  I can take out my brain, let it explode, ricochet off the walls and he won't say one word about the mess.  And then when I'm silent, he is too, not because he's unattached or uncaring, but because he's willing to wait, in case there's anything else I need to say.  There is so much beauty in a patient listener.

I've heard the old stereotype about parents trying to talk to their kids by sharing archaic un-relatable stories.  "WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE..."  But I love when my dad talks about his life.  It started out when my brother and I were kids, and he would have us in near hysterics over dinner, telling stories about his dog "Ginger the WonderDog"- whom, as I fondly recall, received that nickname because she was so fat, it was a wonder she could walk.  Often the dinner ended by me laughing so hard I spewed my milk.  Occasionally out of my nose.  What's that?  Why yes. I am a delightful dinner guest.  Please.  Invite me over.

As I grew older I still loved to listen to him talk about his life, because the stories changed from mere comic relief to stories about mistakes, lessons, important events, close friends and examples, and favorite memories.  I love it because they make him a person, not just an imposing authority figure, but someone I can really relate to.  And he was/is a cool person.  He was class officer, spent a month in Europe after his high school graduation, wore a white tux to prom: the pink boxers underneath are visible in some pictures, and wrestled through high school and college. I love it.  I love that he'll talk to me openly and honestly about his life.

More important than being my friend though, is being my father.  He spent many a day teaching me how to drive stick shift (whiplash, near death experiences, and all) and play backgammon (I've still never won a game.)  He cheers me on in every aspect of school.  He calls me out on my crap and loves me anyway.

Guys I could go on and on and on.

But I'll stick to three last points

1. He is so FRICKING passionate about what he does.  You ask him anything about grass, soil, plants, and his will light up and he'll say, "now listen.  this is so cool.  this is the name of the plant.  here's where it grows.  here are the conditions it needs."  and congratulations, you've just checked yourself into a solid half hour lecture about horticulture.  It's possible he know every single thing.  But he gets so. Excited.  I can't help but get excited too.  And he works hard at it.  He gets up at 4:30 every day to go to work, not because he's worried about money, but because he loves it.  I alway give the example of going back east and visiting the Smithsonian, and while we're standing outside the Cotton Pickin* SMITHSONIAN, my dad is going, "GUYS!  LOOK!  IT'S INDIAN BLUE-GRASS!"

2.  He is humble and service oriented.  This is the man that taught me that a prideful, powerful, and imposing "man" is not manly at all.  The most manly attribute I can think of that of a humble man.  The man who will get down, on his knees, to work on the ground, right along with his students; or choke up when talking about sacred things; or tell a funny joke about himself, without worrying what it may do for his image; this is a man.  He will help anyone because no one is "beneath" him, and he'll do it without the slightest thought of compensation.

3.  He is respectful and devoted.  I watched as my grandma, his mom, deteriorated further and further from Alzheimers, slowly forgetting my birthday and my name, and then his birthday, and finally his name.  But he never stopped calling her.  Every Sunday.  Even though she was on the other side of the country, and he would have to gently remind her, "mom this is your son Jim," he never stopped.  I will never forget that.  He loves my mom in the same way.  Doing his best to be aware of her needs, to help her out, to cheer her up.  He respects others, and I respect him.

I love you Papa Jim.

happy birthday damn it.

*another favorite papa jim-ism. right next to fetching, and "I'll beat you like a red-headed stepchild."


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