Thursday, April 8, 2010

In Memory

In Memory of my Dad, Don Dildine, who passed last week...
I am one of Don’s four children and I’m here to share a few a few things with you about my dad. Dad wasn’t a super hero, a billionaire or a Pulitzer Prize winner. He was just an average, meek guy who loved his family and did the best he could with what he had.

Growing up Dad loved to take us on outings. He often wouldn’t tell us where we were going. Sometimes it felt like we were lost, just driving aimlessly or that he had no clue where we were going but we always seemed to come out with an adventure. We might end up on a stretch of road by the airport to pick bittersweet or at Lynds Fruit Farm to buy fresh apple cider. Then Dad would jingle his car keys and we knew it was time to head for home.

Dad had amazing patience. A good example is when I was a kid we had Aunt Donna and her family come and stay at our house for a couple weeks when they moved back from California. While they stayed with us I went with my two cousins and picked black berries. I carried the ones I didn’t eat home cradled in my pretty pastel shirt, which as I recall was probably new. Needless to say, the quart of berries made a royal juicy mess that I as a kid would never have observed on my own. When I excitedly showed the berries to Dad he ate one with a big grin on his face and then whispered to me, “Take this shirt to Aunt Donna right away so your mother doesn’t get mad about the mess on your shirt. Aunt Donna can get that stain out for you.” Years later when I was just 18 and driving his car, I had an accident. His response to me was not one of anger. He simply said, “Well, you had your shot and you muffed it. But we’ll work it out.” And we did.

Dad loved good food. There was never enough lemon in a lemon pie, never enough dessert and he always had a candy stash by his chair, which he shared with the dog. We all lived to eat whatever he cooked on the grill. He made these fabulous burgers by placing tomato, onion and all the fixings between two patties and then he pinched the edges closed. He always had hickory chips on the charcoal for an extra smoky flavor. Just yesterday my sisters and I agreed any time we smell a charcoal grill we think of Dad’s out door cooking. We all knew food gifts were great and it wasn’t unusual for him to get several boxes of his favorite chocolate covered cherries at Christmas.

Dad always knew what his gifts were before he opened them. He’d pick up the gift, rattle the package and say, ‘Thanks for the cherries, or the neck tie or the beef stick’ and then would only peel the paper far enough to prove he had guessed right. He was a tough one to fool no matter how we wrapped things and we tried hard to disguise the packages for many years.

Dad celebrated the simple joys in life. He would take us to parades and even before he rattled his keys we always knew we had to get back in the car as soon as the last float was in view so we could pull out and follow the street cleaners down the road,. He assured us we would be home working in the yard long before anyone else got home. Dad also loved inviting lots of friends, neighbors and family to the house just to sit on the patio for an evening to watch the night blooming Cyrus in the garden bloom and wither in between dinner time and midnight. We had lots of gatherings like that on the patio.

My Dad gave me my quirky sense of humor. My favorite times with Dad were when we would be alone in the greenhouse or garage and watch shows like Benny Hill, Monty Python or Bugs Bunny. He loved to tease and wing puns and insults back and forth just to pass the time, which has turned into a pass time with my own children. A rule at our house is, “If we don’t insult you, we probably don’t like you.”

If Dad had ever visited your home he more than likely worked in your garden. He simply could not walk past a marigold without popping off the dead heads, nor could he walk past a weed without pulling it. He would stop by our home in Westerville on the way home from the golf course and we’d sit on the edge of a flower bed and chat as he pulled weeds I hadn’t gotten to. Frequently he showed up with plants or bulbs or shrubs that he found somewhere for next to nothing. He was a big advocate for trading plants and buying seeds for the cheapest prices. In his garden lectures he always said all seeds were made by big companies and that some were packaged cheap as off brands. The “high class” gardeners spent their money on the expensive seeds assuming it meant they were the best while the “smart gardens” spent their money on the same seeds at a low price so they could afford to buy more seeds and raise more plants. If you ever visited my Dad’s garden you more than likely took home an arm load of vegetables because he planted all those extra seeds really close together to choke out the weeds and always had more food than we could possibly use. He was very generous with his vegetables and his garden tips. If you watched the video when you came in you saw photos of his garden.

I have the Bible that was given to Dad the year I was born and have been reviewing the highlighted verses over the last few days. There was a recurring theme. Dad believed in being like the lilies of the field, that simply had faith and don’t worry whether God will tend them or not. Phrases like, “Do unto others”, “Trust in the Lord”, “Delight thyself in the Lord” and “The meek shall inherit the earth” were some of his highlighted verses, as well as Job 21:21 which says, “Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace; there by good shall come unto thee.” Dad always knew one day he would see the pearly gates.

Over the last few years as Dad’s health deteriorated sometimes he didn’t have much to say. But as we ended our visits or phone calls and told him we loved him he would say, “Daddy loves you too.” We didn’t want to see him go and but we didn’t want him to be trapped in his weakened body any longer either. He had many good friends in his life time, a family that loved him and he was tired. All four of us kids made it to the hospital to say goodbye and to let Dad know we understood that he was ready to go. Last Wednesday night God jingled His keys to tell Dad it was time to go home.