Yesterday morning as Abbie and I walked, we saw beautiful wild roses blooming on both sides of the road. As our day included a celebration of Mom’s birthday, I had been thinking about what type of flowers to put in Mom’s birthday bouquet. As we walked and continued to see more wild roses, memories of Dad came into my head as he sang, “My Wild Irish Rose,” during his daily morning shaving time.
We grew up in a small house in a small town. One bathroom was shared between Mom, Dad, me, and my two sisters. We would often go into the bathroom while Dad was shaving as he used the hard cakes of soap in a cup and a brush to create a lather. As he would swirl the brush, he would sing with his full Irish voice. He took what seemed to be a long time to lather his face, giving him adequate time to warm up his vocal cords. He would often comment that we girls were lucky we did not have to shave every day. As we grew, we countered this conversation with the fact that we had two long legs to shave as well as underarms, but his response was always that we did not have to do it daily – like he did. The comparison between repetition vs. square footage was a frequent conversation.
As yesterday’s activities progressed, my sisters, niece, Mom and I went out to celebrate Mom’s birthday at Grandmother’s restaurant. This annual tradition was followed by a trip to visit our step-dad. He offered us diet sodas, so we gratefully partook of his hospitality. When we were ready to leave, we asked if he recycled the cans. He said no, they did not do that as part of his care, so my little sister grabbed a sack and gathered the cans to take home and recycle. She indicated her recycling habit was a reflection of Dad’s life as a conservationist. My older sister added in that her son’s next scout badge is for soil conservation, so if Dad was still around, he could have helped Kyle.
Dad worked as a Soil Conservationist for the US Department of Soil Conservation Service. His work consisted of surveying and planning for terraces and dam projects. He was a quiet, unassuming man, who lived with a smile in his eyes. He rode his bike to work every day, an old hard-to-pedal, one-speed bike with a basket for his lunch bucket. The one-way trip measured 1.28 miles. His signature was that whenever he saw anyone (whether he knew them or not) and had eye contact, he would wave and smile as he rode. My job required frequent conversations with members of the community. Whenever I was talking to anyone about my family, and would bring up Dad, they would say, “Oh, is he the man who rides to work on Ella Street every day (or home on Market Street)?” I would respond affirmatively, and they would share their appreciation for his smile and friendly greeting.
Dad was a man who loved his family. His love was displayed by providing a good life for us, and raising us as Christians, who were loved by God. He served as lead user at the Methodist church we attended and was a regular member of their adult Sunday School. Following Sunday School and church, was a family meal and conversation about that day’s sermon. The meal would frequently consist of roast beef, served with Dad’s favorite condiment, ketchup, and Jell-O or ice cream (or both) for dessert.
The best part of Dad is that he still actively lives with all of us. He was singing to me yesterday morning during our walk and in the wild rose bouquet that I gave to Mom in memory of Dad. He lives in our recycling lifestyles and in our love and appreciation for our family. His life is remembered with frequency, and with a smile and a wave to people we pass. We miss you Dad – and love you.
In memory of Donald L. Kelly, 2/9/1937-3/18/1987