My name is Brenda. I am the third of four kids. who were given the honor of being the children of Jim Brown.
My Daddy was a special man. He was, for the most part, a quiet man. Gentle and kind, he was content to be a worker bee and never needed to draw attention to himself. He has a quiet strength and a quiet faith and all who knew him could see the goodness in him. He was never “preachy” but just lived his faith through the way he treated others.
My Daddy adored my Mom. She was, without a doubt, the love of his life. He met her when she was just a tiny little girl and helped her up to reach the drinking fountain. They began dating when she was only 15 and he married her when he was 23 and she was 17. Dad was always willing to do just about anything for my Mom . . . from hauling decorative rocks from Mica Peak to hauling driftwood home from the ocean, if Mom batted her baby blues, Dad was always happy to oblige my Mom. Over the years he did many home remodel projects that she would design and he would make happen.
Growing up, my family spent a lot of time together . . . from pizza nights and game nights, to camping trips and long drives to the middle of Timbuktu. Dad loved spending time with us and was always ready at the drop of a hat to go on an adventure. Mom was the adventure planner and Dad always made sure to carry it out . . . but often with his own twist. Such as our long back road excursions . . . one time it landed us on a logging road with no where to turn around for hours on end . . . another time it led to a nudist camp. Dad would just laugh and just move on to the next adventure.
I had a special relationship with my Dad in that he was not only my Daddy, but also my own personal art instructor. Not many people can say their Daddy taught them how to paint with a pallet knife. One of my fondest memories with my Dad was something we did many times. when I was small. My dad did quite a bit of freelance art to help supplement the family income and many Saturday mornings, as well as several evenings, would find him working at his art table. I would be happily sitting on the floor below him, my own artwork spread out before me. Daddy always made me feel like my projects were just as important as his projects and allowed me to believe that I too, was helping out the family. The day I decided it was silly to have to buy stamps from the post office and that I could just make some, he never laughed at me or made me feel stupid . . . instead me told me how beautiful my hand drawn stamps were and made me feel like I had really done them a huge favor. In the years to come, he would always offer me gentle suggestions, as I would work on a piece of art . . . saying such things as, “Maybe if you added a little more shading here, this would pop more,” or “that looks great . . . if you just deepen the red, it will be perfect.” He never made me feel foolish or inferior. He always built me up and while he prodded me forward to keep improving as an artist, he made me feel like what I did had great promise and value. In fact, he always made me feel like I
had great promise and value.
Daddy loved to have fun. From slip & slides in the backyard to all night (or at least I thought they were) drive-in movies, Dad was always game for something fun. He loved playing “Paddle Pool” with all of us . . . and especially his brothers. They would all get to laughing so hard they would all get the hiccups. I remember one time being out on a little fishing boat with my Dad and Uncle Merle. I remember that I had no idea what they were talking about, but they were laughing hysterically while they both talked about some crazy story about chickens . . . or as they would say “cheekens” with a goofy fake Italian accent. I just remember loving the joy that came out of him and thinking how much I love my Daddy.
Dad loved to putter. He could be found most any day off either working in the yard or working on something around the house. He was very handy and “calling a plumber” or electrician was something we never did. Mom just called Dad and he always managed to fix whatever it was.
And then there is the weirdness thing. Yep, I said it. Our family was and still is weird. For example, Dad had a gifting that he has passed on to us children . . . and, in fact, he married a woman with the same talent. It is a talent of taking any given set of circumstances and turning them into a song. So if he happened to misplace his keys, or spill his coffee, it inevitably became a song. I married someone with this same “talent” and together we continue to pass this weirdness on for the generations ahead.
Our family also has it’s own language. Dad was one of the biggest contributor to this language. Words such as rubber band and stretchy have a meaning only members of our family understand. We know what Barney Noodles is and, if you didn’t have the privilege of growing up in our family, I am sorry, you don’t. When Dad was very sick in the hospital, a few years back, we added the word periwinkle to our private little language. Sorry, only Dad and his wife and kids are privy to this top secret language and it’s deep meaning. And then there was the talking with his hands. The joke was always that if Daddy’s hands were cut off he would be a mute. Pretty much any conversation involved using his hands to explain whatever was being discussed. Even when talking on the phone, Dad’s hands would be moving, explaining what he was talking about. I find myself doing that a lot and realize the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree..
My Dad was an amazing whistler . . . and he ALWAYS was whistling. If he wasn’t whistling (or making up weird songs . . . ) we knew something was wrong. From sun up to sundown, as he puttered around or completed projects at both home and work, he would be whistling. He could also do a special whistle to call us. When we were kids, we might be off riding our bikes in the field a couple of blocks away, but if Daddy whistled we knew to come home right away.
My Dad was always a very patient man and he spent many hours trying to make me understand algebra and geometry. I don’t think it ever worked, but he always patiently would write it out, in hopes I might somehow have an “Ah-ha” moment. That moment never came, but I always loved the time he spent with me, and his gentle approach. There are only a handful of times I can think of where my Dad was impatient or angry. One time was when he was teaching me how to drive my stick shift Ford Pinto. I was terrible and Dad was beyond frustrated. When I broke out in tears, my always soft hearted Daddy, decided we needed to end the lesson with an ice cream cone from Ron’s Drive Inn. I was his little girl and keeping me “tear free” was something he was very good at.
The last several years Daddy has battled vascular dementia that slowly took away his independence, some of his memory and some of his ability to reason things out. Having always been such an intelligent man, you would think this situation would leave him angry and irritable. But not my Dad. Until the very end, when fear began creeping in, my Dad stayed upbeat and happy. While I am sure losing his independence had to be frightening and frustrating, he was kind and gentle. He was a favorite with the various nurses and aides that helped him in his final days, because they all saw the kind gentle man he was.
My Dad passed away a week ago Friday. The timing was so very hard for me . . . I was in the middle of setting up for an antique show we put on each year on our property. I had 50 vendors on our property, all needing me to help them get settled in. It was hard to keep it together and continue with the show, but I knew what I had to do. I had to live up to my upbringing. In my family we were taught to complete what we started, to never give up and to always do our best. I knew my Dad would expect that from me. He had taught us well and on his final day, a test was given to see if I had learned these lessons well. With Daddy on my heart and in my mind, we persevered and completed the show. We always open the show by running down our drive, ringing cowbells . . . to “ring in the show.” This year, as I ran down the drive side by side with my husband Ron, I knew we were not only ringing in our antique show, but we were celebrating my Daddy’s homecoming . . . the bells rang in heaven and Daddy was called home.
I will always be proud and grateful to have been his daughter. I love you forever, Daddy.