The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

June 15, 2013

Carol Stark: Dad took us on ‘travels’ that lasted a lifetime

This isn’t the column I had planned on writing, but it’s the one that keeps running through my mind. And so does this question: How do I cope on my first Father’s Day without my dad?

I have no one today for whom I will buy a funny card. There’s no decision over whether to get Dad a new rose or a new crape myrtle bush. He would have liked either one. I enjoyed delivering the surprise.

And because my father became ill on Father’s Day of last year and died just a few short days later, the pain of today is magnified.

A number of my friends have recently experienced the death of their fathers or their mothers. Some tell me you never get over it. Others say it hurts, just not as bad over time.

Yes, I take comfort in the fact that he did not have to endure the inevitable. Dad had bladder cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation had kept it at bay, but we all knew that time was short. We just didn’t realize how swiftly the flu could become pneumonia. Or maybe it was something else.

So, today, to honor my father, I want to share with you, what, in his last year of life, he said he would do over again if given the chance.

Dad didn’t regret the money he didn’t make or the jobs he never had. He didn’t regret that he and mom lived in the same house that sat east of Carthage for almost 50 years.

No, he told me he would always be sorry that he hadn’t taken his family on more vacations.

Usually his time off from work was spent putting up hay or working cattle. A “vacation” for us was a trip to the fair, or maybe a picnic.

Later, after my sisters and I had left home, he and mother did travel to some wonderful places. They bought a travel trailer and set off into the West to see the wonders of Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon and the redwood forests. While cleaning out a desk drawer, I found a journal my mother had kept of their travels. It included details of what they ate at restaurants, what the weather was like and what birds they had spotted on that particular day.

His regret was that he had not shown his three daughters the America he loved.

If I could tell him one thing today, I wish I could convey that he did indeed show us the world. He traveled the back roads of Missouri, taking us on Sunday drives. He let us walk by his side to check the cows, pointing out the characteristics of a fine shorthorn and one that he was likely to take to the stockyard.

He took us fishing when we were young, and he took us to church every single Sunday of our lives.

I would say that my father took us places where cars, trains and planes couldn’t go: He led his family on the journey of life.

A few days after Dad died, I found a message on my phone from him. I had never listened to it and figured it was nothing more than a quick reminder to pick him up a soda or a library book the next time I stopped in for a visit.

Instead, it was a message I have kept and listened to repeatedly. He simply called me to tell me he was proud of me.

I cherish those final words from my dad.

If he were alive today, I would tell him the same thing. I would also thank him for the places I have been able to go because of his and my mother’s sacrifices.

Who wants to go to Disneyland when the real adventure of life is right here in your own backyard?

Carol Stark is editor of The Joplin Globe. Address correspondence to her, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802 or email cstark@joplinglobe.com. Follow Carol Stark on Twitter @carolstark30.

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