Anniversary of dad's death
It’s been five years since my dad died.
I’m not over it. I don’t think you get over it. I don’t think I even want to get over it.
The grief wanes over the years like physical discomfort drifts from sharp pain to a dull ache.
Because of the timing of his death and the way he died, it makes it difficult not to remember the anniversary each year. The first effects of his illness showed up just before Labor Day and he died just weeks later on a Sunday morning after I watched an Oklahoma University football game with him in his room.
At first, it was hard to believe he was gone. His quiet strength kept you from ever considering death could stop him. Nothing stopped him. He was still cleaning properties, watching sports and volunteering many hours a week at church and for a soup kitchen that fed people a hot lunch every day until the day his disease made it impossible.
Suddenly, a couple of falls led to a strange diagnosis and a little over a month later, he was gone.
As the fifth anniversary of his death approached, it made me think about what is was I really miss about him. The grief is always there. I wanted to figure out what shape the hole was that his death left in my life.
A little time behind the windshield recently gave me time to come to a realization.
Dad was real.
He was really nice. He was really hard working. He was really a Christian. He didn’t have to fake anything. That’s why a five foot, eight inch guy could cast such a long shadow.
Kenneth Bush was no superstar. He was never the guy in the spotlight. He had no desire to be. But his funeral filled a church from front to back and top to bottom. It wasn’t because he was rich and famous. It was because he was kind. He built people up. He helped those who needed to be helped. He didn’t need accolades or even gratitude. He never said a negative word about other people. He was rare in those qualities.
Dad taught me what hard work is. I started working for his janitorial business when I was nine. I dumped trash cans and cleaned out ash trays – back in the days of smoke-stained office walls. He worked a full-time job maintaining machines in a frozen waffle factory. He started the janitorial service and always kept it because he told my mom, “you never know when we will need the extra money.”
Until he died more than a decade after the plant closed and forced his retirement, he was still cleaning buildings. Even working two jobs, he always found time to go to our sporting events and other activities. He never admitted he was tired or took time for himself beyond watching sports or maybe The Price is Right on television. He worked and cared for his family and others. That was all he did. It was all he seemed to want to do.
He was also a real Christian. He wasn’t one of those Religious Right types that memorized Bible verses to use as weapons against people he didn’t like. His brand of Christianity was loving others enough to do something about it. He served his church like many people do. He also worked at the soup kitchen and tried to make sure people had a little extra to take home after lunch.
But beyond what people could see, his phone was constantly ringing with people from the soup kitchen who needed a ride somewhere, needed help getting a vehicle fixed or maybe just needing some money for medicine. We often joked about dad’s “friends” calling at all hours, but he never cared. He just helped when he could, how he could.
Looking back five years later, I know what I miss about him. I miss that person who helped people who would never be able to pay him back. He didn’t want to be repaid. He wasn’t giving loans. He was just helping – because he could. That was the only reason he needed. He was kind, selfless, caring and fun.
Five years later, I still miss him. I’m sure I always will.
I wish I knew more people like my dad. I wish I were more like him.
That is my goal every day.
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Shawnee News-Star in Shawnee, Okla. www.news-star.com.