Tuesday, June 4, 2013

sometimes life just sucks.....

My dad passed away on May 20.  His memorial service was held on June 1.  The entire month of May was absolutely surreal...I may never wrap my brain around it.
His memorial service was amazing and all of the details revolved around his love of gardening and family.  There were almost 400 people in attendance, a true testament to the love and relationships he inspired.  My sister and I both spoke during the funeral.  My kids had a very hard time during the service :(  My mom was rock solid (as always).  Now a new chapter begins...life goes on.  Thankfully, our memories will last forever.

Thank you to everyone for being here today to honor and remember my father.  My dad was an amazing man, a dedicated husband, a wonderful father, and the very best grandfather a kid could ask for.  He lived his life with honor and respect and set a great example by using his life to serve others. 
The last month has been absolutely surreal for all of us and I still cannot believe how much our lives have changed in four short weeks.  I cannot believe my dad will never walk through my front door again.  Most mornings during the summer he would walk right on in, circle through the foyer, dining room, kitchen, living room, and right back out the front door without ever saying a word…he just needed to check in and make sure all was well.  I will miss calling my parents house and him answering with a loud “SCOTT SMALLIE” because that’s what came up on his caller ID.  My mom would then pick-up her cordless phone because she knew I was probably calling to talk to her and they would proceed to have a conversation amongst themselves while I patiently waited for them to realize that a) they were having a phone conversation while sitting in the same room and b) that I was still on the phone. 

There will be so much that I miss about my dad but most of my sadness comes from feeling that my kids have been completely cheated.  Cheated out of years with their grandfather to create even more memories and learn important life lessons from a man who had so much to teach.  I will take comfort in knowing my dads spirit will forever live on in our kids.  I am so grateful that our kids saw my dad almost every day of their lives.  Scott and I made a very conscious decision early on that we were going to raise our kids in our hometown.  Both of our families live within two miles of our home and we knew the greatest gift we could ever give our kids was to grow up near their grandparents.  Our home is right around the corner from the Old Six Mile Museum and the kids have been able to spend endless summer hours working side by side with their grandpa.  Although these were just typical days to them, I know they will one day realize just how blessed they were to make those memories with him.  Even though we outgrew our home two kids ago, it has been worth the sacrifice of space to provide our children with the freedom to walk to the museum whenever they want to spend time with my parents.  Brady rode his bike to the garden every summer morning around 7:30am so he could ride with his grandpa to pick up corn and melons for the garden stand.  These are memories that he will carry with him forever. 

The outpouring of love and support this past month has been very overwhelming.  I never realized how big of an impact such a small gesture of a card in the mail or even a text message makes.  I have loved hearing from people whose lives have been touched by my dad.  But to be honest, I have often found myself feeling like I do when sitting through one of my boys’ parent/teacher conferences listening to their teacher describe them as quiet, helpful and polite.  I start wondering if we’re really talking about the same person!  Laid-back, easy going, rational, and level-headed are all words that have been used to describe my dad to me.  And although I would agree with these on at least some level, there are several other personality traits that stand out to me as well.  Loud, boisterous, impatient, overly animated, and just a little nuts to name a few…. And of course his least appealing feature…his temper!  My dad had a quick temper; it flared, ran hot, and died just as quickly.  Umpires, referees, and opposing team fans were most often at the losing end of these outbursts making most sporting events always more entertaining and frequently uncomfortable.  Kenny and Scott knew their job was to babysit him at all of the kids games…they were to keep him seated far from everyone else and when things got tense, they were to immediately engage him in conversation about anything other than the game being played.  My dad gave all of us an example of a man whose imperfections provided the color of his character.

But, I know that when we all think of my dad, it will be his lively, positive spirit that we will remember.  He loved life, always had an extra spring in his step, and a huge smile on his face.  I will always remember him walking right up to anyone and everyone, sticking his hand out to initiate a strong hand shake, and saying “I’m Jim Engelke, nice to meet you”.  I just loved that. 

Dad always had an amazing ability to see all situations with an open mind and positive attitude.  Like when we found out that Annie was expecting Trevor.  Most of us were shocked silent, but my dad’s first reaction was perfectly typical of him.  I can still see the smile across his face as he bellowed “Isn’t this exciting?  Another generation we’ll get to meet!!”  And he was correct, Trevor has been a true blessing to our family and dad was right, there is no wrong time to add more love to our family tree.
If you knew my dad , even just a little, it’s a guarantee that you have your own Jim Engelke story.  I’m sure there are millions to tell.  Dads crazy personality left me with so many ridiculous memories, some completely inappropriate to repeat here.  I will always remember our Grizwald family vacation in a RV to California.  We took a day to visit the Grand Canyon and he videotaped the tour with his new gigantic video camera.  It wasn’t until we got home that he realized he had left the lens cap on and all of our memories were now audio-only.  Or a few years ago when he attended a local 5k race that my friend Candi and I were running.  He was standing at the end of the first mile and as we ran by, he yelled “Deborah Ann, do you realize the leaders are almost finished???”  He always knew just the right thing to say.

But my favorite Jim Engelke story happened last year and I couldn’t resist sharing it with everyone.  My youngest son, Brady had a baseball game at an indoor sports facility in St Peters Missouri.  On the turf before our game, all of the area’s top highschool football prospects were performing skill tests.  The place was filled with the nations top college recruiters, television crews, and sports radio hosts.  My dad walked in wearing his Wisconsin sweatshirt.   My sister had bought it for him because it was red and black with a big W on the front and he wore it to all of the Warrior events.  A few minutes after he walked in, I looked over and he was in the middle of the field giving a tv interview.  I tried desperately to get his attention and give him the “shut it down” sign and when he finally walked off the field I asked him what in the world he was doing.  He calmly said that this man approached him and asked him his opinions about the Wisconsin football program and so he was letting him know his thoughts on the upcoming season.  I said “Go sit down and do not speak to anyone until Brady’s game starts”.  I then quickly found Scott and chewed him out for not keeping an eye on my dad...that was his only job!   Once Brady’s game started my dad walked up to me and said “I bet that guy approached me because I have this Wisconsin sweatshirt on!!!”  I was speechless.  For more than 30 minutes he honestly believed he was just randomly chosen to discuss Wisconsin football????  This story always makes me laugh out loud and to me, best represents his crazy personality and ability to leave us flabbergasted. 

Even though this last month has been a nightmare that I’m still hoping to wake up from, I am forever grateful for all of the Jim Engelke stories I have to tell.  For all of the memories he created with our kids.  For the love he instilled in us and the foundation he helped to build so our kids grow to be hard-working, kind adults.  I pray they live by the example he set, and realize that no dream is too big and with hard work, all things are possible.  I am so thankful for the childhood he and my mom gave us and for showing us that family is the most important thing.  Scott and I can only pray that we do half the job of raising a family as they have done. 

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