If I could have chosen any other man to be my father, it would have been James Keebler. James was my uncle by marriage, not blood at all, but I loved him as if he were my father. I lost him Tuesday to, what else, cancer, the curse of mankind...it seems.
|James in 1974, posing for my camera.|
Anyway, I won't get into all that, I just wanted to say that I loved this man.
He taught me more about how to love my wife, my child and my grandchildren than any other influence in my life. He was there with support, he was there with love, he was there with compassion, and coated it all with a little touch of humor that could make you miss the moment if you didn't pay close attention. His lessons in life were subtle and strongly rooted in family.
|These were the good days; days of sharing food and fellowship. |
We loved being with one another and looked forward to the next time.
He loved the family gatherings, the holidays, the cook-outs, the birthdays, the food, the laughter, the children, the football games, the family slide shows, and especially the fun in the backyard afterward. He could always be heard laughing, and/or just standing, smiling, and soaking in the fleeting moments.
|James and Wilma Keeber - 1969|
As for his own wife and daughters, none were ever loved more. You could see it in his eyes. His eyes always locked on yours and you knew that he saw you, understood you, felt for you, and loved you. You could not turn away, didn't want to turn away, when he spoke to you.
I was never very close to my own father, and we often had words and would spend days not talking. During one of these times I once told James that I wished he had been my father. He looked shocked, and for a moment didn't say anything. He knew what I was going through and what I yearned for in my relationship with my dad. Then he said, "Don't say that. Your father loves you...he just don't know how to tell you."
I knew then that I was wrong. However, it was years before I understood where my dad was coming from, and why. By then it was too late.
James and I often had deep conversations about life. We also had great moments of laughter. We always got each others jokes. Like me, he wasn't ashamed to let the "little boy" inside him out. He loved our bottle rocket shot-outs, our games of badminton, horseshoes, and lawnmower-polo! He even once built a snow sled by screwing a lawn-chair to a pair of water skis, just because I suggested it.
He laughed at Bill Powers, is son-in-law, and me as we wildly zipped down the snow covered slop behind his house. I don't remember if he tried it or not, but I'm sure he did; he couldn't have resisted! He could never let us have all the fun.
|James was strong, but the kids were his soft spot!|
I don't think I've ever known as stronger man either. Yes, he was gentle with us, but he was a strong man. One of the toughest things I remember about him was the two times he got his hands, up to the wrist, caught in an offset printing press...the big kind that printed newspapers.
Once at the Harriman RECORD, I walked in from my advertising sales route to see a trail of blood leading out the front door and down the street to the hospital. I asked what had happened and was told about how James got one hand caught, reached in with the other, and pried up on a bar to release his hands. He had walked himself the two blocks to the emergency room!
It happened again a few years later at the Roane County NEWS, and again both hands were nearly crushed. It took weeks for the skin to grow back, but the pain never left his joints, especially in his golden years. Cold winter days must have been agonizing for him!
However, after both incidents, he never showed any pain. He kept that locked inside. His tolerance for pain was remarkable, but it was his love for his family that was the medication he used to hide it.
|Family was his thing. Christmas time was his favorite time.|
|A happy day for James and Wilma when his daughter married.|
|He loved the time with all the grandkids...here he feeds Corey.|
|James loved "photo bombing"! We were a tight bunch.|
|James boost Brandon to see the parade, and you can see he enjoyed everything!|
|Another "photo bomb" moment!|
As these few photos I found of him show, he loved us all. It's in his eyes, in his smile.
I just wish I could remember it all, word for word, but it has been too many years. I'm just thankful for all the years he was in my life. He'll never be forgotten, but he'll be sorely missed.
I love you James!