Rheubin Wesley Smith. This was a great
man. He never went to the moon. He didn't become president. He didn't
win the Nobel Peace Prize. He didn't discover the cure for cancer. He didn't
even finish high school. But, still, he was a great man. To me. He was
my father. He went to sleep one evening and never woke up again. There was no
warning, nothing that said something was wrong. The autopsy showed a severe cerebral
hemorrhage. We kept him on life support for one and a half days to make sure there
was no hope in recovery. On Christmas Eve, 1992, I held his hand while the hospital
staff turned off the life support. I was holding his hand when the heart monitor
went straight line. He was only 67 years old. It was the most terrifying
moment of my life, because I knew the single most important man in my life was gone.
This was the person who shaped me more than anyone else. I am who I am
because of who he was. He left behind a wife, a daughter (me), three sons, and a
grandson (his namesake, my son), and a whole lot of wonderful memories.
Daddy was a handsome man. To me and Momma anyway. He had
very thick graying hair with a touch of red throughout and a white splash over the left
side of his forehead. His eyes were a beautiful hazel. Daddy had a lot of
indian characteristics in him from his grandfather, who was full-blooded Cherokee.
He had high cheekbones, a straight nose, and he tanned to a wonderful reddish-bronze in
the summer sun. His knees were knobby, his hands gnarled, and his shoulders slightly
stooped, but he was the most handsome man in the world to me. But it wasn't just his
looks that made him handsome, it was his attitude, his personality. He was very
kind and giving. He worked hard to give us a good life, a nice house to live in,
healthy food on the table, a nice neighborhood to grow up in. He tried to teach us
right from wrong, to teach us his morals, to teach us respect. And most of all, he
loved his family. I knew he loved me, no matter what I did, no matter the mistakes I
made. I was his Puddin' Foots. I knew he loved my brothers and I knew he loved
My daddy cherished my mother. I could see it in the way he looked
at her, the way he held her hand, the way he put up with her different moods. I
don't think I could use all my fingers counting the times he called her by her given name,
Shirley. He always called her Hon (short for Honey). His eyes would sparkle
when he looked her way. He had a special smile that he gave only her that he never
gave to anyone else. He had a rare unconditional love for his wife, his mate, his
lover. I feel very blessed to have witnessed it.
What I remember most about Daddy is his hands. His hands were
very calloused and scarred from years of hard labor but they were the gentlest hands I
knew. Those hands held me many times when I had a bad dream or when I fell and hurt
myself. I felt so safe when those hands were holding me. I knew I was special
when I held his hand when we went somewhere. He loved the feel of wood and
everything he made reflected that love. Daddy's hands could create the most beautiful
wooden clock cases ever made. When all I saw was a chunk of brown wood, he saw an
old man's bearded face, or a bird, or something else just as nice. I used to watch
him whittle. It absolutely amazed me what he could create. I still have his
whittling case and some things that he never qite finished. On occasion he would
catch a finger or thumb in the table saw and we would have to rush him to the emergency
room to get it sewn up again. One time, I grabbed a red washcloth to wrap his index
finger up in after it met up with the saw blade. My mother saw the red and almost
passed out thinking it was soaked up blood. She didn't let me live that one down for
a long time. Daddy didn't either, though I knew deep down he thought it was funny.
Another thing about Daddy was his love of animals. We always had
cats. I don't remember a time we didn't have a cat hanging around the house.
He was feeding a stray one time and the cat clawed his arm. He developed cat scratch
fever and became very sick for a while. That didn't stop him from feeding the
strays. Daddy loved little furry things, so when I brought home a guinea pig one
day, he decided he was going to get one too. One became two became three and so on
until he had twelve guinea pigs. He would go to a store like Wal-Mart and see a
mistreated guinea pig, and have to buy it. My parents would feed them salads every
morning, nice big salads with lettuce and apples and such. They even aquired a
gerbil named Jaws Jr. (he was a mean little thing) because the boy who owned him was not
taking care of it well enough to suit my father.
Daddy was everyone's friend. I swear to you that anyone, and I
mean anyone, who met my dad automatically liked him. He could strike up a
conversation with complete strangers and soon they were visiting each other's houses,
fishing together, going to the swap meets. It was amazing. He made friends
everywhere he went. My daddy loved his CB radio. He had postcards from people
all over the USA. He'd get on the CB in the evenings after he got home from work and
just start talking to whoever was out there. He met his best friend, Beaver, over
the CB. Beaver's wife became my mom's best friend. Their son was my first
boyfriend. After Daddy became a "senior citizen" he would go down to the
senior citizen center in town and play pool with all the "old fogey's" as he
called them. He always ate lunch there so Momma wouldn't have to figure out what to
fix. He hardly ever missed a day. If he did miss, someone would always come by
or send someone over to see why he didn't show up. We set up a memorial for the
senior citizen center, because Daddy loved going there so much.
I am a very lucky girl. I found a man who lives up to the
standards I set, someone who is as great a man as my father was. Daddy took an
instant liking to Jim. He thought Jim was a fine man, worthy of his daughter.
I'm very glad that I made Daddy happy when he walked me down the aisle and gave me away to
Jim. Daddy made my wedding day all the more memorable when he stepped on my dress
and I couldn't walk the rest of the way to Jim until he stepped off. He was so
embarrassed, but he laughed about it afterwards. I am very thankful that Daddy got
to know his grandson, Wesley, even though Wesley wasn't quite two years old when Daddy
died. And Wesley will know his grandfather through the stories and pictures I share
with him. I am giving my child all that my father gave me so that his legacy will
live on forever.
Yes, Rheubin Wesley Smith was a great man. He lived great. He loved great.
He died great.