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    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 mother. 

    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.

Pamela