The first thing most people think of when thinking about my dad is most likely his sense of humor. He’s the most funny person I have ever known. And, really, probably the most funny person I will ever know. He was incredibly dry and sarcastic and almost painfully witty. Part of his genius was the mystery of never being certain that he was indeed joking. Being funny was something that seemed to come naturally to him. And really, with the exception of the last year or two of his life, it rarely seemed like he used sense of humor as some sort of self-preservation mechanism or to mask insecurities. (This is something that I could use some lessons in.)
Some of my best memories of him are from Sunday mornings. We’d wake up early and share the paper while drinking coffee and watching hunting/fishing shows or Old Westerns. He would read the paper, I would read the comics. Then we’d go through the ads and point out items we thought the other one needed to buy. One of our classic bits was when I would ask if he needed an iPhone, to which he would respond “Now what the hell would I do with an iPhone?” I would point out he could use it to keep tabs on his 41 Facebook friends, or maybe even get a Twitter account. And then, of course, “What the hell would I do with a Tweeter?” Which would lead to us going back and forth about what he would Tweet. It just so happens Steve Leach’s Twitter topic of choice would be bathroom happenings. We could spend an entire morning riffing off of each other. Then Mom would be a little bit mortified, but mainly amused and just go, “oh! You two!”
My dad was my comedic… match? role model? I wouldn’t say equal, but there was definitely something special about how funny we were together. Even if I was the butt of a lot of his jokes. He loved sitting by me at more conservative weddings. He would just have this smirk on his face, like he found pleasure knowing that I was going crazy while the embarrassingly large portion of my brain devoted to wedding etiquette and the part of my brain devoted to feminism duked it out. When I informed him that I’d voted Democrat in the 2004 Presidential election, he took my dinner away and “redistributed” it. He warned me that in 10 years I’d probably be a Republican. (Not only was HE the one who switched his registration, he was also the chair of the Hamilton County Democrats by 2008.)
Those who knew my dad know that in addition to being a grumpy old man (a self-proclaimed one, at that), he also had the biggest heart. One of his greatest passions was giving back to his community. He took pride in being Aurora’s “Biggest Athletic Supporter”. He was always the first to donate to fundraisers at the school and spent many weekends volunteering at youth wrestling meets or teaching Hunter’s Safety. I don’t think I could count the number of times he read books to my class in elementary school or spoke in my business classes and volunteered at FBLA functions in high school. He gave out water bottles to the band and all sports team. When I very briefly considered doing sports stuff, he sponsored my softball team. My blue Leach Insurance shirt sure looked good out in right field while I was doing cartwheels and picking grass.
He especially liked to get involved in the activities of me and my siblings. When my sister was in golf, he lead the charge to get donations for golf bags for the girls team. When I was auditioning for piano scholarships, he drove me all over the state and even made friends with some of the faculty. In 2006, when i started to get politically involved, he was right there with me. He made phone calls, wrote letters to the editor, asked farmers to put up yard signs, and — I know this is hard to believe — even started quite a few fights on conservative political blogs. I once asked him if he was worried that coming out as a Democrat was going to hurt his business, to which he replied, “Sal. I learned a long time ago, you just can’t give a sh** what people think. Plus… I might be a Democrat, but I’m no GD liberal.” As I told my dad two years ago, this is was the most special experience I shared with him.
Tomorrow, May 20th, marks two years since I said goodbye to my dad. I will be honoring him by participating in “Omaha Gives!”, which is a 24-hour charitable challenge to benefit nonprofits in the area. I will be making a donation to Donate Life Nebraska. Something I’ve noticed when talking to people about organ donation is that people don’t realize just how easy or how important it is to register. Organizations like Donate Life Nebraska get that information out there. If you can’t donate, it would mean so much to me if you’d register to be an organ, eye, and tissue donor.
To donate: www.omahagives24.org
To register as an organ, eye, and tissue donor: www.donoregistry.org
To educate: www.donatelifenebraska.com