Thanks to everyone for their well-wishes, thoughts and prayers over the last several days. The passing of a parent is always difficult. My mother is doing admirably well in Richmond, and she has a great deal of support from her friends and her church. Having that knowledge helps me tremendously. My stepfather, who I have referred to as "Bobby" since he was introduced into my life in the late 1970s, has been more of a father to me that anyone else in my life.
The call came just after 10 o'clock Friday morning, while I was visiting with the second graders at LCA. I checked my messages on my way to the car and heard the sadness in my mother's voice. I made arrangements to have things covered in Lynchburg, and I was on the road to Richmond within the next two hours.
I arrived at the hospital at 2:15 p.m., and I immediately went to his ICU room to sit with him and my mother. Mom excused herself for a moment, and allowed me some time with him. When mom returned to the room several minutes later, he passed away.
I went back to the waiting area to see my sisters and allow mom some time. On the way to the waiting area, I happened to glance at the analog clock in the hall. It read 2:35 p.m.
Again, many thanks for your prayers and support. Mom and I have saved his tribute here.
Below is what I asked mom's pastor to read at his funeral on Monday:
Many know about my fascination with weather since childhood. When I was 8 years old, I was still quite afraid of thunderstorms. Nighttime flashes of lightning were still scary. When Bobby came to visit, the thunderstorms seemed, not just less threatening, but I remember them being more "fun." It was my first experience in letting go of my fear of the weather, and it sowed the seeds of motivation to learn more about it, and ultimately, it led to my decision in choosing it as a career.
When Mom and Bobby married, I was 12. In the next 5 years before I went to college, he did his best to give me the tools I would need as an adult. He didn't just tell me to cut the grass; he made sure I knew how to change the spark plug in the engine. He didn't just tell me to run the string trimmer; he made sure I knew the right ratio of oil and gas to put in the engine. He didn't just make me nail shingles into the roof; he made sure that I knew the right way to remove the old ones to protect the house. Only with the wisdom of age did I begin to understand what he was teaching me.
When home from college on breaks, he arranged to have me work with him at the old AT&T facility (now White Oak Shopping Area). He made sure I was welcome, but he also made clear what the rules were on a construction site. I left with a better appreciation of the work he did and the company that he kept away from home. While working there, his colleagues, most of who were in their 50s, all told me I was doing the right thing by going to college. It was the first time I actually thought about my life 30 years down the road, and it was the first time I truly recognized that there was much I could learn from those who have come before me.
As I entered adulthood and I began to see some of my peers struggle in their adult lives, I gained a huge respect for Bobby's tenacity and will. Remembering how he was able to walk away from cigarettes and alcohol, and how he did it with no drama, no complaints and no excuses. He just stopped. Perhaps that amazes me the most.
The courage he displayed in his commitment to my mother also stands out. Having been through one marriage and having all of his children grown, he made the decision to marry a woman with a 12 year old son, and 10 and 8-year-old daughters. The respect and admiration for that decision is immeasurable.
I will miss his boisterous laughter.
And perhaps most, I will miss his fantastic ability to tell a story.