Saturday, November 26, 2011

Remembering Poppy

Wish I Could Go Fishing...

It is six o’clock in the morning. Papa walks into my room and taps my shoulder, “Hey Sport, it’s time to go fishin’!” Dragging myself out of bed, I wake up to the smell of brewed coffee and cover myself in sunscreen. I always slept in my swimsuit the nights before we would go fishing, this way I would be ready to go, without delay. My job was to fill the ice chest with sodas and treats while he uncovered the boat and got our gear. After we were ready we would head to the doughnut shop and order two maple bars and a glazed doughnut. I don’t even like doughnuts, but for some reason they always tasted better when I was with my Poppy. “That will be one hundred and fifty big ones”, the woman at the register would tell him. Papa would smile and hand her two dollars as a down payment and say, “I’ll catch ya next time. Hey, you have a good one, Partner!”

Upon entering the lake docks papa pulls up next to the guard station and shows his pass. “Yeah, I’ll take two cheese burgers, an order of fries, and a large soda pop.” He was always known as a jokester. Everyone loved him for his personality and friendliness. He treated everyone with dignity, respect, and always put a smile on everyone’s face.

When papa would catch a fish, he would set the hook, and pass the real to me. I would fight the bass and real it up to the boat. Papa would always give me the glory, never claiming it as his fish. When we got back to the house he would tell Granny of the fish I caught and give me all the bragging rights. This is how he approached many aspects of his life. He always worked for the good of others, never thinking of himself. He was a very caring person and got the most joy out of serving and making others happy.

Growing up, I would visit Granny and Papa for six to eight weeks each summer, which never seemed long enough. Fishing with my Poppy was always my favorite thing to do, and I eagerly looked forward to spending the summers with him. We spent numerous summers together out on Lake Oroville, searching for the “village idiot”, as Papa would call all the fish we eventually caught. For all the hours we spent on the water, we never had much to show for it at the end of the day. Well, that is what I thought at the time. However, I have come to realize I always came home with much more than a fish, if we even had one. Those hours on the lake gave me what matters most in life. I may have not come home with a fish, but I always came home with a stronger relationship with this amazing person. I loved going out on the water and talking with Papa. Even when we would just fish and not talk, it was rewarding just being in his presence.

Papa was a very important and influential man in my life and in the community. Because of the strong relationship we built and the many hours we spent on Lake Oroville, my poppy became my best friend. He is my hero, he taught me many of my values, and helped me become who I am today. He was a man full of wisdom, love, comic relief, and selflessness. He always put others before himself and had a heart for making a difference and serving others. He was a man of honor, one who fought for his country, and served his neighbor. He taught me how to make a difference and show people they are important and appreciated. Every Wednesday he took a Pepsi out to his garbage man. How many of us think of showing respect and gratitude to the man that picks up our garbage? He brought the newspaper to the front door of his elderly neighbor. Once emptied, he would wheel neighbors’ garbage cans up their driveways and return them to their rightful places. He would hold the doors open for people (something he never forgot to do even with Alzheimer’s), greet people he didn’t know with a smile and “Hey, Guy” or “Hey, Partner”, and make everyone he’d meet smile. He had a positive and personal impact on anyone he met. It’s people like this that make our nation strong and great.

As I grew older, our friendship continued to grow as well. He worried about loosing his “fishin’ buddy” to boys or rebellious teen years, but our ties were too strong. It was so strong, in fact, that after the Alzheimer’s had progressed and had stolen the names and faces of loved ones from his memory, he knew me.

Knowing his condition and wanting to support my mother and grandma through this difficult time, I left Colorado and spent two months in Oroville in the summer of 2005. I admit I was frightened to know his reaction when he would see me. My family prepared me for the worst, which was that he may not recognize who I am. When I arrived at the house he shot out of his chair and with a smile he exclaimed, “Well, there’s my buddy!” I was so grateful and excited he knew me. He knew me! He may have not called me by my name, but I saw in his face and heard in his voice he knew who he was addressing.

He had not wanted to leave the house much before I got there, except to go buy M&M candies at Wal-Mart when his candy jar ran empty. He was in rehabilitation from heart surgery and disliked people making him walk the block. However, the first day I got there we drove up to the dam, a tradition of ours when I came to visit, and we looked out at the water level, talking and joking about all the fish we never catch. We talked a while and got out and walked close to the water. After, as I was driving back, he motioned that we should go swing by the visitor center, also a tradition of ours. While at the visitor center, he attempted to climb the steps of the tower, overlooking the view of Lake Oroville. He reached the third floor and decided he was done, but the amazing part is he remembered our traditions and initiated all the events of the day.

Those two months were very difficult, but I was thankful I had the opportunity to be there for him and my family. I was there to talk to him and was able to comfort him when he thought he was going crazy and was broken down in tears. One day he looked out the window and seemed very concerned. I asked what was wrong, and he replied, “Those bears in my car!” Instead of insisting that there were no bears in his car, I peeked through the window with him and bravely said, “Don’t worry Papa, I’ll take care of those bears!” I walked outside opened and closed all the doors to the car and returned to the house. “Well Papa, I showed them; they won’t be in your car anymore.” “Well how bout that!” he sighed.

God gave me the strength to comfort him when he would cry and I could joke with him, as he always enjoyed a good joke. All his life he was cracking a joke or wise comment. My favorite growing up was when a bug hit the windshield he would say, “Whelp, I bet he won’t have the guts to do that again!”

When the time came for me to head back to Colorado, my papa gave me one of the biggest hugs he has ever given me and tears swelled up in his eyes. It was the hardest good-bye, as I was not sure what was to happen the next time I saw him. I traveled back to Colorado the middle of August, 2005.

William Hollis Killingsworth was a great man, an honest and loving man. All who knew Papa loved and respected him. I have learned many lessons by the way he lived his life. He had a positive impact on all who knew him. I miss him immensely, but I am grateful for the many memories we share. He passed away later in October, but in the end, he still remembered his fishing buddy.


Kim and Brian said...

Oh Kris! What a wonderful tribute! It's so true, Papa was such a wonderful man-one we should model ourselves after. It's so easy for me to forget that, but you live it everyday. I get frustrated with Brian when he does nice things, but in reading this, I should cherish it, because there are not many people left as gentlemanly as Papa was. We are so fortunate to have known him. I think of Papa and Gran all the time, wishing out daughters would have known them. Through your wonderful memory, they'll have the stories of them, and that's so special. He was a true model human, and it's such a tragedy that he's gone.

papa's apples said...

I love it when I hear or read something about your papa, and of course as I read this story again it brings tears to my eyes and happiness in my heart. I miss him and his humor everyday. Thanks for sharing this story once again...I love it!!!