The Stories We Leave Behind

I hope the producers of NCIS don’t mind that I am using the title from one of their recent episodes. But it’s just too perfect not to use in this instance.

You see, I recently lost my dad. And he was all about stories. But you know, it’s kind of sad when you think about it, because one day, there will be no one to tell those stories. We become just a name on a headstone. I think of that when we visit the cemetery. What were all of these people like? What impact did they leave on the world? How will I ever know?

People talk about leaving a legacy. I think my dad thought his legacy was leaving us money. That’s fine, but sometimes I think he didn’t spend money when he should have. Maybe that’s just his generation because Tim’s mom was the same.

But a legacy is much more than that. It’s the people you’ve touched, some without even knowing it. I think my dad left a wonderful legacy. People all over will be telling the best stories about him.

He had his own stories that we heard over and over again, but we always laughed. From my experience, parents and grandparents need to talk to the kids about their lives. They want to know what you were like as a kid. What stupid things did you do? Who were your friends? I know a lot about my dad’s life before me, but I’m sure there is plenty I don’t know.

My goal with this post is to share my stories about my dad. The things that will always remain in my heart. These aren’t the kinds of things you can put in an obituary (although some people try!!). These are what defined our relationship and always will. These stories will live on until I can no longer tell them.

My stories

I grew up hearing how much I looked and acted like my dad. Sometimes it was said when my mom was teasing me, but I never felt bad about it. I loved that I shared that with my dad.

When my dad was in the Army. I was between 1 and 2 years old.

He and I were usually the first ones out of bed on a Saturday morning, and one of those mornings he gave me donuts for breakfast. No big deal. But when my mom got up and looked at the remaining donuts, she said they were moldy!! I never held that against him. And I survived.

My dad was very competitive. He played basketball, football, and baseball in high school, college, and even in the Army. He loved to talk about all the times he got hurt. Either when he had to be carried off the football field, or the one about Dean Smith breaking his finger when they played Kansas.

This competitiveness extended beyond organized sports. One of the greatest family stories is when he made a bet that he could beat his nephew (my cousin) in a foot race. I will never tell it as well as the others, but in a nutshell, they ran up and back on the sidewalk in front of our house. My dad was running so hard, he tore his socks to shreds and went sprawling on the sidewalk. Why he was running in socks I’ll never know. Anyway, he would always take on a challenge.

My dad always liked the girls and they liked him. When I was in sixth grade, I had a Halloween party. This was during the height of the Addams Family TV show. To add to the party atmosphere, he would answer the door and say, “You Rang?”. A friend of mine never forgot that and to this day, she calls him Lurch.

He tried to help me throw a softball far enough to qualify for the President’s Physical Fitness award, Sadly, I scored high in all other events, but could not throw a softball. I never did get the award.

He tried to teach my mom how to cast a fishing line. They were in our front yard. He was sitting on the front porch and she let it fly. It had a lead weight on the end and it came back and hit him right between the eyes. And of course, she laughed. We were always a family that laughed first when someone got hurt. Fortunately, this became a funny story and not something tragic.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I was asked to present the homecoming crown to the queen at halftime of the football game. I was pretty nervous about it because I was self-conscious about being tall and very skinny. I’ll never forget what he said: stand up straight and be proud of your height. I still think about that.

He taught me how to drive. Once I got my permit, he would take me out to a large empty parking lot and have me drive around it, to get used to the car and how it worked before I ever got on the road. He did let me drive home from there and I remember him saying he was a little nervous because I drove so close to the right side of the road!! It’s funny, but not long before he died, he asked me if I remembered all that.

He had to tell me we were moving, leaving the only home I’d known and all my friends. He didn’t want to leave any more than I did, but he felt he had to for the sake of his career. My mom and sister seemed happy to move but my dad and I always felt sad about it.

At our house right before we moved

He loved to hunt and fish. Every fall there would be pheasants and quail soaking in our kitchen sink and deer hanging in the garage. In the spring, he’d get ready for his annual fishing trip to Canada.

A deer hanging in our garage

He didn’t have a boat, but he had a motor. I guess someone else had the boat. A few weeks before the trip, he’d fill up a metal garbage can with water and hook up the motor to make sure everything was OK. What a funny sight, seeing a man in his driveway running a boat motor in a garbage can!!

He helped me get my first car the summer after my college graduation. He found a good deal on a used car with very few miles and he helped me make the down payment since I’d only been working for a couple of months and had no money.

Before heading back to college in Iowa City

He was famous for shedding blood whenever he did a job, especially wallpapering. We knew we had to have plenty of bandaids on hand. He’d either cut himself with the razor blade or fall through the back of the chair he stood on and scrape his shins. You’d think an athlete could handle something like that!!

Later in life, one time he was all scraped up and I asked how he did it. He confessed that he realized he couldn’t put his shorts on anymore without sitting down. In other words, he had fallen while getting dressed!! I think about that a lot these days, as I struggle with some of the same things.

We have all kinds of funny stories that won’t mean anything outside of our family. Doesn’t every family? I’m sure those stories will surface at family gatherings for years to come.

During our family trip to the Ozarks for my mom and dad’s 50th anniversary

My dad was the guy who knew someone wherever he went no matter how far away from home he was. He thrived when his barbershop quartet toured the country, singing at various barbershop shows.

The Jurassic Larks

I spent so much time with him or talking to him during the last four years. We weren’t a family that talked every day before that, but it became a part of my daily schedule. As he became more isolated, it grew harder and harder to find things to talk about. Maybe that’s just me since I’m not a big talker. But I was there if he needed anything.

During the last six months, I was there four afternoons a week, and he got me started on a sports talk show – First Things First. After a while, I don’t know if he cared but I looked forward to hearing what these guys had to say. I learned a lot about the NFL!! Thanks Dad!!

I don’t want to remember him based on the last four years. I want him to always have a young face, agile legs, and no confusion. I want to remember him as fearless and my protector, not the other way around. There are stories from this time, but they won’t be the ones I tell. Well, maybe the suckers. Or the hearing aid stories. I guess there will be stories after all!!

The last picture of my sister and me with my dad – November 2023

I wasn’t here when he died. Everything happened so fast. I’m grateful that he didn’t have pain at the end and he went quickly. He was ready to get to heaven.

The last time I saw him was about eleven days before he died. Uncharacteristically, I said “love you” as I left his room. I’ll always be grateful those were the last words I said to him. God must have known I needed to say it then. It’s a good final story.

16 thoughts on “The Stories We Leave Behind”

  1. I loved reading all your stories, Linda. And the photos to go along with add great visuals! My mom passed away 22 years ago (wow hard to believe it’s been so long). Some years after, one of my siblings started a “memories of mom” email, jotting down various thoughts and inviting the other 5 of us to share. I love reading that back now evoking thoughts and reminders of so many stories and memories.
    “We live as long as we are remembered.”

    1. We really need to write more things down. That would definitely help with our legacies. I’ve been going through boxes with stuff I’ve saved over the years and have been surprised by so many things I had forgotten about. We think we’ll remember all of these things but then we don’t. So you and your sibs have done a good thing. You’ll cherish those stories forever. Thanks Carrie.

  2. I met Barney at your mom’s funeral and while he didn’t know me, I took that opportunity to approach him at the reception and shook his hand. I let him know that you were my “boss” (leader) at one point in my career and told him that “Linda is one of my mentors”. He smiled; proud of his daughter. Loving to talk, he immediately reminisced and found something humorous to say in that short time. His character immediately reminded me of my Dad who (lived in Ankeny and) passed in 2014, at the age of 93.
    We are so fortunate to have truly good men as our fathers. For our parent’s 80th birthdays, each sibling wrote our childhood memories (one letter to Mom and one to Dad, 2 years apart, with all 6 letters combined into a binder as their birthday gift. It somewhat captured their legacy and those memories are nice to read every once in a while. May Barney rest in peace. May you forever cherish memories of time spent with him. Virtual Hug.

    1. Thanks Val. My dad definitely liked to joke around. We did something similar to what you did. For my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, we made a scrapbook that included a page for each of us (me, my sister and three granddaughters) to write something to them. I have that scrapbook now and I love looking through it. It’s about 4” thick!! Some stories will live on through that scrapbook. Hug back. ❤️

  3. Thank you for sharing this Linda! Twenty-two years without my dad, but we keep him with us always through sharing stories of his crazy escapades! I always remember that your dad (and your mom!) were so friendly to all of us “Karbula kids”, even when it had been years since they had seen us. You had wonderful parents!

  4. Thank-you for sharing those stories Linda. Since my parents have died I’ve found it’s so important to talk about them and to keep our family memories alive. My youngest nephew doesn’t even remember them, so my sisters and I try to be sure reminisce and keep many of their holiday traditions going too.

    1. Fortunately, my nieces had a lot of time with both my parents. They have their own stories, which I love. Just the other day, I thought about something I would have asked my dad. I had somewhat stopped asking him about things, because I wasn’t sure what he would remember. But he surprised me a lot, especially when he brought up something out of the blue. And someday we can tell Sophie how he would light up when he talked about her. I think whether we realize it or not, we’ll keep them alive simply by how we live and the ways we do things. There are so many things I do because of what I was taught. Thanks Linda.

  5. We all loved Barney! I can hear his laugh and his beautiful voice. I remember him coming to the farm and packing for the fishing trip. Barney and Don would break out in song, excited as two young Boy Scouts going camping!
    You are right Linda, when a family member dies, a lot of history dies with them. I think of all the unanswered questions my sisters and I think of now.
    Treasure your stories and tell them often! Love you!

    1. Thanks An’Nyce. I’m sure these stories and many more will come up as the years go by. At least I hope so. I just hate the thought of someone not knowing he lived and made a difference in this world. I love hearing everyone’s stories about him. ♥♥♥

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