So it has taken me all week to be brave enough to post again about my father's passing. In preparation for sharing at his memorial service I wrote out what I wanted to say so that in case I could not do it on my own - someone else could read it for me. Thankfully between Dad & Jesus, I had the courage to make it through, even speaking off the page at times. I am proud of my brother as well for being able to speak & share so beautifully about my dad!
For those who were not there here is what I said...
I think a lot of times when someone passes away we are encouraged to think about the “big” moments of life and those memories and while I do have many of those that I am thankful for with my dad, the “small” moments are sticking with me now. Lets face it, our lives are full of a lot more “small” moments than big ones. What we do everyday shapes our families and lives. I have been thinking a lot about what it meant to have Mark as my dad. What it meant most of the time was that my brother and I were lucky enough to have a very present father, who was always around and part of our everyday lives. Just as much as I will remember him walking me down the aisle and dancing with me at my wedding – I will remember him walking through his vegetable garden with a cup of coffee in his hand or seeing him after school at the hardware store. He taught us strong values of work ethic and responsibility. He was even ingenious when teaching us the value of money with our allowance – we got charged for our irresponsibilities like forgetting something we needed or not doing a job right.
We were joking that as much of a hot-head as dad could be at times, it seemed he had an extra “dad patience” when teaching my brother and I things, like using tools or riding bikes. He didn’t just want you to learn stuff either, he wanted you to inherit his passion for the subject…whatever it might be. He was definitely a work hard, play hard type guy. I was a little bit of a family let down when I informed him that I would be the first Frey not to drive a manual transmission vehicle, I claimed that we needed diversity. He laughed and thought I was lame but honored my wishes. He was very proud later when I started dating Matt because thank goodness he drove a Jeep and it was manual – the mark of a man. Driving and cars were always a big deal with dad. His driving was usually fast but he had two specific driving rules that we were to abide by that I still try to stick to - 1. Don’t scratch your truck and 2. Aim for Daylight - these are still good rules to live by :)
That was something great about him, certainly no one could deny his passion for life. He was definitely always willing to try something at least once. I think of a time after a snowstorm that we were with my uncle & cousins and decided that my uncles little fishing boat would be the perfect “sled” to ride down a hill and into the frozen lake…we coined that adventure “snow boating” – why not?! I remember him turning an old non-working riding mower into more of a little tractor to pull a trailer and taking all the kids in the neighborhood on a hayride. Or him stashing fireworks on the way home from a business trip in order to give the neighborhood a good show on fourth of July. Or the annual trek to choose the family Christmas tree out on a tree farm somewhere.. I think of him in his fleece lined jean jacket with his cowboy hat and orange saw….cigarette hanging out of his mouth and potentially a swear word or two was heard before the final cut of the tree.
Many great memories were made when we had mountain land in PA where we would regularly sit around a fire and camp….he taught us there to be entertained by simple things & to always enjoy nature. That was a place where we learned to mountain bike, canoe, hunt for things and he would even do things like whip up a sweet berry sauce for pancakes if we picked the berries. I have a huge love for the outdoors and “fresh air” as they say and I know it comes from spending so much time with dad – most of my memories of him are outside! Our yard was like an extension of his living room because he was always working on something. If not a wood working or house project or a car or something with my brother…he always had something going.
I don’t know how others spent their 21st birthday but mine was a snow day – I spent it going to the DMV for that new license then heading to the shooting range to burn up some ammo with Dad – then we got lunch at stanley’s tavern where I had my obligatory alcoholic beverage. Some might find this odd but it stands out to me as a perfect way to celebrate with Dad. He was very proud of the natural shot I was and loved to take me – I even took the target home to my college roommates & hung it on the fridge – they needed to know I had accuracy :)
I also think of a day when I was in college, it was 7am and I was driving to my job at a local gym in Newark. I hit a bumpy patch in the road and then all of a sudden it sounded like I had a flowmaster on my truck…. I got to work & called dad to tell him what happened. His response was “girl, I raised you, get under that truck and see, your muffler probably just needs reattaching” – he was right - it had split right at the catalytic converter. I walked next door to the gym where there was a dry cleaner, politely asked for wire hanger – then proceeded to go back outside in the parking lot and magiver my muffler back together with the wire hanger – Dad stayed on the cell with me and I got it temporarily fixed enough to drive around and not sound like an indy car. And yes for the record, I do know what a lot of car terms are because of him.
I think the character traits that stand out is an honesty and loyalty – he was about as unpretentious as a man can get. He was always willing to help, was extremely loyal and sometimes brutally honest but you never had to question where he stood on a subject - Even if it was just through his bumper stickers :)
My brother and I were recently talking with Dad about a picture of him sitting on a donkey from when he was a kid …he then remarked “yeah, I have been dealing with Jackasses ever since”…he never lost his sense of humor even though life had gotten increasingly tough on him struggling with illness. Even just the other day at his house I saw & was reminded – he had an orange tag that looked like a hunting license that was made out to be an “official osama bin laden” hunting license. I am glad he was here long enough to see Osama gone!
Even in the more recent tough times, he still made efforts to be with family. He couldn’t get up and run with the grandkids but he would put them on his lap when he could and definitely would slip them things from his oreo stash (Dean knew where it was :) The last time I really got to spend with dad was a couple weeks ago celebrating his birthday – he was at the head of the table at Grandma’s house – I knew it took him such strength to even get there but I saw him giggling at the kids when Dean would fake burp and other such fine things we are teaching them. I am thankful to have had him for a father and thankful that he breathed his last few breaths with all of us by his side.
Here are some things that come when thinking about my dad… pretty quintessential american:
- · Levis – dark straight wash
- · Cowboy boots
- · Ray ban aviators
- · A big bowl of ice cream
- · A brown bronco – bought the same one twice
- · Guns, smith & wesson
- · Family
- · Tools & hardware
- · all things Ford
- · sweet smell of sawdust
- · classic rock, usually loud
- · working hard, sweat on the brow
- · old western movies and shows
- · good cooking (tex mex & chili)
- · gardener – master tomato grower
- · black coffee
- · Becks Beer in green bottle
- · Camel Cigarettes
- · BF Goodrich All Terrains
- · Long hair for most of my life
- · Eric Clapton
- · Riding bikes
- · Him teaching me stuff like how to check the oil or shoot a gun
- · Dallas Cowboys
- · Fanny pack – no its not cool, but when you’re packing heat no one questions it
- · Nascar Races
- · Flannel & western shirts
- · deep gravely voice
- · handwriting in all caps, kinda’ matched his voice
- · ability to fix everything!
- · I remember when he hated cell phones, he came a long way to even learning to text with me
- · Good socks, a life essential & annual Christmas joke
- · Driving go-karts
- · Long stride, hard to keep up with as a kid
- · Good sense of humor
- · Importance of self-sufficiency
- · Love America, question authority (government)
- · All his little sayings that I will forever hear in the back of my head
- "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!"
- · “not on my shift”
- · “gas is on the right”
- · “don’t’ sweat the small stuff”
This picture is from the summer of 2007 when Dad was still well & very much himself, great memory!