(Dennis Rainey's Tribute to his Dad)
"Dad's home," I used to yell as the back door slammed shut.
Our small, two-story frame house would shudder when the back door slammed shut. The sound of the slamming door was especially loud when one man came through its threshold--my dad. I can recall, as a little boy, playing in my room and hearing that door send a series of quakes that rippled through the walls and rattled the windows. It was my dad's signature and signal that a day of work was completed and a man was now home.
I would yell, "Dad's home!" and then dash through the hall and kitchen to greet him with a well-deserved hug. I would then follow him like a little puppy to the wash room where he washed his callused, grimy hands like a "real man." Everything about him signaled he was a "real man" -- from the gritty Lava soap to the Vitalis hair tonic and Old Spice after shave.
My dad was a unique blend of no-nonsense and discipline with a subtle sense of humor. He was a quiet and private man. He was a man of few words, who didn't seem to need many words to get the job done. His countenance commanded respect. In fact, there were several boys who had a personality and discipline transformation when they graduated from the third grade Sunday school class to my dad's fourth grade class. Miraculously, discipline problems dried up along with dozens of paper spit wads. In the 12 months that followed, paper airplanes were grounded and eight boys sat up straight in their chairs dutifully listening to the lesson.
"Hook" Rainey they used to call him. The tall lefty got his nickname from his curve ball--a pitch so crooked it mystified batters. I got the feeling he was on his way to becoming a legend in his day--he even pitched a game against Dizzy Dean. Funny thing, but he never could remember the score of that memorable game! I used to accuse him of convenient amnesia!
I recall the easy chair that used to carry the shape of his exhausted form. It was as he was reading the evening paper that I usually planned my assault on him. I'm certain I nearly pestered him to death on more than one occasion while asking my weary dad to play catch. And play catch he did. Night after night, "Hook" taught me how to throw a curve, slider, and knuckle-ball. He used to claim you could count the stitches on his knuckle-ball--and when he threw that patented knuckler the entire front yard was filled with laughter--his and mine. I always loved to hear him laugh. Somehow it told me everything was secure.
When I was three or so, he went to Colorado hunting and "bagged" a fierce teddy bear. He staged the "action" on film and brought the fierce beast back to me. My kids now play with that worn-out 35-year-old black and white bear.
I watched him look after the needs of his mother--he used to visit his mom three or four times a week. He modeled what it meant to "honor one's parents."
From him I learned about integrity, trust, and how to be a man of my word. His example taught me the importance of perseverance, for he stuck with his job for nearly 45 years. He leaves me an indelible imprint of sinking roots down deep--and living with the same people with whom he did business.
When I was in high school, I won the magazine sales contest because I introduced myself as Hook Rainey's son. That was good enough for an instant sale for nearly 100 percent of my "customers." My dad had helped so many people that being his son gave me immeasurable credibility. (For a while I actually thought I was a great salesman!)
His reputation was untarnished in the community. His funeral was attended by nearly a third of the small, southwest Missouri community. He lived and did his work all within five miles of where he was born. One man was even able to say about my father, "In all my years I never heard a negative word about Hook Rainey."
He gave me imperishable memories instead of just things: Memories of little league baseball (he was coach); fishing trips where he netted my fish, so small they went through the holes in the net; and a "clipped" collection of all the baseball and basketball scores from my games, of which he never missed one. There are memories of watching him through the frosted window of our old pick-up truck delivering hams at Christmas. Memories of the feel of his whiskers when he wrestled with me on the floor of the living room, and memories of him whispering to me, an extroverted, impetuous boy, not to bother people while they work. And finally, memories of snuggling close to him as we watched the game of the week with Dizzy Dean as the announcer.
As an impressionable young boy, my radar caught more of his life than he ever knew. He was the model and hero I needed during some perilous teenage years--and you know what, he still is. He taught me the importance of hard work and completing a task. I learned about lasting commitment from him--I never feared my parents would divorce. My dad was absolutely committed to my mom. I felt secure and protected.
But most importantly he taught me about character. He did what was right, even when no one was looking. I never heard him talk about cheating on taxes--he paid them and didn't grumble. His integrity was impeccable. I never heard him lie and his eyes always demanded the same truth in return. The mental snapshot of his character still fuels and energizes my life today.
"Dad's home!" I can still hear the door slam and the house quake.
This morning as I write this, Dad truly is "home" -- in heaven. I look forward to seeing him again someday and saying thanks for the legacy he gave me. And mostly for being "my dad."
But right now, you'll have to pardon me, I miss him.
Dennis Rainey's tribute to his Mom
Bob Lepine's tribute to his Mom