I was a tomboy because I wanted to be just like my daddy.
He was strong and brave, noble and adventurous. It was from him that I learned not to cry, even if something hurts. Soldiers don’t cry. Firemen don’t cry. Mountain-men don’t cry. Heroic Confederate generals don’t cry. And neither did I. I trained myself to not let even a hint of pain or surprise show when I bumped my shins on a sharp corner. It wasn’t because he taught me to do that, I just wanted to be as strong as I thought he was.
I learned from watching him that the only thing more disgraceful than a city slicker was to be a picky eater. (It wasn’t until years later that I learned he actually was a picky eater!)
He revealed to a blond haired toddler the beauty of thunderstorms. I have never been afraid of lightening and thunder. Not when my daddy said it was the voice of God. He is responsible for the vivid painting in my mind of God reaching into a pirate-style chest and scattering His treasures of snow and ice around the world.
My dad showed me the beauty of God and His ways. I remember him laying on the couch, early of a Sunday morning, looking up at the sunrise. “It was just a morning like this when our Savior rose from the grave. Look at those rejoicing colors!”
Christmas time was special. I clearly remember the first CD player he brought home (to the consternation of mom, I don’t believe we could actually afford it) For a long while the only two CD’s we owned were Handel’s Messiah and Time Life’s Collection of Christmas Classics. Eventually The Nutcracker Suite was added. On the first cold snap a fire would be lit, chili eaten with gusto and we would sit together and listen to the Christmas classics while dad worked on painting his ceramic Christmas village. He also made a yearly event of reading John Blanchard’s book: Immanuel, God With Us. No one could take history and Scripture and weave them with such fascinating insight so as to make the Bible stories come alive like my dad. They weren’t stories, they were people.
His love of history, science, and literature rubbed off on me. If I wanted to know something about the Navy, Civil War (any war!) Reformation England, Gold Mining in the Yukon, New England Whaling Captains, Firemen, WW2 spies, Calisthenic exercise, the reptiles of Australia, Tornados or Why Texas Stinks, he was my go-to-guy.
It still takes my breath away. I don’t know what happened. We lost him. Long before he died, we lost him. For a long time I felt that he left us on his own. And I was angry. Now I see that he lost himself and could never find his way back, even though he desperately wanted to. I don’t understand why God found it necessary to take everything away from him, from us. Why he had to be so completely destroyed. I know that if it could have been done any other way, God would have done it. Whatever He does must by definition be best. If it wasn’t best, He would not be God. This too, I learned from my father.
It’s been seven years this week. I miss him so much. I miss what was and what could have been. I miss his humor, his outlook, his Christmas village. I wish he could have enjoyed being a grandfather. I wish he could have seen his youngest son honored for his service in the Oklahoma National Guard. His oldest son return home safely from two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. I wish he could have kissed his youngest daughter on her wedding day. Or been side by side with his third son as he dug through the rubble of Plaza Towers Elementary. My second brother proposed to his future wife in way that would have made dad proud. Christmas time, a park full of lights and a light encrusted bridge over a pond with Christmas songs in the background. The moment she said “Yes!” snowflakes started to fall, as if on cue. Maybe he was there after all…
In memory of Jo-El Kimball October 28th 1958 - December 14th, 2006