Friday, June 5, 2009

Three Beautiful Things 06/04/09: Jack Robinson: RIP, Pat's Insurance, Vanilla? Bland? Go Away!

1. Jeff Robinson's dad, Jack, and my dad were lifelong friends. Jeff is the managing editor of the Ellensburg Daily Record. Today is the anniversary of his father's death in 1986. Inspired by what I wrote about my dad on the anniversary of his death, Jeff wrote a column for the Daily Record in memory of his dad. I'll post it at the bottom of this post.

2. I've arrived at a decision regarding what plan to buy for Patrick so he has health insurance.

3. Tillamook Old-Fashioned Vanilla Ice Cream: no syrup, no fruit, nothin'. Just ice cream, kind of soft and oh so satisfying.

Jeff Robinson's tribute to Jack Robinson:

It was 23 years ago today that my dad died.

Seems like only yesterday.

I wasn’t quite 21 when the world I knew changed forever.

Dad was 56 at the time and for much of my life we didn’t see eye-to-eye.

In his youth he was a drinker, a gambler and a barroom brawler and, still today, if you wander into the right bars in the panhandle of Idaho you might just know someone who remembers Jack Robinson.

Some remember how big a man he was. Six-foot-2 and broad shouldered with fists like anvils, he made an impression when he walked in the room, standing half a head taller than most of his peers.

Some remember his kindness, how he would do anything to help a friend in need.

Others remember his nearly all-consuming passion for fishing and how few could match his prowess on the north fork of Coeur d’Alene River.

My conflicted memories swirl about inside my head.

I was proud of my dad for being tough, except when his anger and aggression erupted at his children.

I was proud of my dad for his work ethic, which thankfully he passed on to all of his children.

But, too many times when he was alive I felt myself embarrassed by his fondness for the bar and his penchant for parking our bright red truck directly in front of it.

Kellogg, Idaho, in the 1970s was certainly a different time and place. It was a place with few comparisons, where the reality was often so outlandish that it’s almost unbelievable to those who didn’t experience it.

It was a tough place, a place where I spent fourth grade sporting either a fat lip, a bloody nose or both — every day. OK, maybe there were a couple days where I escaped unscathed, but there weren’t many — at least not that year.

If Kellogg was a harsh place when I was growing up, I can’t imagine what it was like in the ’30s and ’40s when my dad was coming of age. His mother died when he was just 5 and his father, who was 62 at the time of my grandmother’s death, wasn’t the nurturing type.

So at a young age my dad learned to adapt to survive. He learned to fight; by age 10, he was a smoker; and not long after that he started work — something he would continue to do until he died. As an adult he spent most of his working years as an underground miner.

He tried to make sure his children lived a better life than the one he’d led. He and my mother always made sure we had the basics — food, clothing and shelter — and Mom always made sure we had lots of love. I now know Dad loved us too. He just struggled to show it.

On the night before he died (he was killed in an accident while helping a friend) we stayed up late and visited. I’d been home for a quick break before leaving for my summer job in another town. We’d had some disagreements the year before, mostly as a result of me struggling to establish my independence while he grappled with letting me enter adulthood on my own terms.

Before we went to bed he told me two things he’d never told me before. He told me he was proud of me and he told me he loved me.

The next day, long before cell phones were common, when I was halfway across the state of Montana, my uncle was able to get a message to my brother and me that Dad had been in an accident and it didn’t look like he was going to make it.

We rushed back, racing across two states in time to see him in the hospital in Spokane.

We were there with Mom when we decided to remove him from life support. The accident left him without oxygen for too long. He was brain dead.

I went to his intensive care unit bed before they unplugged the machines keeping him alive.

“I love you,” I said. I wanted him to know. I wanted it to be the last thing I ever said to him.

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