Some Day When We Meet Up Yonder

So I lost my dad last month.

Richard Lee Tipton passed away at 7:20 p.m. on February 5, 2023. He was 88 years old.

The details don’t really matter much in the end. It was a mercifully brief illness, and he was at peace and resting comfortably when the time came. I don’t want to dwell on how things ended, though. Not when there’s so much to say about a remarkable man.

In the twilight glow I see them

Blue eyes crying in the rain

When we kissed goodbye and parted

I knew we’d never meet again

My dad, born and raised in a tiny little town by loving but somewhat distant parents, was the definition of a self-made man. A true autodidact, when he decided it was time to expand the family home, he went to the library and taught himself carpentry, plumbing and electrical engineering so he could do all the work himself. He studied experimental educational theory and taught both my brother and me to read at a very early age, well before starting school. When he used to tell me “You can do anything you want if you put your mind to it,” I knew he meant it, because he had lived it.

Education and reading meant the world to him, even though he only had a high-school education himself. My entire childhood, we practically lived at the library, and it was drummed into both me and my brother from as far back as I can remember that we’d be going to college. My love of comic books can be traced right back to my dad, who used to re-sell his own comic books outside his dad’s restaurant to the servicemen heading off to the war.

But as smart as he was, my dad was tough. Twenty years he worked as a truck driver, heaving crates of heavy glass bottles off and on the trailer of a Pepsi-Cola truck. He hated that job every day he did it, but the money was good and it let him take care of his family. When the Pepsi job came to an unexpected end, he worked another seven or eight years at the Naval Weapons Station, loading and unloading missiles and bombs onto military ships. One day someone didn’t properly secure a ladder up top, and my dad found himself sailing backwards three stories down into the ship’s hold. He kicked away the ladder and spun in midair so as not to land on his head. Witnesses said he bounced when he hit the deck. Bruised head to toe, but he didn’t break a bone. My dad was tough. When he was back to work six weeks later, people said to him, “Wow. No one else has ever come back from a fall like that.” But my dad did, because that’s what a man does. He had a wife and kids to take care of.

Love is like a dying ember

And only memories remain

And through the ages I’ll remember

Blue eyes crying in the rain

Oh, did he love my mother. Married 48 years. When my mom got sick with the cancer, it was my dad who was there nursing her through the chemo and the radiation, all the way to a full remission. And then when the bastard cancer came back, he did it all again.

He never recovered from the loss of my mom, not really. He enjoyed his retirement, enjoyed living in the house he’d built, enjoyed reading the comics and books I’d send him, enjoyed the daily Westerns and Star Trek on his giant TV. But there was never any thought of remarrying, or even trying to meet someone new. He’d say the same thing every time: “Who could compare to your momma?”

Some day when we meet up yonder

We’ll stroll hand in hand again

In a land that knows no parting

Blue eyes crying in the rain

My dad was never a spiritual man, and after my mother’s death, even less so. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a believer. He believed in the things that mattered. He believed in his friends. He believed in me and my brother. He believed in his wife. That was enough.

And I guess it’s going to have to be enough for me, too. I believed in my dad. And he never let me down.


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