I’m finally ready to tell you about my dad, Lee Smyres. He was 65 when he died, but everyone said he looked 10 years younger. He grew up on a farm in Kansas. Even though he was a practicing CPA, he was on the farm at heart.
He was loving and kind. He always saw the good in people, often to the point of not seeing anyone’s faults. He was always ready to help anyone. He’d give the shirt off his back, and then some, to anyone. I know people tend to exaggerate this sort of thing when someone dies. In his case it’s true.
He wore glasses like the ones in this picture my entire life; up until a few years ago when his optician couldn’t replace the frames.
He loved sweets. Candy, cookies, cake — it didn’t matter. He often had chocolate in the corners of his mouth. One year he ate a five pound box of candy between Christmas and New Year’s. Really.
When I cooked or baked, he cleaned up the kitchen. If I burned the cookies (which was often), he’d patiently stand at the sink, scraping the black off the bottom of every cookie. I’m sure it was as much about making me feel better as it was about eating the cookie.
He worked hard. Hart’s and my first house in Phoenix was built on the road of old farmland. My dad came over with a pick axe and broke up the hard soil. He was 57 at the time. That’s just one example of many, though. He was always at work on many projects simultaneously.
He was devoted to his church, serving on countless committees, volunteering for whatever needed to be done, cooking huge meals along with my mom, singing in the choir. If he wasn’t at home or work, he was doing at the church.
He loved to watch sports. He’d sit in the corner of the L-shaped sofa. His legs stretched out on one end and a pile of newspapers on the other side. He was so laid back that my sister’s friends thought he was on drugs.
He was always forgetting things, often driving away with his coffee cup or cell phone on his truck’s bumper.
My parents taught the three-year-old Sunday School class for almost 20 years. He spent many Saturday nights in front of the TV, cutting out parts of craft projects.
He loved to exercise. When I was young, his obsession was the NordicTrack. The Bowflex was the miracle exercise machine for about the last 10 years. He thought the Bowflex could do anything. All spring, he talked about getting back on the Bowflex, knowing he would feel better if he could just build up his muscles again.
He was proud of me and thought I could do anything. He got it in his head that I was going to write a book. When I was with him at the hospital in July, he asked several times how my book was coming. (I’m now starting to work on a novel.)
I miss him. It hurts more than I can possibly describe. But as far as grief goes, I have it pretty good. After he started getting sick two years ago, I’d sit next to him on the couch when I’d visit. He’d put his arm around me and tell me how much he loved me.
I’m the only person who could out-stubborn him and we butted heads a lot. But I know he forgave me for anything I’ve done to hurt him. I got to spend a lot of time with him in the last couple years and we laughed much of that time. I don’t have to wrestle with regret or what ifs. I just have to learn to live without him.
When he got out of the hospital he wanted three things. To volunteer at the church, sing in the choir again, and get a new truck. He only wanted more of what he already had. What a beautiful testament to how he lived his life.