A Long-Awaited Peace — by Mike Simpson

Nobody has, but if somebody asked me what sort of person my father was, I would say he was an incredibly bright achiever. Dave Simpson was the only one of the fourteen children in his family to attend and graduate from college. He was by nature a problem solver who had the ability to design large systems and make them work properly. These gifts were particularly well-suited for a guy who designed, built and supervised production lines and factories all over the country.

Dad was a “brooder,” a fellow who got into his inner world and stayed there while he thought. Once he began to obsess about something, he did not like to be interrupted. We lived close to the Riverside Drive-In in Norman, Oklahoma, when I was a child and our regular Wednesday night outing was a family trip to the movies ($1 per car!). More than once my parents, my sister and I would be sitting in our ’52 Chevy watching the show and Dad would get out and just start walking home. He was thinking something over and the movie was distracting him. I think his love of escaping into his inner self was part of the reason he most liked dark paintings, portraits, charcoals and other art that invited introspection. Accordingly, the music he most loved was instrumental.

As one of nine boys, Dad grew up competing and he naturally wanted to make a contest of life’s activities whenever possible. For that reason he loved golf, cards, chess, basketball and fishing. The minute we got to any fishing hole, Dad would immediately challenge you to his famous three way bet: “Okay, the first, the biggest and the most fish.” We were never betting for anything but bragging rights.

Dad was not a talker and was not eloquent—sort of strange considering he was an attorney. He spoke when necessary and sometimes not even then. We took long drives when I was a kid. Periodically, after three or four hours in the car, my sister or I would feel the need to use the restroom. We would announce this from the backseat. Dad would show no sign of having heard us at all. As we would pass through the little towns that dotted the countryside, we would hope Dad was going to stop and guess when and where that would be—but we dare not ask or we’d get an angry: “I heard you the first time!”

Hard as it is to believe, Dave Simpson was really a messy sort of guy. I remember driving out to my folks’ farm a few years ago and parking beside his old Honda Civic. The inside of his car was littered with junk: papers, tracts, empty drink cups, newspapers and assorted other flotsam. I thought, “If only my friends could see Dad’s car, then they’d understand my study!”

As he aged, my father changed and mellowed. He quit wanting to argue with me about the politics and religion, and quit trying to give life advice to his grandchildren. He found lots of joy in activities like caring for livestock, planting trees, gathering pecans and visiting with the people he loved. In the last few years, as his struggle with dementia worsened, when he struggled to express the depth of what he was thinking and feeling, Dad wept a lot. It seemed the emotions of a lifetime at last were irresistibly bubbling forth.

Last May I traveled to Oklahoma from North Carolina to help my mother put Dad in a nursing home. His needs had simply exceeded her ability to cope. My sister and I had grown concerned that she would destroy her health trying to keep Dad at home. Within a month, his health deteriorated to the point that we placed him under hospice care. The oversight and tender daily visits of my mother contributed to his living for almost exactly a year in care. Dad died on May 5. When the tears subsided, there was long-awaited peace for all of us.

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11 Comments

Filed under life, Mike Simpson

11 responses to “A Long-Awaited Peace — by Mike Simpson

  1. What a lovely post, Mike. Thank you for introducing us to your father. I am glad he and your family have found a measure of peace.

  2. A beautiful tribute to your father, Mike.

  3. Mike: many of your descriptions of your dad sound like mine. Like many of his generation, he was complex; but perhaps that’s not so generational as I think. I’ve been told many times I’m complex.

    A fine tribue to your dad. As I’ve said before, no words can assuage your grief; but perhaps you can find some solace in that others share it.

    Best wishes to you as you move forward in a world that has grown markedly colder for you.

  4. Sherrie Hansen

    Beautifully said, Mike. A wonderful tribute to your dad, and the loving way your family is knit together. My thoughts and prayers are with you all through this time of transition.

  5. dellanioakes

    Mike, I wish I’d had the opportunity to meet your dad. He sounds like he was a wonderful man.

  6. A marvelous thumb-nail portrait of a not always warm, but always interesting father, which is the best kind.

  7. What a lovely, moving post.

  8. Thank you, Mike, for sharing your reminiscences of your life with your father. He was such a complex person, but relatable. I know you miss him. My prayers go out to you and your family for a man who meant so much.

  9. Your wonderful tribute reminds me a bit of my dad, whom we lost when I was 13. A decorated WW II vet, he also seemed introverted and a little hard to read, but we always knew he loved his four sons. Thanks for sharing your dad’s story.

  10. Very touching, Mike and your stories paint a picture of your father that is easy to envision. My father was one of 13 children–7 boys and 6 girls. He was the only one of his brothers who went to high school.

    He joked that it was because of his size his parents decided he wouldn’t make a good farmer. But it was really his intellect that was the deciding factor. They skipped him past two grades.

    And at the age of 13 or 14, my grandparents got him an apartment in town where he stayed during the week so he could attend high school. It would have been too far from the farm to make the trip twice a day. He worked hard to put himself though college and law school.

    Unlike your dad, mine was very social. And a talker. And a laugher. When I worked for the county we had a man who was found passed out in a pig barn after committing a crime. I shared the story with my dad and told him the way they found out what the man had done was, “The pig squealed.” That was his kind of humor and he laughed so hard, I thought he was going to stroke out on me. My mother used to say, “If you see two people talking on the street, one will be your father.”

    My mother’s long bout with dementia was more like your father’s, and it is a blessing and a relief when they are no longer struggling. Peace.

  11. Sheila Englehart

    Lovely remembrance. Many blessings to you and you family.

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