Whoever Spills Walks Home

My father, Richard “Dick” Fry, passed away last Thursday from pancreatic cancer. He was 81.
He is survived by myself, my brother Cory and sisters Linda and Susan.
The cancer hit him suddenly. He was only in the hospital for a week. Dad was not one for doctors, not having seen one in fifty years. This probably both prolonged his life and ended it quickly.
His attitude toward doctors was a subset of his attitude toward life. He was stubborn, passionate and self-reliant. He was also encouraging, good-humored and had an unhealthy obsession with Frank Sinatra.
My father and I had a difficult relationship. Although he was an atheist, he found religion in Ayn Rand and Objectivism. When I was younger I shared his interest in Rand. But as I grew older, I found her views simplistic,constrictive and frankly, wrong. This did not go over well with him and led to a sort of political estrangement. He was the true believer and I was the heretic. In other words, my Dad and I were tribal before tribalism was cool.
We were eventually able to get past our differences and form a sort of detente. We would talk around current events. We’d stick to sports, his grandkids and, you know, Frank. Despite our differences he was always supportive and proud of my writing and cartooning. He never said, “Cut your hair and get a real job.”
Dad was loved. Loved by me, my siblings and his longtime companion, Lyn. He made a difference in this world. He made a difference with me. Much to his own chagrin, he taught me to think critically. He cared passionately about trying to figure out this world. I think he got it wrong, but he tried. He made the effort. And I will always respect him for that.
My favorite memory of Dad was one time when we played golf. I used to be a good golfer (seven handicap) until I realized I had a problem (a golf problem) and had to quit. That particular day I was playing exceptionally well. I was two under at the turn.  My lowest nine hold score ever and I was playing with my Dad. Which was weird, because I always wanted to do well when I played with him and had always failed.  So I birded the 12th hole. Now I’m three under and on my way to beat my best score by six strokes. It started to rain. Hard. No way I was quitting. Dad hung in there with me. I bogeyed 13. Three putted. 14 is a water hole. It’s start raining harder. I hit it in the drink. I’m starting to panic. Dad stays quiet. I double bogey 14.  Now I’m even. 15 is a short par 5.  Easy par.  But the rain continues. I hit a good drive. Feeling better. Then I slice my second into the woods. Miraculously, I find the ball.  Dad has picked up at this time and is sitting in the cart. I double bogey 14. The miracle round is over. I know it. He knows it. The rain knows it. Fucking rain. Dad smiled. He nodded. “You played well. You’ll play well again.” I don’t remember the last three holes. It didn’t matter. Dad thought I’d played well.
One more thing. When we were kids my Dad would take us all for ice cream at Baskin Robbins. Which is to say he went for ice cream and we were allowed to come along. But there was one rule: Whoever spills walks home. You won’t be surprised to hear that no one ever walked home.
But then again, no one ever spilled.
Good-bye Dad. I’m going to miss you.


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6 responses to “Whoever Spills Walks Home

  1. Elaine

    you don’t need me to tell you how blessed you are, and I do mean ARE, you have wonderful memories. That said, my sympathies to you and yours

  2. Fran in Texas

    My condolences for your loss and my congratulations for your relationship. Having had at times a challenging relationship with my mom, as many do with parents, I was grateful to find friendship in her last years, and amazed now, several years after she passed, to find myself recalling fun times, and gaining new perspective.

  3. EmJay

    My condolences. May your father’s memory be a blessing.

  4. A wonderful remembrance! A life celebrated in all its complexity! I’m chuckling at the “never saw a doctor” because… my dad too.

    Funny how complicated humans are: I had a similar conflicted relationship with my mother, wondering if I’d ever find positive words to say at her memorial. But I did, because, among the conflicts are fabulous things they gave us to the best of their ability (in my case, books, lots of books, and my story resonated with a cousin, opening up an avenue of communication before unseen). We all do the best we can with the toolbox we have. Sometimes, we find more tools along the way, sometimes we’re stuck in the Stone Age.

    Without your dad, would Hammy even exist? Would you have ended up saying “Would you like power steering and a built in GPS with that?” Maybe part of his Purpose was that ability to teach his kids critical thinking. And thank the Powers of the Universe that he never said “get a real job” …

    Because…stories… sometimes we need stories more than food.

    Carry on!

  5. mike s

    My condolences and thanks to your father. without his influence and guidance you would not see the world the way you do. RJ and the kids would not be the same.

    Mike S.

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