Friday, January 01, 2016

My dad

Thank you everyone for your prayers and condolences. It has been a rotten week and I have felt in a fog for most of it. I have piles of stuff that I need to pack and spend a lot of time moving it around from place to place. I hope I don't forget something terribly important when we leave for China.

I want to share a little about my father with you. He was a great man and a great dad and I want others to know a bit about him.

James Fredrick Riggins, sometimes called Bucky and sometimes called Jim, depending on who it was and the circumstances, lived all his life in Arizona. His first career was as a first grade and kindergarten teacher and his second career was as a pastor. After he took early retirement, he entered seminary and earned his Masters of Divinity and was ordained. He loved to learn, was interested in many things, and could talk to anyone, anywhere.

Some of my first memories are of sitting on his lap in the late afternoon while he graded school papers. I believed that I was helping him and would look carefully at each page and help him find the errors. Everyone tells me that this is actually how I learned to read (at age 4), though I have no memory of not being able to read. In many ways, Mr. Rogers on television always reminded me very much of my father... calm, quiet, caring... and always willing to take children very seriously.

He loved to tell stories about living in (then) very rural Scottsdale and of helping his father to build the adobe house that he grew up in. They had farm animals and my father was very active in 4-H, raising pigs. He loved all things farm and was particularly pleased at my love of horses and my horseback riding. I think one of his great regrets in life was that our suburban existence never allowed him to buy me the horse I perpetually dreamed about.

My father always was so interested in everything I was doing. He became the high school band parent extraordinaire when I was in high school marching band. We swapped seminary stories when he was in seminary (and after I had graduated). We both adored mysteries and would discuss books and series and authors. He loved old houses and was particularly enamored of this one. After we first moved in he became convinced that there must be a secret panel or door somewhere and methodically tested every single bit of paneling in the place. We were all disappointed when no secret door was revealed... him most of all.

He was thrilled beyond measure and also slightly bemused at the number of grandchildren he had. With my parents both being only children and having only two children themselves, small families were what everyone was used to. He would often comment to me, while looking around at his energetic bunch of grandchildren, "Who would have thought I would have so many?" It pleased him greatly. His grandchildren pleased him so much that he would become annoyed at those who would say it was wrong to have so many children. The birthday gift I made for his birthday last November was a tote bag he could use to carry books and papers which had photos of his 15 grandchildren on one side and the sentence, "Ask me about my 15 grandchildren," on the other. I'm just sorry he didn't live long enough to use it at the conferences where he knew it would yank a few chains. He was looking forward to it.

My father always knew all of my friends and my friends all knew my father. He was about as involved as a parent could be. I will admit in high school there were moments of this being extremely trying, but even then, I knew it was done out of love.

I will miss him. I hate that I don't get to introduce his two newest granddaughters to him. I hate that they won't know him. I wasn't ready to say good-bye.

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