We’ve been back on trail for 2.5 weeks which translates to 440 miles Now we’re getting off trail for a long weekend to go to Ohio where we’ll be celebrating the life of Rick Mathis, my father-in-law.
I have had many chances to reflect on the role Rick has played in my life as I’ve walked the miles these last couple weeks. I hope it doesn’t sound trite to say that Rick was a second father to me.
I have known Rick since my teens and can remember sharing experiences with him since then. We attended high school basketball games together to watch Tim play the drums during half-time and high school awards ceremonies. Rick visited me in Louisville, KY where I attended college and took me out to countless lunches and dinners with his family throughout my college years.
I spent many hours at the Mathis’ home during breaks from college. Once when Tim and I were just arriving back home to OH from college in KY we sat in the car in the Mathis’ driveway for a few delayed kisses. I guess they were too delayed because Rick opened up the window and calmly said, “Guys, get in here.” Yes, I was embarrassed.
I will always remember playing my best April Fools Day joke on Rick and Jan when we drove from college in KY to their home in Camden, OH. Instead of going directly to the Mathis’ we went to a nearby grocery store and used the pay phone-this was before cell phones- to call Tim’s parents. We told Rick and Jan that our car had broken down in KY, just 3 hours away from where they lived and that we needed a ride. Rick and Jan agreed to come and get us. As they scurried to leave home thinking we were on a highway roadside somewhere, we got in our non-broken down red Ford Tempo and drove the 2 minutes to their house. When we pulled up their country, gravel driveway we got out of the car and saw the perplexed looks on their faces as we yelled “April Fools!!!” We sensed a mix of emotions but definitely they saw the humor in it.
Rick attended my college graduation and, of course, my wedding just 1 month later. He overcame his fear of flying to visit Tim and me for a month long vacation when we lived in New Zealand. During that time we travelled throughout New Zealand together, and like most people, Rick was stricken by how beautiful the New Zealand countryside is. He ran his video recorder almost non-stop, and Tim and I still quote him when we’re in a place that we find memorable by saying “Booodyfuhl…” One such time was when I made my first and only trip to the Grand Canyon, and Rick was there too. It was truly booodyfuhl…
One thing I’ll always appreciate is Rick’s love of slap-stick humor, something I completely relate to. One of our favorite shows to watch together was a dubbed over Japanese game show where the contestants were charged with an utterly ridiculous task, but before they would tackle it they introduced themselves as a bizarre character with a tagline such as “my chest hair is curly.” Stupid but hilarious and we would just sit there and laugh and laugh together.
When Tim transitioned careers from working in the church to becoming a nurse, Rick was an ardent supporter. For Tim, that transition took a lot of bravery having devoted years to getting a Master in Theology and working through the cumbersome ordination process with the Episcopal church for 5 additional years to that point. For Rick to support him so strongly came as a great comfort to us during an extremely stressful time in our lives.
Knowing Rick, it was apparent to me how much he cared about his kids and loved being a dad. He accepted me into the family nearly 20 years ago and he was an excellent father figure to me. I will always miss him, his humor, and his care.