Stories from a Storyteller

Today is my Dad’s 68th birthday.
It is his second birthday in Heaven and I am sure he is celebrating with donuts, tacos, and beer.

Today is also the 5th anniversary of my Grandma (his mother) entering Heaven.
She died on his birthday when I was in college and she was a magnificent woman.

I’ve written a lot about my Dad on my blog. Mainly because (1) I miss him and I find writing helps with the grief, and (2) I’ve always been told to write what I know. I know my Dad.

For those who knew my Dad, you know he loved to talk. Although, I don’t think it was something he was very cognizant of. My siblings and I always knew when others where getting bored while talking to him, but he never saw, haha.

My Dad was a storyteller. Probably 95% of what he talked about was stories. Stories about his childhood, stories about work, baseball, my childhood, history, Reagan, movies, movie quotes. You get the picture.

For his birthday, I decided to write down some of my favorite stories about my Dad or stories he used to tell.

The Christmas Card

My siblings are six and eight years older than me. So there was a very long (and, let’s be honest, boring) time in my families lives where they were just a family of four. When my brother and sister were little, they were inseparable. My sister, being the older one, always dragged my brother along to play whatever she wanted to play. This was also case for potty training.

During the time my brother was potty training, he was going to the bathroom on his little toilet next the big toilet where my sister sat on the covered seat just watching him. My mom and dad saw and grabbed a camera because it was quite the funny site. I wish I had the picture to show you, but it’s literally my sister and brother each sitting on a toilet next to each other with the biggest grins on their faces.

When it came time to choose a Christmas card picture that year to send to our friends and family, my Dad saw this one and said they had to do it. My mom was a little apprehensive but my dad being my dad convinced her and they sent it out.

My parents knew when people started getting the cards that year because slowly people started calling about it saying it was too funny. However, both my grandma’s called saying they weren’t too thrilled about it.

When Church and State Collide

My dad was on our city’s planning commission for many years. For those that don’t have a planning commission, it’s a panel that is dedicated to considering new projects being built in the city. The commissioners get the plans and then during public meetings discuss and vote on whether to move forward or not. If it moves forward, it goes to the City Council for the final step. My dad would get his plans several days before the meetings and would drag me all around the city to look at the properties being considered. He took this job very seriously and enjoyed it very much.

My family attended a church in our town that, a while ago, was looking to build a campus. Our church had been meeting in a bunch of warehouse buildings and had finally raised enough to build its own church property. The church leaders had to go before the planning commission and convince them their plan was a good idea. Not only did a large group of church members attend this meeting, but so did the people living in the neighborhood surrounding the chosen property.

One of the neighbors stood up to speak and called out my dad saying he should recuse himself because he was a member of North Coast Church. My dad responded in true Nick Ashcraft form:

“Yes, to answer your concerns, I do attend North Coast every Sunday morning. However, I would not consider myself a member. I have never been to Pastor Larry’s house, I’ve never ridden the shuttle, I’m not in a growth group, and I have never, to my knowledge, been considered for the elder board. So while I may attend church and drink their coffee in Video Cafe, I do not consider myself a member. But let’s look at this property. This is a large property in North Vista that really only has two options for development. The neighbors don’t want much noise, right? Well, the best option for this property is a cemetery. BUT, Vista has an ordinance against cemeteries so that is out. But a church? That’s really the only other good option. You only have traffic on the weekends, they’re quite because everything takes place inside, and of all the people you could have hanging around your neighborhood, wouldn’t you rather have it be church-going people?”

Practically the whole room was laughing. The comments about being a member of church were especially funny to those who were from our church because a lot of it were inside jokes. But everyone loved the cemetery bit. And for those wondering, yes, my church was approved to build and they are now one of the biggest (if not, the biggest) Christian church in San Diego County.

Looks Like Buffalo

My dad and I liked to go on road trips. Our first was the summer after my freshman year of high school. We drove through Arizona, New Mexico, and across Texas and Oklahoma to Memphis. My dad used to live in Memphis so he drove me around showing me all the different places he used to go. Then we drove up to Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio. While here we stayed with my cousin, John, and ate a ton of Graeter’s ice cream. We also toured The University of Dayton and hung out with my dad’s aunt and uncle. From there we drove up to Minnesota and toured Concordia College, where my mom and her whole family went to college. Then over to Montana to visit my dad’s dad and stepmom, and then to Idaho to see my aunt and uncle. Idaho was the last stop and then we headed back home.

Since I couldn’t drive on this trip, my Dad had to drive the whole time. I slept most of the time while my dad was driving (I can barely stay awake in a car if I’m not driving). My dad used to tell people that he drove across the country while I slept across the country. One of the first days we were driving, I woke up from a nap in the middle of nowhere in a Southwestern state. In the distance I saw several things that looked like buffalo. I told my dad that there seemed to be buffalo in the distance and he just kinda looked at me weird. So I kept my eye on the buffalo…but as we got closer I realized the buffalo were actually just shrubs along the freeway. My dad, until the day he died, never let me live that down. The entire rest of the trip he would say, “Oh look, Mar, there are some big buffalo over there and small buffalo over there and obese buffalo over there…” and so on.

Also on that trip, we were driving across Montana. We have just left my Uncle Scott’s house and were headed to my grandparents. My dad wasn’t paying too much attention to his speed because we were literally on a two lane road in the middle of nowhere, Montana. We were coming over a hill when, as we reached the top and started to head down the hill, we saw a cop coming towards us. My dad and I looked at the speedometer and saw that he had been going 90 mph. In the rear view mirror we saw the cop flip a U so fast and head towards us. My dad didn’t even wait for the sirens before pulling over.

Later when we reached my Uncle Jesse’s house in Idaho, my dad told him about the speeding ticket and my uncle said, “Only an idiot gets a speeding ticket in Montana.” My dad just looked at him, “Hi, that’s me.”

The Pre-Presidential Work Out

My dad used to tell this story all the time and it’s probably one of my favorites.

His dad was in the California State Assembly and worked for Reagan when he was Governor. One day my grandpa went to Reagan’s office and his secretary told him to go in because Reagan was in there. So my grandpa walked in but didn’t see Reagan. He just stood there for a minute looking around until he heard some grunting noises coming from behind Reagan’s desk. He walked over to see Reagan working out using one of those ab wheels (it’s a wheel with two pegs on the sides and it’s like another way to go push ups, I don’t work out so I have no clue what it’s actually called). My grandpa asked Reagan what he was doing and Reagan said he was just doing some ab workouts. He suggested my grandpa try it and handed him the wheel to take home. Apparently Reagan had several wheels on back-up. But Reagan warned my grandpa to only do a couple push-ups because, even though it may seem easy, you’ll be really sore if you do more.

My grandpa took the wheel home and tried it out. He did five push up’s and thought, “Hey, yeah, this is really easy.” So he did about 50 total. He felt great afterwards and thought this was a great little workout. The next morning my grandpa woke up with his abs feeling so sore he could barely move. He grabbed the wheel and headed to Reagan’s office. He walked in the threw the wheel on the chair in front of Reagan’s desk and told him he could have the wheel back. Reagan asked why and my grandpa said he was so sore. Reagan had a big “I told you so” moment.

Is That A Puppy?

For years my siblings and I used to bug my parents for a dog. When I was six, our wish finally came true. However, it was a complete surprise, even to my mom! One of our good family friends had a dog that had puppies that they were selling. The puppies were part husky and some type of lab. My dad went over and picked out the puppy and brought it home and put it on my parents balcony. Our balcony overlooked our backyard and could only be accessed from my parents room.

One night my parents were sleeping when my mom woke up to whimpering noises. She woke up my dad and asked what that noise was because it sounded like whimpering coming from the balcony. My dad kept saying it was nothing or the wind or anything but the dog.

Christmas morning came and my dad made one of his famous scavenger hunts. My siblings and I ran all over the house looking for clues when we were finally led upstairs to the balcony. We finally got our cute little puppy and she was so precious. Lots of names were suggested but my dad’s pick won and we named her Natasha (inspired by the dog he had growing up).

I could fill a book with stories about my dad or stories he told about others. Who knows, maybe one day I will.

It’s funny, when I sat down to write this, my mind went blank. Stories I came up with were one that weren’t as funny as others I knew but those other ones weren’t coming to mind. I even asked my brother for suggestions and even said his mind went blank, haha.

I figured this would be the best was to celebrate my dad’s birthday. I could have written about my grief and how I’m handling him being gone (I’ll give you a hint, it’s still not going that well). I could have written about my heartache and how tears come to my eyes so quickly when I think about his absence in Amelia’s life. But recently I’ve heard several people talk about death as a celebratory thing, not a sad thing. And I’m trying to get there. The hardest part for me is the regrets I have. Not seeing him before he died on my day off, not doing certain things with him, and not telling him I loved him one more time even though I know he knew I did.

Grief is a powerful and difficult emotion. It captivates you and swallows you like the tide rushing to the shore. It pulls you under the water and swirls you around in the current. You can see the sun shining on the water above you and you feel yourself sinking to the bottom just watching the water crash above you, still sinking, still swallowing, still captivating. Only when someone pulls you out of the water do you break free from its tight grasp.

I’m still waiting for someone to pull me out of the water.

Happy Birthday, Daddy-O!
I love you and miss you more and more each day.


1 Comment

  • Auntie annie April 25, 2018 at 8:18 pm Reply

    I miss him too, he was my first playmate! !!

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