This post is in celebration of the life of Kenneth Edward Ainge Sr., my father, my friend and my hero! And I don’t use the word “hero” lightly. To me a hero is someone who sacrifices their life for others. And my Dad was all about sacrificing for others, especially for his children. If you knew my Dad you would already know what an incredible man he was. But I would like to share some memories from my childhood that will help you understand what an incredible father he was!
As my Dad’s health began to fail him I had the privilege to be there for him and help take care of him on occasion. And that was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done after all he had done for me throughout my life. During this time a memory kept coming to my mind. When I was about six years old we moved to a new town and into a new house. It was a big old house with one of those dumb waiter elevators and a big long wooden staircase which led down to the basement where my bedroom was. That was kind of a spooky place for a little six-year-old boy and so occasionally I would have a nightmare. I wouldn’t walk, but I would RUN up that long wooden staircase and find my Dad. He would come down to my room and lay down with me until I felt safe enough to fall asleep. On more than one occasion I would wake up to find my Dad still laying there, hanging half off my little bed. Probably pretty sore from a tough nights sleep, but he just wanted to be there for me and make sure I was okay.
Some of my fondest memories of my Dad involve sports. He was a big sports fan and he instilled that love of sports in me. As a single father himself, he was a very busy man for much of my childhood. But he still would take time out of his busy schedule to coach my little league teams. But he took that a whole step further. He wouldn’t just coach, he would also keep these meticulous stat sheets recording hits, runs, errors, and strikeouts. And eventually he put together a scrapbook for me of all my sporting accomplishments. Every clipping from the small town local newspaper that had any mention of my name would be clipped out and put in my scrapbook. And I still have some of those stat sheets from my little league days. Even though he worked as a college administrator and would teach night classes, I cannot ever remember him missing one of my games! He was also kind enough when I was about seven years old to teach me the game of golf. Which was quite a gift and a chance for us to spend a lot of time together on the golf course. Of course he taught me all wrong :-) ...but I’ve managed to correct most of those swing errors over the years.
My Dad was also a very affectionate and loving man. This was never more evident then when I was graduating from the 8th grade. My Dad happened to be the school board president at the time. He loved to serve and that was one way he chose to serve his community. So he arranged to hand out diplomas at my graduation. Now you have to understand that when you’re in the 8th grade you’re not even supposed to have parents, much less a loving affection parent like my Dad. So starting a whole week before graduation I started in on him. “Now Dad…when it comes time to hand me my diploma, just give me my diploma and shake my hand just like all the other kids.” And he would say “Okay…we’ll see!” And “we’ll see” was like taking the 5th amendment for my Dad. “Hey Dad, can I have a bike for my birthday” “We’ll see!” Non-committal all the way, so I knew I was in trouble. Well the day of the graduation arrived and I went up there to get my diploma along with a big hug and a kiss right in front of the entire 8th grade class!
As part of his affectionate nature, my Dad would tell me that he loved me every night. And believe me there were times when I was growing up that I wasn’t the most loveable kid in the world. But he would still always say “I Love Ya Son” every night before I went to bed. And he not only said it, but he showed it!
After years of being a single parent I have to admit that I was so happy when my Dad finally met Barbara and he had twenty years of marriage to a wonderful woman. A woman who he described as the love of his life!
One of my Dad’s favorite movies was “It’s A Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart. He used to watch that every holiday season and that movie is a fitting tribute for my Dad because it has been a wonderful life. I feel so privileged to have been blessed with such a wonderful father for so many years.
It can often be hard to find just the right greeting card. But one year on Father’s Day I found a card that says it better than I ever could. It goes like this:
“From your Son…A lot of what I know and enjoy Dad can be traced back to the times you and I did things together as Father and Son. Whether you were having me help with a certain chore or repair, or you where gently coaching me with schoolwork or sports. I learned so many valuable ways of thinking that have shaped my life. I will never forget how eagerly you shared the benefits of your experiences. And how you allowed me to express my own ideas and yes, even make my own mistakes. Dad, for the man that you are and the man that you helped me become. I will always be grateful and proud to be your son!”