Not everyone has a dad like my dad. If you look up Jimmy Shoalmire you will find that he was a historian, a college professor, and published author. What you will not find is that he worked in the oilfield with his dad, he built hot rods, and was a golden gloves boxer. But the most important title he ever held was “Dad”. My dad was the smartest person I have ever known. It was a real treat as a kid to find some miniscule fact that he did not know. This was no easy task, because he knew everything about everything. At least I thought so anyway. He was my Superman.
I remember riding my bike to his office at the university to pay him several unscheduled visits. They always started the same way – as soon as he saw me, he would drop everything he was doing run over to me and give me a big hug. Then he would ask me about my day, and we would talk for a while. His hero status rose with each one of those hugs.
My dad did all of the typical fatherhood things like teaching me how to ride a bike, playing catch with me in the backyard, and going to my Cub Scout meetings, but I also learned how to learn. And I learned about giving and living. One of his favorite things to do was to anonymously give a very special gift to someone. I didn’t understand that at first, but now I do. The giving is the best part. My dad and I talked a lot and about almost anything. This is probably why I could read at age 4 and why first grade was pretty boring. I learned how to really listen to music from my dad and to this day I have an ear for nearly every kind of music.
It has been almost 38 years since my dad left this earth and I still think about him all the time. And yet somehow, I feel like there is some sort of connection, as if his spirit swims around me sometimes. At his memorial service I was worried that other people would not have known him as I did. Astonishingly, near the end of the service there was a time for people to share their memories of him. For an hour straight, one person after another stood up and described an encounter, they had with him, or an anecdote, or even a funny story. I was shocked that all those people in one way or another had experienced my dad’s kindness, generosity, and humor. One of the things that was said that I still remember was one of his favorite quotes, “What greater legacy can a man have than to have a few kind words spoken about him when he is gone.” Humility at its finest.
After his passing it was like a big hairy arm had reached down inside of me and pulled something out. I was sad for a long time, but I only cried twice. I wanted to show him that I was tough, that I was a fighter, and that somehow, I was going to make it. My dad not only made me better, but he made the world better. But isn’t that what superheroes do?
Happy Father’s Day, Superman.
Alan Shoalmire is a resident in Grimes County and the owner of Grill Sergeant and submits a column to the Navasota Examiner every other week.