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Me, my dad, and sister

Yesterday was one of those brutally hard days.

I've had bad days and then I've had bad days and I'm not real sure which "bad" today is.

After 6 years and 9 months, or has it been almost 20 years, we said a final goodbye to my daddy. (Yeah, he's always been my "daddy".)

Popeye wasn't my sailor man, but my dad was. Ironically, that sums him up completely, and his last name is Sailer.

My dad was was one loud, entertaining, glass half empty, and if it was half full it would probably spill on the carpet types.

I inherited my sarcasm and dry sense of humor from him, and then I think I improved on it.

The knack for turning a mundane traffic stop into something hilarious, was my dad.

He was notorious for nodding off while driving. On one of these stops just outside of Vinton, he was pulled over. The officer did the whole sobriety test, and my dad kept insisting that the problem was all of the rabbits on the road.

I have nothing but good memories of my dad. I remember steering an old Ford pickup out of storage in the large building next to what is John's Tire when I was a little kid, probably close to 10. He pushed, and I tried to steer. I kept getting too close to the sides of the aisle, and he patiently reached in and straightened the wheel and I'd hang on tightly trying to be his right hand. He trusted me enough that he pulled that pickup home with his other Ford pickup and me at the wheel. I was his sidekick.

For a time he drove a grain truck to Shellburg's grain elevator and we'd ride along. I remember holding his hand and watching as the semi would rise in the air and dump the grain, he would patiently explain the mechanics of the elevator, how the semi didn't fall and the whys. To this day, the smell of diesel is what I prefer over Chanel No. 5.

There were times I'd call home from college in Pennsylvania explain to him that my $50 Plymouth Valiant was a making grrrr..squeak sound, or a click, click, click and after a few more questions he knew exactly what the problem was, where I needed to go, and what I needed to tell the mechanic when I went in. I can't remember him being wrong. One mechanic even thought I was pretty smart to know what was wrong, my dad got a kick out of that one.

I remember the time he surprised me and popped into the campus with his semi, causing a stir. I went to a small, small college with just a few hundred students so everyone knew he was there. He came in, he showed the truck to one of my teachers who had never seen a semi up close. He sat Mr. Roles in the seat, fired it up, showed him how it worked, gave him the grand tour of his cab, and the silly teacher sat there grinning like a 5 year old. At the same time, my dad was thrilled to show off his truck. Later in that visit, I remember as we sat in a Chapel service and he put his arm around me. Looking back, he was just trying to be comfortable, but I teared up. My dad wasn't the type to give out hugs, but I knew without a doubt he loved me.

Then there is the time he went with me to choose a cedar chest. He gave me an education on knot holes in the wood, and how to see if the wood was warped or cracked.

I remember the only new baseball bat I ever had, he went with me to buy. This was a big deal. The bat cost a whopping $15 and that NEVER happened in my house, spending that kind of money on a toy!

He took the bats off the display, held them up to see if they were straight, checked the wood on each one and found me the perfect Louisville Slugger. I think it's still around the house today.

My favorite treasure from his was my red and blue Tonka truck, which still sits on my file cabinet today. He loved cars and trucks and always said his girls would know how to tear one down and put it back together before we could drive. That never happened. He did teach us how to check the oil, the tires, how to change a wiper, check the transmission and brake fluids, drain the radiator, change a tire and use our common sense when we were on the road.

The first time he "pimped my ride" was on my tricycle. He decided that any respectable kid of his needed a motorcycle windshield, a horn, and a mirror. I loved that bike. Unfortunately I think it came to an end when I started to out grow it, and tried to convince him I needed a larger bike. He promptly hopped on to show me that even HE could still ride it. See? He then hit a crack in the cement, cut his eye, got stitches and quipped, "Pride goeth before a fall,"

From the time I was little until he retired, he worked on cars, trucks, anything with a motor. He even pimped out my Plymouth putting in a microphone and speaker under the hood, 8 track AND cassette player, AND CB Radio then jacked up the back end, helped me order seat covers and put fancy pedals on the floor, and even added a huge antennae on the back of my car. I didn't realize then, but I think he had fun doing it. We drove that car until the transmission went out a few months after we had been married.

He savored every moment he had in a semi.

To say that we loved him being on the road was not the case. We liked being with him, but held our breath knowing he was out there.

There were the accidents he had from driving himself ragged trying to meet deadlines and then there were the times that well, he'd say, "those road signs were just too close to the edge of the road".

It didn't matter how bad the situation, he would ALWAYS find something hilarious in it.

There were times he'd be in the hospital after an accident and he'd joke with the nurses about the crazy situation that brought him there. Like the time he was in Iowa City, fortunately for us this accident was close to home, he told the nurse, it's not my fault those idiots can't stack the boxes straight in my truck.

He was the one that taught me that a nickel candy bar and a 10¢ bottle of pop cost too much, and that's when the deposit on a bottle was 10¢.

He taught my boys that it was time to take long walks to pick up pop cans because the house was too small for the energy of two little boys AND grandpa.

He taught myself and my kids how raspberries are the best homegrown treat, and how to pick them so you didn't get scratched.

He taught us that if you gave your word, you broke your neck to keep it.

He taught us that dedication isn't just until it isn't easy, it's when you grit your teeth and continue.

He taught me how to not cut my hand off while cutting wood with the buzz saw, that he had built onto the front of a tractor then how to stack it so the pile wouldn't fall.

He then taught us how to put it into the wood stove and not get burned. Then how to start a fire in case it went out. He explained how to build a chimney, and how to mix the cement.

He explained how you buy wood for building an addition onto our house and how to putty a wall so you can't see the nails or the seam tape.

He taught us to go to church every time the doors were open. That one almost did me in yesterday. I was supposed to play for the Christmas program, but found myself cleaning out his room, talk to our friend, dear Frank, the "funeral guy" in the hallway of the care center. All the while with an eye on the clock, and thinking I need to be there, they are depending on me...then flipping back to bursting into tears.

I remember in the late 70's early 80's we drove from Vinton to Independence in a snow storm to get to church...then found out the wimps in Independence had canceled the service...because of the snow. It was times like those that I think he KNEW it would be canceled but wanted to show us that he could get us there and back in our little Honda Civic AND that you needed to go to church.

There were many times while leaving Independence we'd beg to stop at the Dairy Queen. We rarely did, but he'd always singsong as we approached it, "Here comes the Dairy Queen..." and as we passed, "There goes the Dairy Queen" followed by a chorus of, "Daddy!"

Now on Sunday we came home from church, took a nap, and headed back for the Sunday evening service. This Sunday, I snuck over to the neighbors to get a snow cone. Of course, I didn't tell anyone, but they knew where to look.

Sure enough, my dad showed up. At the time my legs were too short to reach the pedals on my bike, so I had to stand up to pedal.

As I got onto my bike, he didn't say a word. My dad reached in his pocket, pulled out his pocket knife, cut a switch off of the neighbors tree and every time I stood up, he applied the switch directly to my behind. Pedal. Switch. Pedal. Switch. I remember being grateful for the small hill to coast down, but he kept up, all the way home...I probably don't need to tell you that I didn't do that again.

We got our share of spankings, well, I did, my sister was much better than I was, I always pushed the limits with him. He was always fair, but firm.

He was also loyal. To a fault. I got that from him as well.

There were times I saw his employers take advantage of him, and he'd simply say, "God will take care of them." I can't say I ever saw that happen. But I did learn that when you are mistreated, it says nothing about you, but says a lot about the other guy.

He was a man's man.

If you ever got stranded on an island, THIS was the guy to take along. I am guessing you'd have a roof over your head shortly after your unplanned arrival, and life wouldn't be so bad with him around.



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Comments (9)

What a lovely, heartfelt tribute to your Dad. Deepest sympathies to you and your family.
Fondly, Kurt and Lu
By: Lu Karr on December 9th 11:52am
Beautiful words for a beautiful life. Thoughts and prayers for you and your family Val.
By: Elise Healzer on December 9th 12:23pm
Very well written. Diesel always makes me think of my dad, too. So many snow cones, so many good memories to cherish!
By: Kathy Dzewaltowski on December 9th 12:52pm
My sympathies to you and your family. I really appreciate your writing, Val. He was a wonderful dad and mentor, and it shows in you! Be blessed.
By: Julie Hansen on December 9th 1:11pm
You've captured a large piece of your Dad and let those of us who didn't know him realize we missed someone special.

When we had our first child, a daughter, a friend wrote "Little girls are suckers for their dads." I've always felt that was a truth, and am guessing you would agree. We send our deepest sympathy to you and your family. Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories.
By: Janet Woodhouse on December 9th 2:02pm
Frank and I have each lost our Dads in the past three years. It is a very hard time, and no matter how much time has passed, the memories sneak up on you at unexpected times. Your Dad sounds like a very solid guy, and fun, too. Thank you for sharing his memory with us.
By: Kathy Van Steenhuyse on December 9th 5:59pm
Val & Family,
My sympathies for the loss of your father. Val, what an awesome tribute! While we played at the "purple house"(seems that we only came over when the "dads" were working), my memories of your dad were his employment at Iowa Manufacturing (love the picture with his safety prescription glasses, blue chambray shirt and jeans, typical Iowa Man uniform) and car pooling with my dad to work and you NEVER missed church!!
By: Teresa Floyd on December 11th 1:55pm
Sorry for the loss of your father, your friend, Valerie. What a wonderful tribute you've written! Having a father who was such a great part of your life is a wonderful treasure. Keep the memories alive and keep writing them down, so that other generations may know.
By: Linda Hansen on December 26th 9:00am
Valerie, I lost my dad, Irving Hansen, in April 2011 and my sister, Mary, in Jan. 2012. Reading your memories of your dad must have made me remember the years I was a Hansen, or reading your other commentators last name, Hansen, made me identify. Even though I previously, inadvertently, signed in under my maiden name, I remain, Linda Hansen Claggett. One of my favorite hymns that has helped me so much after the loss of family members is Does Jesus Care? Maybe the words to this old hymn will minister to you too because it's good to know, "His heart is touched by my grief."
By: Linda Claggett on December 26th 10:01pm

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