As I the first anniversary of my father's death nears, some tender memories of shared experiences come to mind. At five or six years old, I recall helping my father, Jim, in the crawl space beneath our home at 801 S. Nebraska in Cherokee. He was deep in the crawl space, working on something, and [...]

As I the first anniversary of my father's death nears, some tender memories of shared experiences come to mind.
At five or six years old, I recall helping my father, Jim, in the crawl space beneath our home at 801 S. Nebraska in Cherokee. He was deep in the crawl space, working on something, and I crawled in and out, retrieving tools for him, covering my T-shirt and jeans with that Oklahoma red dirt. It was a little scary under there, with all of the spider webs, but I knew that my father wouldn't let any harm come to me.
Perhaps my best memory of time spent with my dad was when we did the paper route in the early morning, particularly those cold winter mornings when we had to bundle up. I often helped him deliver the Sunday Oklahoman, which we picked up at a drop off point behind the old post office in Cherokee. Dad and I took the newspapers home, folding and rubber banding them just inside the front room of our home, where it was nice and warm. Then, we went out together and threw the newspapers on the porch. We always did that. That was what people expected back then (and it's nice that the Pratt Tribune still follows this same policy). As the stars shone brightly on cold winter mornings, we had some good conversations. I don't recall the subject matter, but I do recall that I felt safe with him, proud perhaps to be working with my dad. Sometimes, after finishing the paper route, he took me to the Dinette Café, which he also managed for several years, and we enjoyed a cinnamon roll and cup of hot chocolate. Those are warm memories of days when it was just dad and I together before the somewhat difficult (for both of us) teenage years.
Memories emerge sometimes at the strangest times, and that's how it was this past Christmas, when I traveled to visit my mother in Alva and also took a bicycle ride that ended up passing near his house east of town.
It is only fitting that the final OU Sooners football game I took my father to (it was a birthday gift I had given to him the last six or seven years) would be much more complicated than other games we had attended. First off, dad's respiratory issues prevented him from walking more than a block before he had to sit and take a break. My wife, Kathie, parked as close as she could to the stadium, and dad and I slowly walked the three blocks to the game; fortunately, he had rollator walker so he always had a seat with him. I obtained special ADA seating to save him from having to climb the stairs to our actual seats. The game was good, and we enjoyed our chilly time in the south end zone, which was shaded for most of that November game. The complicated part happened after the game ended. I left my dad at one of the covered bus stops outside the stadium and then called my wife, Kathie, to figure out where to meet her and the car. Kathie and I found each other and then attempted to drive to where my dad was seated about half a mile south of us. That distance proved to be an illusion, as we ended up driving 10 or 15 miles trying to reach him while being constantly detoured due to roads closed off to traffic. It was definitely a circuitous route and only fitting for the last OU game we would attend together. Anyway, I had to make a little extra effort to reach my father, which was sort of symbolic of what it takes to bridge the gap that sometimes exist between a father and a son.