From Peggy Freeman
“If anything were to happen to me I want you go to the office, move the upholstery fabric in the corner and there you will find a safe. Open the safe, look on the bottom shelf and gather the paperwork. It is all you need,” my dad said.
Although that was about ten years ago, I pretended to pay no attention to his instructions because the thought of his death was incomprehensible; I wanted him to live forever. Even as a child when he talked about dyeing, I actually hoped I would never see that day. My dad was my hero and ever so precious to me. Samuel Nimmers was an all around good guy and upon his passing; my only goal was for my brother and I to honor him in the way that he deserved to be honored.
The day had come for me to go to the safe and remove the trusted papers. I walked slowly to his outside office and although the light of the day shone from the sun, I did not see it; my eyes looked soberly to the ground. I entered his office, removed the fabric and slowly opened the safe to retrieve the paperwork he warned me about. Once I grabbed the envelop I held it in my hands like a mother holding a newborn baby. It was life, my father’s life and soon I would take a glimpse into the amazing man he had become over time.
We are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14)
I took the envelop to the dining room table where our family had met many times before. At that table two generations of family and friends had enjoyed meals, laughed and talked about the men and women in our lives. We toasted at the dawning of a new year, made plans for the future, scolded our children and made many life decisions. Now the table had turned into a place where a life had been lost and decisions would be made about his death.
Against all odds, Samuel had successfully graduated although both of his parents died when he was a little boy. He and his brother went to live with a grandmother who could barely feed herself and now had to provide for two small children. I often wondered how my father was able to embrace the wonderful characteristics that made his life so meaningful.
He was a ladies’ man, yet faithful to his wives, a loving, gently, humble, courteous human being who understood the principles of manhood quite well. How did he learn them without an example in the home? Did they teach the principles in school? Was he born with them or was there a mentor in his life? I may never know the answer to these questions because it is too late to ask him. Perhaps the answer was hidden in the treasure that I had just opened on his behalf.
The next document that I uncovered appeared to be a small certificate made of parchment paper. It was dad’s DD-214, U.S. Army Honorable Discharge papers. I glanced through the certificate then stopped at the words, “decorations and citations.” Tears began to drop to my cheeks and roll down the side of my face and I was overwhelmed with sadness, gratitude and pride. Samuel was decorated with a Good Conduct Medal during the Asiatic Pacific Campaign, A World War II Victory Medal and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon. .
They were honors that I heard about and saw soldiers receive in army movies but I never expected to see them up close and personal. Reading his army records made me proud of the things I never knew about him and he alone… yet not alone, fought for the freedom we sometimes take for granted today. I imagined as trusted Ammunition Supervisor and Marksman that he was responsible for the safety of the weapons the soldiers would use to protect this country. The rifle was his weapon of mastery and this thin 5’9” man fired it with strength and courage even though the ten pound, eight round metal rifle kicked with velocity when he fired it. January 12, 1946 his mission was complete and he received an Honorable discharge.
Samuel was more than a soldier; he was a wonderful father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle and husband, a spirited man who loved people, and Samuel was my best friend and confidant, my cheerleader on the tennis court and even at eighty-eight years old with stage 2 Alzheimer my dad was sharper and wiser than anyone I’ve ever known.
One day we were sitting in church listening to the announcements. My dad seemed to be attentive but I never knew how much he really comprehended. I wondered if he understood the sermons or what went on during the rest of the service. He said he enjoyed the service after church and tapped his hands on the back of the chair in praise and worship but throughout the message, he always had the same expression on his face. During the announcements Roger from the Young Adult Ministry came from the back of the church in a disguise to Michael Jackson’s song, “Beat It.” Everyone was laughing and he chuckled a little. ‘What’s funny,’ I asked? “They are playing the wrong song,” he said. My doubts about his understanding diminished. He was astute enough to know that Beat It, a secular song from the 80’s was not one that would normally be played in church.
Many came to honor him at the services. Longtime friends said he was like a father to them growing up. Our neighbor Jackie talked about his generosity, Mr. Johnson, a motor home club member and friend revealed his patience, the bowling team said he was a dedicated member who bowled until the age of 88, his grandchild Christopher talked about his 87 year old grandfather’s attempt to shoot hoops with he and his friends and the twins Derric and Devyn spoke highly of his lessons of responsibility and love.
The honor guards saluted him and performed their ceremony. It was an emotional time for my family to watch the soldiers fold the American flag and present it to my brother Alan who is also a Vietnam Vet. What an undeniable touching moment for all those who were patriotic or unpatriotic and a well spoken reflection of his life.
As the grand finale, I can imagine my dad rolling up the carpet for the party, as he had done in the past. We are dancing to Sam Cooke’s song, “We’re Having a Party”.
Dad sneaks to the dining room table one more time to grab a piece of yellow cake with white icing. La Tanya tells him not too much Grandpa you know how cake keeps you up. And he says. “No problem dear.” But the truth is he will return to the table again before the night is over. He always returns for his sweets and that includes me…. And the party never ends in eternity…
Samuel Nimmers passed away October 15, 2012 and this is my tribute to him.
To My Father From Peggy