Norman Dexter Graf
My father was born in Waco Texas on October 3rd 1941. He later moved to Fort Worth with my grandparents and that is where he eventually met my mother. They were married on August 29th of 1958. My parents had their first child, my older brother, Ray, who was born on January 2nd of 1959. My parents then had my sister Sherry on October 22nd of 1961. I didn’t enter the picture until August 17th 1971. I came to the family last and as I have been told often, a little unexpected. My father was 30 years old when I was born, my mom 29, and my sister was almost 10, my oldest brother 13.
I’m not pointing this bit of family history out to compete with the Old Testament’s long list of begats. I just want to point out that my parents had some practice raising children before I came along. I owe my sister and brother a lot of thanks for softening them up for me. As my sister would say I was the spoiled brat. I heard a lot of stories from my sister about my father from when she was young. According to her he was much stricter before I came along. Not to say he was a push over when I was young. I knew to never make my father angry and to do as he told me or he would let me know when I was misbehaving. I couldn’t imagine him being much more strict than he was with me.
I remember my father as someone who worked hard and had a very strong work ethic. I remember him going to work when he didn’t feel well, and when many others would have called in sick. My sister told me a story about how he broke his arm at work, went to the hospital to have it set and then went back to work once it was done. I remember him driving into work on days when snow and ice had caused most roads to be close and he would call home to tell my mom not to even try to drive into work. I also remember my father’s love for cars and motorcycles. As a young kid I spent a lot of my Friday nights at stock car races and drag races. There were many other Saturdays going to classic car shows and walking around with my dad looking at cars. I wouldn’t exactly say I appreciated my dad’s passion for cars as a kid. I mean they all looked similar to me.
I remember that my father always seemed to have one very cool Christmas gift for me. I think he wanted to make sure I had an opportunity to try different things and develop different talents. My dad was a pretty damn good artist and I think I learned some of that from him. But he also bought me a few telescopes, which I still have a fondness for, a few musical instruments that never quite took hold for me, and a lot of things like Lego and other gifts that looking back on, seemed to spur my engineering interests.
I also remember my father’s lectures. As a kid these were on topics from maintaining my bicycle, oiling the chain and tightening the chain, to topics of how to behave in public and to make sure I always wore clean clothes. I remember him saying once that he and my mother didn’t make a lot of money and couldn’t buy us the nicest clothes but they sure wouldn’t let us run around in dirty clothes. As I got older the lectures seemed to get longer and I was less than attentive or appreciative. It wasn’t until I was an adult and would ask for my father’s advice that I realized their were no more lectures but just good conversations and some really good advice.
My father passed away on January 2nd 2012 after suffering a heart attack on December 23rd 2011. He was at a grocery store when he collapsed. He was buying groceries for Christmas dinner. My sister and I flew back home as soon as we heard. Looking back, most of the time when I was home before and just after my father passed, I think I was a lot like one of those people that are found wandering around after a horrific accident, unaware of exactly what just happened, and left in a daze. I think even now, only at certain times the reality hits me.
I did want to thank my best friend Brad Hill and my wife and also best friend Jo for helping me get through this. Without them I would not have kept my sanity. Also my sister was the strongest one of the family. She has been amazing in getting things done and dealing with the legal, financial, and bureaucratic process of this whole thing. Without her this process would have been more than I could have done on my own.
Beyond the feeling of loss that I have is this feeling of being ungrounded. I sort of felt that in life we need our foundation, family support, good health, good career, and a good home. Now, one piece of my foundation is gone. I am sure with time I will begin to feel grounded again but for now life seems a little unsettled.
My sister and I had a chance to go through some photos of our father. I had to write an obituary which was not entirely pleasant. The person at the funeral home did some editing but it’s mostly how I wrote it. Here is a link. Norman Dexter Graf Obituary So as a tribute I thought I would share some of those photos that my sister and I found of our father.