There Goes My Hero
“My Dad was a piece of shit” is something you will never hear out of my mouth. Anyone who knew Ray Weidenhaft could not say he was a bad man. He was indeed a hard ass, opinionated, passionate, stubborn, non-PC, loved to have too many drinks, Broncos and Rockies fan who could be a pain in the ass to deal with for sure, but this man came from a time, a place and a family where three traits were the end all and be all; Integrity, Respect, and Love.
As integrity goes I think back to last weekend when I was leaving the music venue I work. It’s always late when I’m done working and as I was pulling out of the parking lot to close the gate, a group of four drunks stumbled past me. In a valley girl tone that would make someone from Orange County cringe I was asked “What would you do if you found a wallet on the ground?” “Well,” I responded “I’d look them up on Facebook and return it to them with everything intact.” They all looked at each other puzzled. The spokeswomen for the group proceeded eloquently exclaim “You’re a fucking liar and a thief.” Well sorry, ma’am, but in this case no, I’m not a liar. That is what I would do because that’s what my Dad would do. That’s the integrity he raised my brother and I with and how he lived his life. Turns out you can teach that.
Respect. It is earned and is crucial for relationships either professional or personal. He made sure my brother and I showed it. Not just to him and my Mom but to any and everyone who earned it. This included the parents of kids’ house we would go to, to teachers, to friends, as well as janitors, dishwashers, or anyone who was working hard to make a living no matter what that living was.
Growing up I always wanted to see shows at a venue called “Club Drakulas” (named because the last name of the guy running it was VonDrak not because it was a goth club). Dad wouldn’t let me go to these shows because of the name and he was worried about all the things parents who never went to shows worry about with their kids; drugs, fighting, robbery etc. I assured him I wouldn’t be getting into trouble why it was named the way it was and I just wanted to go for the music but he wouldn’t budge on his decision. Learning to be outspoken from the man himself I let him know his decision was “bullshit, close minded, and stupid”. (Teenagers sure know how to get to the point don’t they?) Despite my stated protest I let him know I respected him enough to not sneak out to go to the show. This respect worked both ways too. He respected me enough to not just hear me out, but actually listen and understand what I was saying when I told him why he was wrong. It didn’t mean he changed his mind, but meant he could handle our heated arguments because it was all out of love.
Speaking of love, it’s the thing he did best and selflessly to a fault. He loved his family so much. My parents have been divorced for over fifteen years but we are all still family. My parents would still call and check in on each other and see how they were doing, harboring no ill will. Any time my Aunts/Uncles/Cousins from my Mom’s side of the family would be in town he would offer up the home for them to stay even if he wasn’t there. If he knew you, he’d give you everything he had to make sure you were okay. We need more of this mindset today, giving without the expectation of return knowing the gift is helping others.
He loved the team he worked for and with at the Wyoming State Forestry Division for 40 years. There are too many for me to name, but he could name them all. Their spouses, and kids’ and grand-kid's names. He loved the volunteer fire crews so much. On more than one occasion I was told these crews were the greatest success in his career. Those people risking life and limb to fight fires for the greater good of the community and doing so without pay were the heroes in his eyes.
It’s going to be these things and his sense of humor I’m the most thankful for and the things I miss most. I love you so much Dad, and I am going to really fucking miss you.