Dad

My father died on January 1, 2021. We finally held a memorial service last week, and below are the words I offered for the service.

I distinctly remember the first time I met Roger Rio. I was in 7th grade, and Mom took my younger brother, Jerry, and me to a small presentation in Candler. A man was giving a slide show about his recent trip to Europe. As Roger Rio was giving his presentation, I interrupted at one point to tell him one slide was actually of a different place than he said. I had read about it the week before.

 Now, most grown men would have looked at this little girl whose big travel adventures had only been Orlando or Myrtle Beach – and would have informed her she was wrong. Most men would have immediately discounted me. But not Roger Rio – he checked his notes again, and then said I was right.

 So, I like to take credit for Mom and Dad getting connected 🙂 Now I do know he saw an intelligent, independent, and attractive woman who was an excellent mother – so how could he not be interested? When I was in 8th grade, Mom and Dad got married – I was legally adopted, and I’ve been Amy Rio ever since.

One fun thing Dad shared with me was a love for cars. When he moved into our house in Candler, he brought with him a late ‘60s Jaguar he was restoring. I was convinced that would be my car when I turned 16, and I quickly learned from Dad that “real” drivers drove manual transmissions – something he was proud to teach me with my driving lessons. Now some of you know that Dad had different cars he was “restoring” over the years. None of them ever actually ran :). It just kept his engineering brain going! Dad and I talked cars a lot over the years, and I have great memories of watching BBC’s Top Gear and calling Dad to laugh about the crazy things the presenters did on the show.

Dad was always confidently unique.

 I remember in high school that my classmates would complain to me if they got caught behind Dad’s red ’78 Vega on the tiny mountain road. Dad knew what was a safe speed and appropriate way to drive, and he didn’t care how many teenagers were late for the tardy bell!

And some people from our church growing up still talk about when Dad came to worship literally wearing 5 different shades of green. They were convinced he was trying to get a laugh – but Mom and I both knew he really thought he just looked good!

The confidence and kindness he always displayed were incredible influences for this teen girl.

Now I know I was not the easiest teenager – I took individuating quite seriously. But Dad was eternally patient with me. I knew sometimes he did not understand my moods, but he always supported me – no matter what. He really didn’t understand what one could do as a religion major in college – and that certainly can be debated – but he supported me all through college and Divinity school and was always so proud of me.

 I was fortunate to witness a major turning point in Dad’s life. Mom and Dad came back to the hospital room about an hour after my son Caleb was born – they had been in the waiting room for many hours, because Caleb was taking his time to arrive. Mom held Caleb first, and then handed him to Dad. I will never forget the look on Dad’s face – it was really indescribable. Part of him came to life in a way known of us had known before. This same type of love greeted Ava when we arrived home from China with our new baby. 

 Dad had a special love for his two grandchildren. There was absolutely nothing in the world he would not do for them.

 The one word that keeps coming to mind the past few months since Dad has been gone is unmoored. Most of you know me – and have known me for many years. I am my mother’s daughter – capable, independent, intelligent. I can handle what comes my way. But a few years back, when it was all I could do to get up each morning and go to work and try to get through my day and take care of my children – Dad was the rock I needed. 

 I remember coming to Black Mountain for a visit during that time, and walking by Flat Creek with Dad. He never pried, but he was asking how things were going. At one point he stopped, and said quite firmly – “Amy, you don’t need to worry about anything. If there is anything you need, we will take care of it.” Dad guaranteed me the safety I needed that day. He didn’t always know the perfect words to say – and who of us does – but he did when I most needed it.

 I had the honor to sit up with Dad throughout his last night so Mom could get a few hours’ sleep. He was in the Hospice bed in the small bedroom. I sat in his favorite rocker and played Singers and Swing music on the cable tv music station. By late afternoon, I had been calling people to tell them that things were happening quickly. I held the phone up to Dad so he could hear them. And one thing he kept responding – “Wonderful.” It was wonderful that family and loved ones were reaching out, and we all knew Dad had left nothing on the table. He lived a truly good life – doing everything he could for others whenever he could. 

I learned so much from my Dad – more than I could possibly say today. But Dad always liked lists, and so I thought I would close by sharing a list of a just a few things I learned from him –

  1. One is never too old to always be learning new things (even if you initially call an email address a “handle”)
  2. Press on regardless – one of his favorite sayings
  3. Find joy in the little things – like the perfect Bocce roll
  4. Always be good to others – even if you don’t understand their decisions or actions
  5. Have a plan how to go about your day – write things down so you don’t forget them (like walking up to the church to pick up sticks after the last rainstorm)
  6. Be proud of being quirky and different
  7. Celebrate being a nerd
  8. Old things can always have new life
  9. Build things to last past your own lifetime
  10. Be very generous
  11. Life is wonderful

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