But the memory, or characteristic, that stands out to me most is how much he loved having us around him. We were always welcome with him. Whether it was when he had to go check the pumps over a weekend at the mine, wanted to take a vacation, go fishing, when he went to get his hair cut, or if he was meeting some friends at the local cafe. Anytime, it didn’t matter and it didn’t matter how old we were either. We felt welcome whether we were 7, 17 or 27.
Today would have been his 77th birthday. And with Debbie’s birthday as well as our first annual Kindness on Purpose day around the corner, I can’t help but reminisce about birthdays and the ones which stood at the most. And one of them, actually one of Debbie’s which stands out most to me today is one involving my dad.
One year, after Katy and I had both moved away to school and Debbie was married with little ones, my mom went to Germany for a few weeks. I was worried about my dad being home alone. My mom did everything for him so even though I knew he was very capable I decided to drive down for the weekend just to check on him. As I pulled into our childhood home’s driveway I noticed his car was not there. He should’ve been home long ago so I started to make a few calls. Remember, we grew up in a small town so it was fairly easy to find someone you were looking for quickly. My first call went something like “Hi, is Virgil Lamb there by any chance?”, “uh-no, he just left.” Translation: “He’s standing up to walk out the door right now”. Less than 10 minutes go by and I hear his truck. He was clearly surprised at me being there so early and I was equally surprised to see he was dressed really nice. He was wearing nice slacks, a rhinestone buttoned shirt and his good, shiny, cowboy boots. Not what I expected to see him in. He sat down on the couch and then asked me, knowingly, “isn’t it your sister’s birthday today?” To which I replied “yes” as I tried to figure out where he was going with this. Next he said “Call her, tell her we’re coming to get her to take her to dinner.” “Dad, really don’t you think…”, He interrupts me “Just call her and tell her!” Ok, I call her “Debbie, dad says get ready, we’re coming to get you and take you to dinner.” Debbie: “Really? When” He didn’t say when but I knew him well enough to know when he meant “now!” I hung up and told him she said ok.
At the time, Debbie live clear across town so she had about 10 minutes to get ready cuz clear across Price, UT ain’t that far.
We pull up, Debbie comes out, gets in the car and we drive down main street. No idea what he has in mind and he isn't saying. As we stop and park outside the Matador restaurant, hands down the nicest restaurant in town (and a restaurant for grown ups, I thought) Debbie and I just look at each other incredulously. We went in. Everyone knew him. You could tell they didn’t know for sure who we were and the bartender yelled “Hey Virg! Take this table, can I get you some menus?” “Sure”, he says, “these are my daughters”. The menus came and he said “order whatever you want” and we did. I don’t remember what we had but I know it was good. Music was playing there as well. I mean it was a Friday night and this was the happening place in town so there was a good amount of people there laughing and dancing and having a good time. As we finished our meal, our dad turns to Debbie and says “c’mon, lets dance”. I can still see the ¼ terror and ¾ excitement on her face as he walked her to the dance floor. Then I got a turn, then Debbie, then … it feels like it just went deliriously on and on. It was an incredible night and even then, that very night, that very moment, we, Debbie and I, knew to take it all in that this would be a night we would cherish forever.
Now, I don't want to say he was perfect cuz he wasn’t perfect. He definitely wasn’t what you would consider, from the outside, affectionate. Even a phone call would seem to make him so very uncomfortable if he happened to answer and it was one of us on the other end. Like he had no idea what to say to us so he would quickly pass the phone to my mom. When we would kiss him good night or goodbye, he would visibly cringe (we knew he was just teasing though). And it might come as a surprise but we could probably count, on one hand, the amount of times, combined, in our whole lives, he told us he loved us.
But every once in awhile, on a rare occasion, and each of us has a couple of these, when it felt to us like we needed it desperately, he would pull something out. A gesture, maybe a few very profound words. Whatever it was, it would be so phenomenally intuitive and understanding and wonderfully gentle and caring and touching that it brings me to tears still now writing about it.
He passed away over 18 years ago and I bet I think of him at least once every day. I would give anything to have one more moment with him. One more look at his smirk when he almost can’t help laughing at himself for something. One more visual of him holding a grandbaby so tenderly or seeing him dance with my niece., Stacey One more hug. One more time to say “I love you, dad” and hear him respond “um, yeah ok”.
Happy Birthday Virgil! We miss you, dad!