My Dad, Douglas Robert Mappin, was a good man who was a great mentor and teacher to his seven sons and one daughter. When I think of him I am mindful of the military tenet that demands its servicemembers lead by example. Dad, a 26-year veteran of the Indiana National Guard, lived and breathed that principle... in his military career, with his job and with his family.
He led. I can think of few men who were so principled, so honest and so perfectly suited to be a leader in the National Guard or as a father.
After his passing--he taken from his family and friends far too young--memories have slowly begun to fog, but I have memories still cherished of the man, the friend and the father that he was. I know, from conversations with my son, that he was too young to have many memories of his grandfather. The point is, sadly, as the years pass images have become less prominent, but thankfully, I have some that will never fade.
I leave it to my brothers and sisters to their memories nor can I speak entirely for them. Their memories are their own, after all. I do know there has not been a day we each have not missed his easy humor, his smile, his laugh and his incredibly strong principles and ethics.
Dad was, like many of our parents, a product of the Great Depression. His work ethic was incomparable. In retrospect, I think we kids sometimes wished that had not been the case. You see, my Dad held three jobs for a good number of years. He was a tool and die maker for a company in North Manchester, Indiana. He proudly served in the Indiana National Guard. And in the last few years of his life, Dad had dreamed of running his own business.
He took that leap of faith to develop and hone his own business skills. Not too long before his death, Dad had quit his full-time job to devote full attention to his own tool and die company on the northside of our hometown Rochester, Indiana.
But this was just one aspect of his life.
Dad had a great ear and always the time for when we needed his advice. I remember his words of advice the day I married; the day I became a father; the day I separated from my wife; and the day I decided to enter college, and I remember how proud he was when I told him I was going to be a teacher.
If there was one thing I remember most about my Dad is the pride he had in each of his kids. And if not pride, the concern he showed even more so when we were troubled. I am sure that at one moment or another, each of the eight of us put him through the test of parenthood. I wonder how many headaches we each caused.
While Dad was a great father, I have only vague memories of what kind of husband he was (young kids are so self-centered after all. I am ashamed to say I did not even know when his and my stepmom's wedding anniversary was until after he had died).
I have only the vaguest of memories of what kind of relationship they celebrated together. I do recall a few times of watching he and my stepmom together. Not long after he had suffered a heart attack, I remember them sitting in the living room one time holding hands. In that regards, Dad and my stepmom led a quiet, private life. But I know how hard they both worked to provide for each of their children.
Now while I said I can only guess what kind of husband he was, I look at my brothers Bryan, Rob, Scott and Matt and look at their marriages. Each of them lead lives that I believe were shaped by Dad's (and Mom's) example.
Funny, when I look at my brother Matt it is like looking at Dad, who we (my siblings) have often commented upon, is nearly the image of our Dad.
Dad was also a loving son. His mother, my grandmother, Valda Mappin was diagnosed with Parkinson Disease when I was a young lad. Dad, being an only child, did the best he could to ensure her life was safe and as healthful as possible. So in addition to being a father of a large clan, working multiple jobs, he still found time to devote what energies he had to his mother.
I suspect he felt he didn't have enough time to do everything he needed to do.
Perhaps my strongest--and favorite memories about Dad were him spending time with us kids. He played with us, taught us and often took us camping at a nearby campground. Fishing at Lake Manitou on his pontoon boat and roadtrips around the state were always fun as well.
One of our favorite jokes involved Dad's long-time penchant for finding the ugliest fir tree tree for Christmas. Dad always cut his own tree and in my mind, I think he sought out the puniest, ugliest tree he could find every year. Thinking he took pity on that one tree, we found a way for it to shine in beauty for that holiday. In fact, one year the spindly, sparse tree had to be tied to the wall so that it would not tip over. We laughed so hard! But Christmas Eve was always special in Dad's home (and still is to this day, to my stepmom's credit).
In any case, I am sitting here remembering Dad. One of my friends over the weekend told me that he thought it sweet that I mentioned it was Dad's birthday--even after all these years, but I cannot help it. He shaped our lives in ways I cannot imagine.
He lived long enough only to see the birth of his first two grandchildren. I remember his pride when he first held my son Wes, his first grandchild.
He did not live to see my brother Rob nor I join the military, however, I do remember how proud he was when both Bryan and Teresa joined the Armed Forces. I remember crying on the plane flying to boot camp when I recalled my stepmom telling me how proud Dad would be if he had lived to see me, his first-born, joining the Navy.
Dad did not live to see any of his kids marry (except for Teresa and I). Like his Dad before him, his life was cut far too short (both died at the age of 47). While Dad was so proud of his children and wife, it only seems fair to say how proud we were of him as well.
Perhaps the best tribute I can give my father is knowing that each of his eight kids, me, Teresa, Bryan, Mike, Rob, Chris, Scott and Matt all finished school and have all gone on to lead fairly happy lives with their own families.
This past year, a hometown reporter wrote a piece about me while I was serving in Afghanistan, but one of my proudest moments came from reading a letter to the editor. That letter, written by a man who joined the National Guard because of my Dad's leadership, said I "sound" just like my Dad. That, to me, was one of the finest compliments I have ever received in my life.
I do wish that Dawn, Tracy (Rob's wife), Tracy (Matt's), Alana and Lori (my sisters-in-law), the grandkids would have had the chance to have met Dad. They would've loved playing with him and including them in their lives.
I think I speak for each of my brothers and sister when I say I miss Dad dearly. Here's to you, Dad. We love you!
Those who are dead are not dead,
They're just living in my head.