COLUMN: A tribute to my father (and all fathers) on Father’s Day

By Sheila Rathburn/For the Now-Leader

I lost my dad in 2004. The mighty carpenter Ron Rathburn, who had a quintuple bypass in 1992, was finally felled by a bad flu and two unexpected strokes.

In the hospital, he refused to believe his left side was paralyzed and kept making scissor-cut motions so that I, his youngest daughter, might cut the tie that bound him to the bed and he could get up and go home.

As he slipped into that non-responsive but eyes-still-open state during those last two days, a nurse walked in.

“Your father is tanned,” she said. “He looks like he knew how to have a good time.”

Then she opened the morning curtains.

“No,” I replied. “He just worked hard all his life.”

When the nurse left, I closed out the harsh sunlight and cried for my father.

Thirteen years later, I am still reminded of all he taught me about strength of character.

I was recently standing behind a female fireplug come to life who had just cut in line after failing to get a cash register opened just for her.

“Excuse me… Excuse me!”

She seemed incensed that I had unintentionally put my soda in front of the credit card machine.

“Relax lady,” I said, feeling my dad’s Irish blood begin to bubble up.

“I’d like some privacy please,” she said, ramming her card in and shielding the numbers with her hand.

Again, Ron’s voice – not mine – defended my slightly bruised pride.

“Relax lady. I’ve got more money than you do,” which may or may not be true.

“How nice for you,” the fireplug said before trouncing off.

“Yeah it is,” I replied.

It wasn’t my most dainty moment.

Once the woman left, I turned to the cashier.

“Well I saw the attitude a mile away,” I told her.

“I’m sorry about that,” the nice cashier said, making a needless apology – nothing was her fault.

My hands were shaking and my cheeks were red hot as I accepted the change and smiled.

“Have a nice day.”

“You too.”

I waved goodbye and as I walked home, I kept thanking my dad, who was no doubt laughing up in heaven with my mother.

Mom taught me gentle kindness and forgiveness when busy people forget their manners but my dad taught me to stick up for myself and that counts for a lot too.

That night I prayed for that woman, who was obviously having a bad day, and hoped whatever circumstances that caused her harsh demeanor would get better. Our little back and forth need not have happened.

But Daddy, on Father’s Day, I just want you to know in this sometimes mean old world, when blindsided, you gave me a store of strength from which to draw upon and I love you for it.

Here’s to all the dads out there. I sure do miss mine.

Love your cheeky Irish daughter,


Sheila Rathburn lives in Delta.

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