In the newspaper business we care a lot about numbers--the number of subscriptions, readers, Web site hits, Web site members, and of course the numbers at the bottom line. But the number I am most concerned about this week is one-one faithful reader that I know won't be perusing the pages of the Wetzel Chronicle anymore.
That reader is my dad, Raymond Westfall. He passed away last week and while I have told many people that my family and I are doing fine (really, we are), the realization that he won't tell me anymore that I wrote a nice column or he agreed with an editorial or that he just generally thought an edition was extra special saddens me.
You see, my dad was my biggest cheerleader-particularly when it came to my vocation. I know he was proud of the path I took in life. He has always had a love affair with words and I guess this job would be sort of an ideal for such a person.
Dad was an avid reader and that is the reason he was so incredibly intelligent. I have inherited a few reading habits from my dad, like reading a magazine from cover to cover by using a bookmark. Unfortunately my magazines are InStyle and Scrapbooks, etc. His were Newsweek and National Geographic. That probably explains why I don't have the vast amount of knowledge contained in his head.
Those early years of reading every book he could obtain in rural Maud must have fostered a great intellect and desire to see the world beyond that country setting, because my dad certainly loved to travel. My parents were big believers in the family vacation and that quality has been instilled in my siblings and I.
Not only do you get to visit new places while on vacation, you learn about history and the workings of this world, you read maps that show you how to get anywhere in life, you experience other cultures, you enjoy the beauty of God's creation, and you spend time with your family. That latter one was quality time even before there was such a term.
Some of my most memorable moments in life have been while traveling. It was on the road that I was most able to learn valuable lessons from my dad on how to behave and react through example. Unfortunately I don't think I always put them into practice.
One time we were in a particularly rough section of Memphis. I spotted a woman who was barely clothed and apparently strung out on drugs. I pointed her out to my dad, saying something about how disgusting she was. My dad simply said, "There but for the grace of God go I."
I had heard that phrase before, but never truly realized its meaning. Yes, only by God's grace and my fortunate upbringing was I not in that woman's shoes. Without Raymond Westfall as my father I would not be who I am today. I have been blessed.