Friday, May 1, 2015

The Legacy of a Legend

David Finnegan. 

What a man

He entered my life the same year my grandfather was taken suddenly after a massive heart attack. I was five years old. 

My parents had recently decided to settle in Missouri and as a young couple with two small children, they had so much to learn when they decided to buy a house and land on HWY PP. Thankfully, Dave had it covered.

Dave came busting into our life one day and each memory I have of him is LOUD and clear. He never sat in the background, he always had advice to give, humor to offer, or more advice to give. My mom's first memory of Dave was his walking in on her as she was trying to move a fridge. Now mind you he was still a stranger and she was home alone, but he didn't seem to mind. He walked right past her, picked up the fridge like it was a small child, moved it to the desired destination, then proceeded to sit down and chat.

It didn't take long for him to become a part of our family and fill the role of honorary father, grandfather, and mentor. When my grandmother moved from Texas to live with us, Dave made her welcome and helped her around the house as much as helped us. Every evening, we would all sit around the table and fight and talk and laugh, then wrestle and clean up. Dave was a part of homework, friend drama, band concerts and school plays. 

He was the man. The man who always sampled all three of us girls' new dishes and critiqued them. He would never let mom live down the time she tried to make his favorite pie and accidentally baked a melted spatula into it. He never seemed to tire of my calling him and insisting that he come down IMMEDIATELY so that I could get an opinion on a new recipe.

He was the man who taught me how to drive the tractor, then the truck, then a stick shift. He was the first person I called when I wrecked the vehicle, and the other one that he had given me and that he would never get running again. 

When it came to my crisis, Dave was always present to help. I would break the blade on the lawn mower and he would teach me how to fix it. The horses would escape and he would help me chase them down, a tree would be across the road and he would help with the tractor and move it. He was always bailing me out before dad came home.

Then came the day my incredible grandmother was killed in a car accident. She was so strong and healthy and it was so sudden. One day she was living next door and teaching us about life, and the next she was in eternity. Dave was the first one in the room when I found out. He held me tight and cursed anything and everything. For the first time ever, I didn't silence his cursing and he stayed with my family through each stage of grieving. 

Dave was the one who I called the day dad deployed to Iraq and he was the one who unlocked the gun safe and taught me how to shoot. I spent lots of time learning how to fix engines, change oil, weld small metal pieces for my broken jewelry, stack hay, and so many other things around our farm with the man, Dave Finnegan. He took care of us and the farm for the year that dad was gone, then continued to look after us.

Dave also taught me about respect, honor, and what our men went through in Vietnam. While he had a different way of approaching things, it was always extremely creative, controversial, and created conversation. There was truly never a dull moment when he entered a room. He loved us in a very different way, but he loved us so much. 

Dave gave of himself every single day and next to my grandmother was the hardest working person I have ever met. He lived his life for other people and would drop everything to help someone in need. All of the neighbors on blasted Highway PP could tell stories of times that Dave had come to their rescue. He owned a large chunk of the highway, and knew the comings and goings of everyone. Every time I drove that highway, I would see him parked in front of someone's house, but there was not a house that he spent more time at than mine. He had his own parking place for his yellow sports car and would get out with his little wry smile and the gait that spoke of years of wear on his body. He lived in constant pain but he rarely complained about it. He would knock loudly on our door first thing in the morning, crack it open, then holler, "Hello?? I'm here!" Sometimes he would just sit in the main area and wait for us to wake up so we could get started on the farm chores. 

There will never be a day that I drive home and don't automatically look for Dave Finnegan's vehicle. There will never be a piece of the farm that does not ignite my mind with the memories of Dave. Every time I pick up a gun, or grab the stick of a manual, I will remember his rough voice and his stiff words. There are some people who don't just leave a footprint in your life, they instead mold a part of you and wait patiently as that part of you forms into adulthood. Dave helped to form some of the best parts of me and I will be forever indebted to him. He was not at all a perfect individual, but he taught me so much about life. He lived his life out loud and never once hid who he was. He figured out what he believed and he stuck to it. David Finnegan, the Creator took you home today and all I can say is that I hope He realizes what He's getting into!

Here is a link from my last actual visit with Dave-My dad's 50th Birthday and an example of Dave's normal dialogue.

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