Those of you may not know, but my father recently passed away and I felt it important to get a few things written about him and what he meant to me. My father was born, February 9, 1940 and was summoned into heaven on October 28, 2014. Since learning of his passing, I have been visited by swarms of butterflies each time I leave my home or any building. I can only believe this to be my father’s beautiful and playful spirit and this has placed a smile on my face in such a dark time in my life. So I write this to tell you a little about how my father contributed to shaping who I am and the legacy he leaves behind.
My full name is Reaj Virginia Goodmon Roberts. I am the daughter of Welbert Joseph Gabriel Goodmon and Virginia Frances Howard. Many of you understand my name is pronounced as, “Rhea” and others know my name to be pronounced as “Ray-a”. For whatever reason, my mother, Virginia and my father, Joseph, could not agree on the correct pronunciation and so I’ve always responded to both. I know this is confusing for a lot of reasons but I will say, as an adult, it’s one of the things about me that I love. Growing up, my father always referred to me as “Rhea” and would even jokingly tease me by calling me “Rhea Rhea diarrhea”. Obviously, this is why I never really cared for being called Rhea. Having grown up primarily in my mother’s home, I often refer to myself as “Raya”. When I was younger someone said, “oh yeah, I get it, like a Ray-a sunshine”. I preferred that analogy a lot more than being called diarrhea, I’m sure you can imagine why. The pronunciation may have been one of the disagreements my parents had, but one thing they indefinitely agreed upon was how much they loved me and so I was given my mother’s name, Virginia as my middle name and the “J” was added to my name R-e-a so my name could some way reflect “Joseph”.
My father loved me unconditionally and some of the things I loved about him in return are: his sense of humor, charisma, pride and ambition.
His sense of humor – though not always appropriate – my dad always was up for a good laugh and ready to tell a corny joke. He used to tell me when I woke up in the morning that the kohl I wiped away from my eyes was from a cat who pooped in my eyes during the night. He was always the very first person to wish me a “Happy birthday”. In fact, he never cared about a time zone difference, without fail, every single birthday, I received a phone call without so much as a “hello” he would begin singing, “happy birthday” to me and then he would quickly move onto making jokes about how I would soon receive my AARP and Medicare cards in the mail. If you know me, I think you’d agree that I have indefinitely inherited my father’s sense of humor and ability to humiliate my children purely out of love.
His charisma and pride – my dad had a fabulous sense of humor and he was also very charismatic. He had a way of making people feel comfortable around him and making them want to engage in conversation with him. When I was high school during some of the summers when I visited I would volunteer at the VA Hospital in La Jolla where he worked. Without fail, every single morning when we stepped foot into that building, walking down the long corridors, riding in the elevators on our way to his office he would literally smile and say, “hey guy” or “good morning” to every employee he saw. It was like the entire facility knew him or of him. And then embarrassingly he would say, “Have you met my daughter?” You can imagine my embarrassment as an insecure, 14 year old but I later realized, he was just smitten with me and wanted everyone to know about me. I do the same thing with my children. I can talk all day and night about my amazing, gifted, and kindhearted son Caleb or his equally amazing little sister, Leila Belle and how her positive energy can pulsate through any room.
His ambition – my dad graduated from the University of California, Riverside with a degree in Sociology. He was a smart man and many years later, he decided to continue on in his education earning a Master’s Degree in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix. He even desired completing a Doctoral Degree in recent years. He never stopped learning and he strongly believed no one else should either. I followed in my father’s footsteps and obtained my Bachelor’s of Arts in Sociology from Arizona State University and have more years than I am willing to admit to in health care management.
I wish my children could have known my dad in his younger days when his health was not as problematic. It saddened me to see the desire in my dad’s eyes to be equally as playful with Leila Belle but physically unable to do more than laugh and smile at her as she jumped across his couches. I am glad that she had those moments with my dad, sharing sugary treats and equally sweet kisses. It was the first time they had met each other but it was as if Leila had known her Grandpa Joe all of her life and her affection towards him was immeasurable. Seeing my daughter with my father and how sweet, tender and affectionate he was towards her reminded me of how he made me feel just as special at her age.
My dad was fun, adventurous, and playful. He never passed an opportunity to toss me onto the front of his motorcycle to ride on the gas tank to preschool or honk his horn at me when he pulled up to the playground to pick me up at the end of the day. He loved amusement parks and was always ready to jump onto a thrill ride and he made me the happiest 4 year old when he took me to Disneyland for my birthday. He loved horror movies and I loved watching them with him too even though most of the time I held my hands across my face too afraid to watch. Once, he took me trick or treating as very small child and a man answered the door dressed as Frankenstein – it scared me terribly and I remember clinging so tightly onto my dad’s neck in horror and feeling his facial hair press against my cheek as he carried me all the way home.
I will miss his prickly hugs, his fuzzy kisses and his deep belly laugh. I will even miss his flirting with waitresses every time we ordered a meal and his huge belch after a nice, cold beer. I will miss receiving his cards and letters entitled, “To My Darling Daughter Reaj”. I will miss my daddy.
There are conversations I have had with my father in recent years and months that I feel honored to have had. These conversations gave me insight (as an adult) to understanding who my father really was and I will cherish these conversations forever as they mended parts of my heart I had forgotten were broken. I understand this pain, so deep that I have never before will soon pass and I will reflect happily on the fond memories of my father and how proud I feel to be his daughter.
Let it be known, Welbert Joseph Gabriel Goodmon has raised this beautiful, talented, charming, forgiving, educated, funny, charismatic and ambitious, God fearing, woman, wife, mother, sister, aunt and friend and she will be ok. I have my Faith and I have a husband, Shawn, who is my life partner and my friend who loves me nearly as much as my daddy did, who believes in me when I don’t believe in myself and who holds up with the strength of thousand men. He is a man any father would choose for his daughter and my dad loved him for loving me and blessing our family with amazing children.
I will be ok and I know my father is ok because he has experienced God’s Eternal Grace.