In the two years that I have been blogging, I have never posted about a VERY special person in my life. He was my very best friend when I was a child. We would spend hours upon hours together doing so many different kinds of things. The majority of the trouble I got in when I was little involved him 90% of the time. This man is my Papa.
Not a single month goes by when someone doesn’t tell me that I look like Raymond Droke. I’m even told that he and I have the same mannerisms. My old pastor used to greet me (and still does to this day!) by saying, “Has anybody ever told you that you look like Raymond Droke?” It would take a long time before I realized what a compliment that was.
Most of the memories I have of my Papa involve Mud Creek. When he was alive, we had a farm between our house and my grandparents’ house. Cows out the wazoo swarmed the 16 acres that encompassed “Drokeland.” Papa would give each grandkid a cow, which included any calves they had in their lifetime. I had three: Star, Belle, and Ruby. Later on, we would sell those cows for money that would go in our college funds. I loved working with Papa around the farm. Riding on the tractor going to get hay, feeding the cows out of the old freezer in the barn, feeding the ducks, playing with the dog, steering clear of Bob the Bull, and fishing in the two ponds we had. I can’t forget riding the three-wheeler and Yamaha motorcycle around Mud Creek.
When he worked at Garan, Grandmother and I would often go and visit him during his lunch break. This usually consisted of the three of us sitting in his blue Nissan truck eating peanut butter crackers with a Pepsi. To me, that was the meal of a king.
The best memory I have of Papa happened Monday thru Friday between 7:30 and 8:00. Every morning, he would pull up in his little blue Nissan truck to carry Quinten and me to school. He did this every single day for two years. During the drive, we would drive slow past a little farm where horses roamed and we would watch them. We would also see who was right when it came to the light being red or green at the intersection. He could come up with the CRAZIEST sayings during these drives. One I recall is “Goodness gracious, great balls of goose dookie!” To this day, I don’t even know how he thought of that.
He and Dad worked for weeks to build a tree house for Quinten and me. It was a HUGE tree house with a porch and a covering for the boat. Since he was retired, he could spend many hours a day hammering nails and putting up tin for a roof. That was one of the biggest gifts he ever gave me. Although it is no longer standing, I’ll never forget that.
Then one school day came when I got up and Mom told me I wasn’t going to school that day. I knew I wasn’t sick. There wasn’t snow on the ground because it was the middle of May. That’s the moment when she told me that Papa was in heaven. I’m so glad she put it that way. My little heart was crushed. I had lost my best friend in the whole world. I walked around that day just confused. It was hard to wrap my mind around the fact that there would be no more drives to school or rides on the three-wheeler or fishing in the pond. It was amazing to see the love of our family wrapped around us during that week.
Now, any time someone asks me if Raymond Droke was my Papa, I say “yes” with pride. It’s one of the biggest compliments I could ever receive. If I turn out just like him, I’ll be a happy man.