How August 18, 1973 Changed My World

I wrote the original version of this post quite a few years ago. I’ve revised and updated it a couple of times since, and I’m once again re-posting it with some updated times and a “new old” section added at the end.

I also have a lot of new friends who may have never seen this and/or don’t know why my birthday (yesterday, August 17) is always so bittersweet for me.

I have also written another post that expounded a bit further on the longer-term consequences of this day.

Grace and peace, y’all!

August 18, 1973.

My first day of being a teenager. Last night I got to celebrate my birthday with Mommy and Daddy and David. Corn on the cob and chicken, what a great meal! Then we got to watch our beloved Buffalo Bills play the Redskins in a pre-season game. It was the very first game in the new “Rich Stadium” and it was a pretty big deal for Buffalo. Sure the Redskins destroyed them but still, living in Roanoke, we no longer had many chances to see our Bills play.

Today, after Daddy got home from work we were supposed to go to Lakeside Park, my favorite amusement park. Maybe I’d finally work up the courage to ride the Shooting Star rollercoaster with Daddy. He’ll be so proud of me.

Here comes Mommy to wake me up, must be time to go to…

“Paul! Wake up! There has been an accident…”

—-

Can it really be…

It’s hard to believe it has been 48 years since that fateful morning. I can remember those details so clearly. It really doesn’t seem possible it was that long ago. And yet, as the years go by, other details about Roosevelt Oyler, Jr. (“Junior” to his Roanoke family and friends, “Bud” to his Buffalo friends and my Mom’s family, “Daddy” to me and my brother David) seem to slip further and further away.

I think these are memories…

You know the kind of things: The feel of his touch. The sound of his voice. The smell of his aftershave. And maybe some things I never really knew, like his favorite movie, his favorite song, his favorite food, his favorite TV show, his favorite car. Some of those I can guess at – I know he liked Hee-Haw and The Lawrence Welk Show. I know he liked Al Hirt and Herb Alpert and Jim Reeves and the Metropolitan Opera. (Is it any wonder my musical tastes are so diverse?) But other things I don’t know and never will. I’d love to be able to ask him some of those things. I’d REALLY like to ask him how and why he liked OPERA!

I remember he worked a lot, but I don’t remember many of his jobs, except of course that last one, the one that took his life–driving for the Roanoke Times.

Church memories…

I know he was always involved in our church, first at Kensington Alliance Church, and then when we had to move, it was Kenmore Alliance. Then we moved again and it was back to Kensington. Then we were involved in the planting and start of the Amherst Alliance Church. And then, of course, the Roanoke Alliance Church (now Faith Alliance Church). But I don’t remember so well what he did in the churches.

Silly sense of humor…

I remember he loved to kid around, and he always loved to tease kids. He had this way of sticking his teeth out and clacking them together that was hilarious to boys and totally freaky to most girls. And he had a glass eye that he was known to pop out on occasion for the shock value. (Does anyone wonder why I tend to go for the shock value?)

48 years ago today a great man left this life, way too early. Hard to believe it has been so terribly long, and I still miss my Daddy. Sometimes I get mad at myself because I think I can’t remember enough about him, but then I realize that what is important is that I remember HIM.

And then favorite memories come rushing to mind – going to my first major league game, in Atlanta, with him in 1968 (or maybe ’69?) and seeing Hammerin’ Hank Aaron hit a home run against the St Louis Cardinals, or maybe it is the memory of Daddy trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to teach us how to skip rocks across the water at Delta Lake Camp.

There’s the memory of going to visit some somewhat distant cousins in Kentucky and being amazed at some major culture shock (especially for a 9-year-old that up to that point was still a mostly city-slicker northern boy).

I remember going to work with him one day when he was driving a delivery van of some kind, and going way out in the country.

I remember going to the Peaks of Otter for Sunday dinner on Mother’s Day (I think).

I remember going to my first NBA basketball game, which was actually a double-header – can’t remember which game was in which order, but it was the Buffalo Braves against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and there was also a Harlem Globetrotters game.

I remember going to my first live hockey game and seeing the Roanoke Rebels play the Greensboro Generals, and we enjoyed it so much we went back a few weeks later to see the Rebels take on the Syracuse Blazers in the EHL championship series.

I remember sitting on his lap and watching the Buffalo Bills play, with Jack Kemp at QB, and Buffalo winning the AFL Championship in 1964 and ’65, and being devastated when the KC Chiefs upset the Bills in the ’66 Championship to earn the trip to Super Bowl I.

I remember the night of August 17, 1973, watching our beloved Bills playing (and losing) to the Washington Redskins. It didn’t matter, I was giddy because I was now a big-shot teenager, and as soon as Daddy came home from work (he was supposed to be off, but got called in to drive a truck for the Roanoke Times), we were going to Lakeside Amusement Park. I was supposed to go to work with him but I fell asleep and he didn’t want to wake me because Lakeside was going to be a big day.

I remember Mom waking me up and telling me there had been an accident. I remember when our worst fears were confirmed…

So yeah, I remember my Daddy. He was a great man. I really miss him. I know he is in the presence of Jesus right this minute, and someday, I shall see my Daddy again.

It seems like yesterday…
It seems so very long ago…


I first wrote the following in 2003, and I’ve shared it a couple of times since, but it tells the story of how it took me 30 years to finally be able to accept and deal with the death of my Dad on that fateful night 48 years ago.

——

Oh God, please tell me it isn’t true, tell me this hasn’t happened! Please let this just be a terrible nightmare. This can’t be happening, how could you do this to me? It isn’t fair, God, it just isn’t fair! It’s my birthday, I’m finally a teenager, that’s supposed to be a cool thing, but now you did this! You let this happen….WHY?

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD. I ALONE AM GOD. MY WAYS ARE HIGHER THAN YOUR WAYS. I AM WHO I AM.

God, this just doesn’t make sense. I loved him so much. He was always there for me, making sure I had what I needed. He loved me; he protected me, taught me, cared for me. Now he’s gone, you’ve taken him from me! Is this some sort of cruel joke? … WHY?

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD. I ALONE AM GOD. MY WAYS ARE HIGHER THAN YOUR WAYS. I AM WHO I AM.

God, he loved YOU. He lived his life for you. He brought me up to believe that You are good and loving. He served you with his whole life, and now you’ve taken that very life from him. You killed my father; how can you be so cruel, uncaring, and heartless…WHY?

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD. I ALONE AM GOD. MY WAYS ARE HIGHER THAN YOUR WAYS. I AM WHO I AM.

God, I need him so much. Who will teach me to grow into a man? To whom will I turn to ask all those questions that sons ask their dads? I’m only 13; I’m too young to be the man of the house. I need my daddy to lean on. All my friends do things with their dads; you didn’t take them…WHY?

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD. I ALONE AM GOD. MY WAYS ARE HIGHER THAN YOUR WAYS. I AM WHO I AM.

God, I hope you’re happy now. I’m 17; I just got kicked out of school. I’m what all of the goody-two-shoes call a stoner. But you know what God, when I’m stoned it doesn’t hurt so badly. For a little while, I can forget what you did to me. But then it comes back; I’m the stoner with no dad…WHY?

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD. I ALONE AM GOD. MY WAYS ARE HIGHER THAN YOUR WAYS. I AM WHO I AM.

God, it’s 1989 now, and I still don’t understand. Sure you got me out of that drug mess, and sure you got me into Bible College; but God, it still hurts, and I can’t forget what you did. I needed him when I was in all that trouble, I needed him when I went off to college, I needed him when I got married, I needed him, but YOU took him away from me…WHY?

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD. I ALONE AM GOD. MY WAYS ARE HIGHER THAN YOUR WAYS. I AM WHO I AM.

God, my two daughters will never have the joy of knowing their Grandpa, they don’t even know him as a real person, and he’s just a name to them. And God, when my marriage fell apart, I needed him so bad. My daddy always knew what to do. But he wasn’t there because you killed him. And when I met Debbie, I know he would have been so happy, he would have loved her so much because of how happy she makes me. God…WHY?

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD. I ALONE AM GOD. MY WAYS ARE HIGHER THAN YOUR WAYS. I AM WHO I AM.

God, it was 30 years ago today and it still hurts so badly. I still miss my daddy, and I still don’t understand it. But God, I kneel before YOU…still…and I know that You ARE God. You alone are God. Your ways are higher than my ways. You are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. LORD GOD ALMIGHTY; and because you ARE, I no longer ask why.

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