...the one in the waitress outfit, not the green hair from the year before...
Today quietly marks five years since my best friend, my father, Henry Cargill Putnam, passed away at the young age of 58. I had the delight of daily interaction with him for 27 years. If you read my comments here, it is likely because you know me, and if so, there is a great possibility that you knew him, and therefore I don't have to tell you that he was kind, generous, faithful, and had a wit that was lightening fast and funnier than hell.
If you knew him, I don't need to tell you about his deformed heart or that he had 4 major heart conditions that worked in symphony to let him live far longer than the days his parents were told he would live. I don't need to tell you that he pushed himself, ever overcoming odds and obstacles. You may know that he went to Beloit College for his undergraduate and received his Masters from Missouri. You may devise from this that he lived his entire live completely committed to the hatred of Kansas University and all things Jayhawks. We hungered for a decent football season from MU and he would be happy to know we are finally dining among kings with Chase Daniel and this year's team. Conversely, I recall being a fan of MU basketball, watching games with him and meeting the players once when I was young and he took us to a game in Columbia, and wondering what has happened to the program.
He was always a fan of athletics, even though his heart prevented him from participating in many. He loved golf. My god, how he loved golf. My god, how he struggled at golf. And my god, how I wish I would have played more golf with him.
Each year (and later in his life, twice a year), he went to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for a checkup. The amazing doctors there somehow balanced all that was wrong with him and prescribed medicine to counter it. My brother, Andy, and I went with mom and dad several times. Each trip they transformed a hospital visit into a vacation. They took us to the Baltimore Aquarium several times, and toured ships in the Baltimore Harbor.
Every day could have been my father's last, which is why, I think, his sense of humor was so keen. He had great friends. Rich Williams, Stan Schmidt, David Dally, Harry Rogers, George Platt, Dick Ralston...living in a small town all his life created bonds for life. He was deeply involved in Boy Scouts, Rotary, and the United Way. For United Way fundraisers he would often challenge the group to raise a certain amount, and when they hit their goal he would make good on his challenge, dying his hair green, or waiting tables in costume for tips that would benefit the charity.
Rich Williams was his doctor in Carthage. He worked in tandem with Thomas Traill, his doctor at Johns Hopkins, to monitor blood work, heart rate, etc. I remember Rich being part of our family since I was born - not just as a doctor, but I have vivid memories of Christmas when they would exchange ornery gifts, sometimes wrapped in paper covered by nude women (oddly, that was about my bedtime). They played golf often and we vacationed with Dr. Williams' family. I became good friends with the Williams children, and I met my wife at a Christmas party thrown by Dr. Williams.
I don't remember meeting Dr. Traill. I remember going to Baltimore as a child, but I am not certain Dr. Traill was one of the doctors I met at Johns Hopkins. I was young. For five years I have meant to tell Dr. Traill how much I appreciate the knowledge and care he gave my amazing father, my best friend.
In the year after I met Juile, my wife, at Dr. Williams' Christmas party, both of us moved back to Carthage (I had been in Nashville, she was in Connecticut, and our families both lived in Carthage). I moved back in with my parents at age 26. I am so thankful for that year with them. When Julie and I were married, we lived three blocks away, in my Grandmother's house. I cannot describe with words how fortunate I feel to have had that time with him.
I have started numerous letters to Dr. Traill over the last 5 years. Today I wrote Dr. Traill an email. I found his address at Johns Hopkins' website, and not sure if it would really make it to him, I thanked him. It wasn't much of a thanks, but I hope he knows how much I appreciate him, how the work he did with my father added years to his life and let me mature to a point where I could truly know and befriend my father. I just wanted him to know how thankful I am for being a part of the miracle that gave me my father for 27 years.
He wrote back. Part of his response sums up who my father was, and how I will forever remember him:
"You should know that his picture is still on my shelf - the one in the waitress outfit, not the green hair from the year before - and I remember him very fondly."