As April approaches there is only one thing that comes to my mind. And no it’s not April Fool’s or April Showers. It’s the birth month of the man I consider to be my biggest influence and my own personal superhero and the world’s greatest role model and the patriarch of my family, my “Paw-Paw.”
There are four men named Lee Artist Rushing in my family. To me, you can’t improve upon perfection, which is why God got it right the first time when he created my grandfather Lee Artist Rushing Sr.
My Paw-Paw was the guy answering all of my annoying little kid questions. He was my Google before Google existed. He helped nurture my love of social studies, sports, and history.
In sixth grade when I needed help with a science fair project he came and pretty much did it for me (I am terrible at science) and when I had to sell candy for school, he sold it. In eighth grade when I competed in the all-state geography bee in Hays, Kan., he and my mother took me there.
My senior year of high school, when I was named a Kansas Honor Scholar he went with me.
He wasn’t just there for me academically or just as a kid. When I had my ‘99 Plymouth Breeze that only ran because of a hope and a prayer, he was that that hope and prayer. When I moved into my first apartment, we carried my junk in his “Jeepers Creepers” truck.
I live parts of my life today based on things he says and actions he takes. For example I started drinking my coffee black after I asked him how he wanted his one day and he jokingly replied, “I drink my coffee black, just like me.”
In my columns I’ve talked about how strong my mom was and everything she did to raise me right. The reason she was the person that she was is because of the guidance and upbringing her parents gave to her.
Lee and Jamesetta Rushing raised five kids together and helped my grandfather’s mother raise my great-aunt Angeline’s 10 kids after she passed from cancer. But the story of my “Mudear” is a whole another article. That tidbit was just to showcase the kind of family I come from.
We help each other out and we are fiercely loyal, almost to a fault.
With that background it’s no wonder my mom did a great job with me, but even my Superwoman needed help. And we got it from all my family, not just Paw-Paw.
My auntie Trish, who was a teenager when I was born, was like a big sister growing up. She was the fun auntie and once gave the most embarrassing public whooping of all time in the middle of Westport (I learned that day to never split a pole and if you do go back around it).
My auntie Shon and my grandmother served as my secondary moms. My auntie called me her “first kid” and my grandmother spoiled me because I was considered the first “house grand-baby.” It was such tough moment in my life when we lost both of them six months apart in 2004.
My mother’s brothers were my other male influences. My uncle Lee (he is the second Lee Artist Rushing), made being a tow-truck driver seem like it was the coolest thing ever. He was also an Army vet and one of the toughest people you will ever meet.
My uncle Lamond is a true Renaissance man. When I was born he was a party animal, DJ and promoter. He also sold and detailed cards and is currently the pastor of his own church back in Kansas City.
They are the ones who taught me the smooth-talking ways of the Rushing men, which comes in handy for interviewing folks.
I don’t want to leave anyone out, but I have a huge family and there is no way I could mention everyone, even if I was granted an entire edition of the Daily News to myself. But my Paw-Paw is great and he is just truly a man that I have always admired.
He is the strongest man I’ve ever known. Hes battled with Jim Crow in the south and dealt with segregation in Midwest. He can curse you out just as quickly as he can make you laugh and he can fix anything with duct tape a wire hanger and aluminum foil.
He drank Tropicana orange Juice and Seagrams Gin long before Snoop Doggy Dog made a hit song about the combination and has a deep affinity for driving Cadillacs.
My Paw-Paw is turning either 74 or 75 this year. For years he told us his birth year was 1939, but after my Mudear passed away at age 105 in 2008, he found some documents saying he was born in 1938. So while we’re not sure which year it is, the man is ageless.
He still gets up at the crack of dawn every morning and does random jobs. He’s a painter, an insurance man, a contractor, a salesman and not only serves on the deacon board at church, but drives the church van as well.
He always called my mom his “Skat-Rabbit” and whenever I see him or talk to him on the phone he always greats me with, “What do ya say der’ bub?” or “Ralphie-Dalphie.” I’m so thankful that in my 26 years on this Earth he is my constant and I can’t wait to see him when I make my first trip home this weekend.
But please people, don’t start calling me bub or Ralphie-Dalphie around town, Ty will do just fine.
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641)-792-3121, ext. 426, or firstname.lastname@example.org via email.