Daddy G's Final Trip to Idaho

Dad was born and raised in the small rural town Shelley Idaho. As a child and teen, Dad fished and swam in the Snake River.  He had hoped to move back to Idaho and live out his retirement years and be laid to rest. He postponed his move to Idaho for many years.  Instead, he chose to stay here in Virginia with my daughters and me. He wanted to be a present and loving Grandpa to those girls.   

Unfortunately, Dad suffered a severe stroke in 2014.  This changed everything. After the stroke, Dad had lingering deficits that required 24 hour assistance.  After attempting to keep him home, we realized he needed care beyond what I could provide.  So we made the decision to move him into a nursing home.  The medical and living  expenses drained our family’s savings and eventually his care landed in the hands of Medicaid.  In short, there is no money left. 

I would love to be able to fulfill my Dad’s wishes, but I am a single working Mom with two daughters.  I simply do not have enough money to take time off from work and to pay for us to fly him to Idaho. The proceeds from the GoFundMe will be used to pay for Dad’s final arrangements.

The girls and i would would really like to be able to honor my Dad/their Grandpa if we are able. It would help us to grieve his loss and to do the right thing. Any help would be deeply appreciated.

Here’s my Dad’s tribute so you can get to know him better..:.

TOLVIN VONNO GRIFFIN (1936-2018)

My Dad was a great story teller. He shared so many wild tales of his life that I think I have pretty good idea of what it must have been like growing up in rural Idaho in the 1930s and 40s. I imagine his younger years as a dirty, dusty, and hard life in the small town, Shelley, Idaho. I have to be honest - I feel like the lives of his family and neighbors revolved around potatoes. Dad always said Idaho potatoes are the very best. His Aunt Wanita owned the little diner in town and Dad said they had the best French fries in the world. Through all the childhood stories he’s told, I imagine kids hopping around in potato sacks, burly men digging up potatoes and slinging sacks of potatoes everywhere, and women cooking potatoes all day.

I envision his parents, Curtis and Eleanor, as leather skinned and tough. If I closed my eyes I can smell homemade bread baking in the wood burning stove. I can smell the grease bubbling in the cast iron skillet. I can see Eleanor tossing fresh vegetables (grown in their garden) and potatoes into the grease. I can hear her yelling the names of seven children to make their beds and collect eggs from the hen house if the wanted any. I can see his Curtis coming through the creaky door of the small farmstyle home after a long day’s work. He has rough hands and dirt under his nails. I can hear him sternly telling the kids to finish all the food on their plate and get their chores done. “Help your mother now or you’ll get an ass whoopin”. This man actually gave “ass whoopins”

The Griffin family was well known in town. They were poor and their kids were trouble makers. Dad and his brothers were the original “greasers” - Real hooligans. There was Ileana, ‘Lil Curtis, Robert, Edgebert, Tolvin, Eugene, and Kinley. The boys wore rolled up jeans, white t-shirts with a cigarette pack in the sleeve, and engineer boots. They drank beer like it was water.

Their Dad was not only the hardest working man in town, but he was also Chief of the volunteer fire department. I can envision the look on their Dad’s face when he arrived on the scene and saw his own house burning to the ground. I can see the fear on my Uncle Gene’s face when he had to tell his Dad the reason the house burned down was because he was playing with matches. My Dad was not an innocent in this story – but his brother Gene always stood up for him. That would not be the last ass whooping Gene would take for the team. I can imagine my Dad picking fights with other boys on the school yard, and I can feel the thrill that he and Uncle Gene felt when Gene had to jump in and save my Dad from getting pummeled by the bigger kid. Dad shouldn’t have messed with him in the first place.

I can hear music in that house. The Griffins had a thing for hillbilly music and jazz. I can hear my Dad’s Dad playing his banjo and my Dad practicing his trumpet. With years and years of practice Dad became quite the trumpet player. If Dad wasn’t playing his trumpet, he was constantly tapping his fingers, humming, or whistling. He was always whistling. You see, my Dad was over flowing with music. He couldn’t contain it.

I have to wonder what it was like growing up during the Great Depression. It must have been so hard to be a kid living with scarce resources – or maybe it wasn’t? It was just the way it was. I wonder how it must have felt to be engaged in hard labor by the age of 13. Dad left home to work on the railroad when he was still a child. I wonder how it felt to be so young and to feel responsible for having to earn money to be able to feed himself and to feel accepted by his hardworking parents. I wonder if his parents sent him off to work on the railroad because he was such a trouble maker? I’m not going to share Dad’s stories from the railroad years today – let’s just say that the stories are great and assume that he grew up REAL fast!

I know that one of the most important moments is Dad’s life came from his life in the service. Dad joined the United States Army as soon as he was able. He was sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina to become a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. I know that he played trumpet in the army marching band. Dad had the distinct honor of playing revelry every morning, playing taps for fallen soldiers, and playing tunes to honor decorated generals. Dad learned how to jump out of planes, traveled the world, and learned to be part of something – instead of against it all. The Army tamed what it could. When Dad was on his way to fight in the Korean War, he injured his shoulder. He spent his wartime in a Japanese Hospital recovering. I know that Dad enjoyed his Army career enough to sign up for a second term, and despite quite a few hooligan incidents and barroom brawls, he served out his second term and was honorably discharged. I’ve seen so many photos of Dad and his army buddies. He was a really good looking man and had beautiful green eyes.

Dad returned to the states and ended up here in Northern Virginia. It’s no wonder that a bad boy like Dad could get a date with a hottie like Brenda, my Mom. Mom had a thing for Elvis – and this guy kinda looked like him. Dad fell in love and married my mom soon after. I know that he loved her with all his heart. I choose to believe that Brenda remained his true love. They had ups and downs and even split ways in the end, but he kept her in his heart until the day he died. His last week on earth, he kept mistaking me for her. That’s how I know he still loved her.

I know that early in their married life, Mom and Dad had a mutual love of animals. They always had dogs and parakeets. The two of them raised cocker spaniels and even showed them. Dad found steady work as a welder and iron worker. I know he was good at what he did. He was involved in building a lot of infrastructure around Washington DC. Anytime you are driving over a bridge near the beltway – think of Dad – he might have welded part of it. He had a natural understanding of engineering and the importance of good structural building. He had immense pride in his work. Dad got up early, made his bed, showed up to work early, worked hard and steady, and stayed late if he had to. Old fashioned work ethic.

From Dad’s stories – I think he must have partied just as hard as he worked. Going though photos of Dad over the past two weeks, there are very few where I don’t see a can of Budweiser nearby. He had many stories of bar room brawls, nights in jail, wrecked cars…. I’m not exactly sure how many teeth he lost during fights, but all of his front teeth were gone by the time I was born. Dad loved to show kids his false teeth and watch them run away in horror. He was kinda funny like that. Dad partied hard, drank a lot of beer, and lived the only way he knew how – life to its absolute fullest.

Dad was the best story teller I knew. The best part of his stories was they were all true. He always told the truth. Dad taught us that your story is your story – that you should be yourself no matter what. He had no tolerance for fake people. I thank Dad for that lesson. No bullshit here.

At some point early in the marriage, Mom and Dad decided that dogs and birds weren’t enough. They decided to start a family. Along came Tolvin, Jr…and then Bradley….and then eventually..me. Dad loved us so much. He tried to be like his Dad – tough and gruff…and mean. But we could see through that. He had a gooey center. That came in handy for us when we were teenagers….

I remember Dad as a DAD. In my mind and heart, he was the coolest dude ever. Whenever we would go places, kids would flock to him. I grew up in Colorado. I remember every summer we would drive up to Bailey – a small mountain town in the foothills just to the West of Denver. We would camp out at Larry Meuller’s house. As soon as we pull up in the old blue Buick station wagon, aka LAND SHARK, all of these kids would come running up to the car. They were always excited to see Dad. Back then, everyone called him “TV” “TV, are you gonna sleep on the trampoline again this year? TV are you gonna fall in the river again this year?, TV are you gonna go fishing with us again this year?” Kids loved hanging out with Dad. They loved Dad because of all the crazy shit he would do. They loved his stories. Everyone loved Dad because he was REAL.

Dad was also unique. He loved doing off the wall stuff to get a rise out of kids. This one time, we went fishing and caught a bunch of rainbow trout. We gut and cleaned them right by the river. Then we walked the fresh fish right over to the camp fire to cook them in cast iron skillet over the fire. As usual, all of the kids were glued to Dad. I think maybe he had had enough kid time. So he picked up one of the cooked fish heads and popped it in his mouth. He rolled it around in there for 30 seconds or so making all kinds of weird grumbling noises. Then he spit the head out and turned to the kids. With his eyes popped wide open, he stuck his tongue out to reveal two eyeballs on his tongue. The kids screamed and ran away utterly grossed out. Dad laughed and laughed and laughed. The he washed the eyeballs down with a slug of Budweiser. The kids were back and clinging to him within minutes. When it came to my Dad, there were always surprises.

Dad loved a good road trip. Littleton, Colorado made for a good starting point for an adventure. Dad would wake me up pre-dawn…tell me to pack a bag, and we’d get in the car – and just go! We would just drive and stop. Drive and stop. And then drive some more. On these driving adventures, we would eventually see just about every national park in the West. From Colorado to Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho…..Garden of the Gods, Zion, The Grande Canyon, Bryce Canyon, 4-corners, Mesa Verde, Saguarro, Death Valley, Corpus Christi, Galveston, San Diego, Las Vegas, Yellow Stone, Estes Park, Old west ghost towns, Indian reservations…..the list goes on and on. My childhood is filled with memories of road trips – just Dad and me.

Along with the national parks, we saw the every honky tonk, country western bar, and truck stop diner on the way. Dad and I sauntered into every shady place we could fine. We always sat at the bar. Dad would order a cold Budweiser and I’d be drinking a Shirley temple on the barstool right next to him. Now, there are surely a lot of folks who would look down on this parenting style and say “what kind of father takes his kids to bars?” My answer to those people, “Mine did. It’s just what we did. It may not have been the healthiest environment for a little girl, but I choose to remember it only one way. It was quality time with my Dad.”

Dad loved sports. The television was always on and some type of sport was always being broadcast. This subject is big so I’m going to simplify it to his top picks. He loved the The Terps, Washington Redskins and Nascar. I remember watching the LA Lakers and The Celtics play in the NBA championship. Dad and I watched one game together sitting at a bar. Dad was a big Larry Bird fan. That was a crazy cool time in our lives.


My Dad was a good Dad. He was always there for me. He was my biggest advocate and my best friend. He always had my back in a fight – even if I deserved to have my ass beat. He always made sure we had food on the table and a warm place to snuggle. When I was in middle school and came home crying because I didn’t fit in, he spent is whole paycheck on Guess jeans, Keds, and a Swatch watch. He even bought me a Swatch protector! He made sure I had everything the cool girls had even though it meant he couldn’t pay the rent. He was always, concerned with my well-being and happiness. He always told me he loved me even when I wasn’t very likable. When I became a rotten teenager, he set me straight. He’d tell me what I was doing that was disagreeable and then share a story about how when he was younger, he did far worse. All my Dad ever wanted for me was a better life than he had. He was always there when I needed ANYTHING. He didn’t like it much when I became a punk rocker and I ripped all the Guess labels off those $80 jeans!!!

When I was living in his house in Beltsville Maryland, I remember a time when he became very frustrated with me. We had baseboard heating in every room. I kept leaving my thermostat on – even after he had told me at least twenty times to turn it off if I was leaving the house. I remember coming home one day to find the note that he had left me. Dad loved to leave notes! He had taped the note on the wall next to the thermostat. It said “If you forget to turn off this thermostat again, I will shoot you” He had drawn a little cartoon revolver with smoke coming from the barrel. It was signed “LOVE,DADDY G”. My friends saw the note and thought, again, your Dad is the coolest Dad ever. And from that day forward, he was no longer no longer TV, he was “Daddy G”

Like the kids from my early childhood, my highschool and college friends adored Daddy G. I was just a blue collar, gruff, beer drinking guy. But there was something special about him. Something unique. Maybe it was his realness or maybe the utter lack of filter. Maybe it was because he let my friends drink underaged at his house – lol. I don’t know. I like to think it is because they could see that this rough exterior was merely what he had endured – that he had a hard upbringing; he never had it easy. Despite all that, there was a beauty beneath it that exterior. A softness. A caring soul who would do anything for those he loved. This rough exterior of a man loved puppies and children so much that the thought of them brought tears of joy to his eyes.

Where others saw dirt, Dad saw a place to plant a vegetable garden. Where others saw a dead tree, Dad saw a solid foundation for a bird feeder. Dad could plant a tomato plant in concrete and make it grow 15 ft tall. If there was a patch of empty earth – Dad planted and grew something amazing in it. Anyone that Dad ever met, was sent home with a jar of homemade pickled jalepenos. Dad and I basically lived together my whole life. I don’t ever remember a time when there wasn’t something being grown or harvested from our yard. Even when we lived in apartments. He didn’t care whose land it was. He’d till up a little patch of earth right next to the building and throw some seeds in there. There was always a fresh brewed batch of miracle grow ready to go.

You see, Dad was loving and kind to all things who needed it. If he had a spare room, or hell, even a spare piece of carpet – he would make a place for a friend to sleep on it. He opened his home and refrigerator to anyone who needed it. He worked hard so that he could have plenty. Plenty to share. He was giving, generous, and kind. Even though he was grumpy and pretended to hate everyone – his actions spoke for themselves.

As Dad aged he got a bit more grumpy and gruff. He had been working hard his whole life and he suffered from some long term health effects associated with his line of work. Asbestos and welding dust are pretty rough on one’s body. I remember the day Dad let me know he had decided to finally retire. I was really excited for him. I asked him when his last day would be. He said “Today. I called into work and told them I wasn’t coming in and that I retire”. He didn’t give them notice. He didn’t make a big deal of it. He just retired. And just like that – he was done. Only Daddy G would do that.

Dad had wanted to move back to Shelley Idaho for his retirement. I couldn’t bare the thought of him being so far away. I was interested in having kids of my own and really wanted him to be a part of that. So Dad moved in with me here in Virginia. He postponed his move back to Idaho indefinitely.

Dad was right here for the birth of my two little girls, Bren and Piper. He had the joy of living with his grand children for many years. He was the best grandpa ever. Bren recently told me how special she felt her Grandpa was. He used to pick her up from Kindergarten every day. She said, Grandpa would always take the long way because he knew I thought the hilly roads were more fun. Dad always put others needs first. He loved those little girls with all of his heart.

Dad helped me raise the girls, took care of my pets, and made our yard the envy of all of Ashburn. We had golf course grass, blooming flowers all season long, a clean home, and an undeniable sense of family. His retirement was full and rich in so many ways.

After Dad suffered the stroke a few years ago, he spent quite a bit of time in rehabs and nursing homes. All of his nurses and assistants would say the most amazing things to me. “He is the sweetest man” “We just love TV” “He is so funny at Trivia – is knows all the answers- Mr. smarty pants – and he can’t just answer the question, he has to tell a story about it!” He left an impression wherever he would go.

Tolvin Griffin (1936-2018). He was kind to plants, trees, birds, bugs, spiders, dogs, kids….they were all friends to Dad. He was a special kind of guy. He lived an amazing and full life. His stories, his honesty, his unique ways, and caring nature will certainly live on through memories. I miss you Dad – there will never be another Daddy G.

Donations

  • Mary Samples 
    • $10 
    • 23 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $200 
    • 25 mos
  • Tosha Starke 
    • $100 
    • 26 mos
  • Sue and John Duffy 
    • $100 
    • 26 mos
  • Jennie Gleason 
    • $50 
    • 26 mos
See all

Organizer

Jennifer Griffin Rossi 
Organizer
Ashburn, VA
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