By Megan Fitts
I believe my dad is the definition of a hero. As a paramedic he’s saved lives, and as a teacher he nurtured them, and all without much praise. I had no idea just how many people respected or admired him, to the point that we’re now sitting inside an amusement park because it was one of the only places big enough. He was a humble man who gave his time, energy and resources so freely, and made an impression on so many people–and still had time for his family.
He taught me how to ride a bike, a bumper car, go kart, lawnmower, and a car. When a kitten was found and rescued here in the park while I was away at art school, my dad drove all the way to Kansas City the next day, on his weekend off to bring me my new friend and emotional support cat.
That weekend, we walked down the street from my apartment to the art museum and walked through the sculpture park. He let me blather on about weird art things like he knew what they meant and he’d point out other perspectives, like how the giant metal tree looked like lightning cus of the way the sunlight caught its branches.
He wanted to know about my world. If my dad and mom were once the king and queen of EMS, does that make me a princess? Because I took a hard left into the art world, and he still supported me. Asking about my weird art projects and wacky friends and gab about all the teachers and faculty on the way to school each morning, and going to my gallery shows with me.
He wanted me to be happy, and was always happy for me. He was like that to a lot of people, but I got to brag about him too. I know that during some of the state EMT tests where my brothers and I worked as mock patients, the poor students would be afraid of accidentally breaking Tom’s kids (and the girl that came close wasn’t even a student). To be fair, according to dad, I was surrounded by medical professionals if I did get injured.
He gave us a bizarre sense of slightly morbid humor, taught us to think creatively and appreciate the world around us. He’d pull pranks such as putting a sign up that said “dry paint,” and then the filing cabinet prank that I borrowed: two drawers, labeled “top secret” and “bottom secret.”
While he was the faculty advisor for the Campus Crusade club, he told them that if they raised a certain amount of money, he’d wear a Tweety Bird costume for a whole day at school.
They did, and he did, but it wasn’t an officially licensed Tweety costume. This was orange tights and a giant yellow fuzzy sock with a concave face and holes cut for eyes. He threatened to come to my drawing class that afternoon. I didn’t know if he’d show, and I kept watching the clock. But he did. He showed and waddled around the desks in the old college art studio. I thought it was hilarious and loved the attention. My friends even thought he was cool, even while wearing Scooby Doo’s chew toy.
But that’s the kind of person my dad was: weird and goofy and kind and unafraid. When I grow up, I wanna be just like him.
But, he wants me to be just like me.
I’m not like my dad in that I can run out in strange situations and save people’s lives. But he did make the world a better place with the skills he had, and I think the best way to honor him is to do the same–make the world a better place in our unique ways.
Even if it’s not healthcare.
Even if we have to say goodbye–for now.
Megan Fitts graduated Outstanding Student from East Central College in 2014 with an AFA and AA in Fine Arts, and graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2016 with a BFA in Illustration. Fitts lives in west Florida with their Siamese cat, Malachi, and currently works as copywriter and illustrator for a growing woman-owned branding agency. They wrote this eulogy for their father’s funeral on Nov. 17, which was held at Six Flags St. Louis.