R.I.P. Frank J. Fleming (1945-2012)

My father, for whom I was named, passed away Wednesday night at the age of 67, just in time to not be bothered with the Obamacare decision. He had been fighting cancer and other ailments for quite some time — many of them related to Agent Orange exposure, so perhaps in a way he was a very late Vietnam War casualty.

My father was the single greatest influence on my sense of humor — even more so than the first ten seasons of The Simpsons. He always teased us kids, and that was his way of showing he loved us. Not that I knew it early on when I would say, “I’m hungry,” and he’d respond with, “Nice to meet you hungry.” I remember when I first successfully teased him back. I was helping with a Boy Scout roadside clean up and he mentioned to me how he had once been to a think tank, and without missing a beat I responded, “What were you doing there? Were you lost?” I could tell he was very proud.

I’m so glad my wife and I ended up in Boise back in 2007 so we could spend more time with him and my mom. I could tell he loved my wife SarahK very much as he was always saying mean things to her, even to his last days. And we’re so thankful God blessed us with little Buttercup, a little ray of sunshine for him and my mom during troubled times. She liked to sit on her papa’s lap and color. She wasn’t old enough for my dad to tease her, so that will be up to me.

Father’s Day this year was pretty hard on me, as I knew there wasn’t much time left, and looking at my father I feel like so far I’m only play acting a dad to little Buttercup. Throughout my childhood, I always felt loved and secure because my father was there, and I feel like I still have a lot of growing up to do to be that for Buttercup. I had a childhood that was about as close as you can have to one of those Norman Rockwell paintings because he and my mom always worked hard to do the best for us kids, and it’s a lot to live up to. I know I should feel sad now that my father has passed, but I just feel so glad to have had such a great dad for as long as I did.

There’s just a little bit of my dad here on my blog. A long while back, I collected military stories from people and got a couple from him. And if you look around, there are some blog comments out there from “Mean Old Man.” Goodbye, dad. And now I’m just looking forward until the day that Buttercup first tells me she’s hungry.

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125 Comments

  1. My condolences to you and yours, Frank.

    Oh, and there’ll always be times when you feel you’re just playing the role of father. Just do the best you can, and Buttercup will be trading teases with you before you know it.

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  2. I’m sorry to read of your father’s passing. This nearly sounds like a replay of my own father and his passing 6 years ago. He was a veteran. He had cancer. He had a wicked wit (unfortunately, I didn’t inherit it). He teased everyone he loved and was formally polite to those he didn’t. He was only 69, but he left a legacy of loyalty, sacrifice, love, and lessons learned.

    I’m grateful to have had such a great father that his absence hurts, but the memories far overshadow the pain.

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  3. Wonderful remembrance of your dad. Outstanding that he got to spend a little time with Buttercup before he moved on. I’ve got a couple rug rats myself, regretfully my dad never got to meet them. But you’ve motivated me to try the “I’m Hungry” routine on them in your dad’s honor.

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  4. Being a dad, is a learn on the fly position. There are no rulebooks, just examples to follow and experiences to guide.
    I’ve learned you,
    Don’t feed chili to a baby…
    Yes, they really can have too many grapes…
    They’re really just mutants during the teen years..not kids anymore but not yet grown up

    It sounds as though you have had a fine example to follow.
    Sorry for your loss Frank.

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  5. There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted…A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance.

    Thank you for the laughter you have shared, I mourn with you and your family. May God send the great comforter, the Holy Spirit to the Fleming household. You are in my prayers.

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  6. Please accept my deepest condolences Frank.

    And Frank if my 16.5 years of Fatherhood are any indication, I don’t think you ever lose the vague feeling that you have no idea of what you are doing.

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  7. My deepest heartfelt apologies. My father has been , and stil is, my greatest influence of what it means to be a man. I can only imagine the void that now fills your heart at losing him. Stay strong Frank. I know you will.

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  8. I’m so sorry for your family’s profound loss, Frank. Yet in the midst of that painful longing, there’s something deeply magnificent about a life well lived and children without regrets because they are certain that mutual love was manifest.

    I have faith in the resurrection and trust he’ll be with us again. God bless, Frank.

    By the way, that title freaked me out, hungry! Names are for telling people apart, not the opposite of that! Just something to keep in mind while you mourn.

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  9. So sorry to hear about your loss. If your dad did die due to Agent Orange he is eligible to have his name on the Wall. An American Legion or VFW service officer will be glad to help you. In 1969 my friend, Chub and I got drenched with Agent Orange, both in bad health. One thing that keeps us going is our bet to be the last name on the Wall.

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  10. Oh, Frank! What a hard thing to bear for you and your family, but what love for all of them showed in what you wrote!

    I will, of course, be in prayer for you all (isn’t it great that the interwebs now let us weep and mourn and pray for people we’ve never met? but we know kindred souls when we read them).

    My dad passed on in 2002. Ten years on and I still have the stray “I ought to call Dad to see what he thinks about this” moments.

    Be patient with your Mom, she has a whole different hole in her heart just now.

    Don’t fret about Buttercup. You have SarahK to pick up your slack. That’s why God gives babies to teams.

    May He bless and keep you.

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  11. My most heartfelt condolences to you Frank. That was a wonderful piece about your dad.

    As I had an absolute asshole for a father(?), I’ll never tire of reading about the possibilities.

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  12. My condolences, Frank. My father passed away last year. Unfortunately, I do not have the happy memories of my father that you have for your Dad. I am glad you had that quality of time and life with your Dad. It will be tough for you without him, but he can live on through your interactions with your child. Remember him and raise your Buttercup accordingly.

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  13. Strongest prayers accompany, Frank. May God welcome home a son and Jesus a brother, guiding your father to a seat at the banquet, enveloped by love and forever at a comforting rest.

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  14. My condolences on the loss of your father, Frank.
    Your story is very touching and reminds me of my own father from whom I also inherited my sense of humor. I feel blessed he is still around.

    I will pray for you and your family …and perhaps punch a hippie in your father’s memory.

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  15. I lost a friend and my grandmother to cancer this year, both of them going through genuine hell near the end, and both of them passing through to the other side. I will be forever humbled by the strength they showed, and it sounds like your dad was of the same caliber.

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  16. I am so very sorry to hear of your loss, Frank. I think EdthePastor said it best, and I too will be praying that the Great Comforter is about you and your family in your time of need.

    I don’t have anything to say that would ease your pain, but I am reminded of how when my dad passed, I realized how truly proud of me he was. Frank was very proud of you. That’s high praise.

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  17. Sorry for your loss. But, you about gave us heart attacks! Reading the title, and taking a second to realize it was your Dad and not you…and my husband reading over my shoulder, asked, “Frank is dead???” Maybe your Dad would be proud that you pranked us, too! Your Dad sounds very literal with his joking. Was he an engineer? Thank you so much for sharing. We know of another agent orange suffering vet, too. Please keep telling his story, as our children won’t learn about it in school, sadly.

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  18. my condolences, Frank. I know when someone you love is ripped out of your life like that some lines of text from a random lurker on your blog isn’t going to do much, but I’m sorry for your loss. I’ll pray for you and yours.

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  19. My deepest condolences for your loss, Frank Jr. He sounds like a wonderful father. As near as I can tell from reading your blog for a few years, he raised a good son who is growing into a good father in his own right. I pray that God grants peace and comfort to you and your family

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  20. Yeah so I had some funny, but it doesn’t seem like the time. I don’t know if I could ever write something or eulogize someone so beautifully as you just did for your dad. May he travel well. I’ll raise my glass to him tonight. God bless you, and I’m glad Buttercup got some great times in with her grandpop.

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  21. “Agent Orange exposure… in a way he was a very late Vietnam War casualty.” Lost my big brother the same way two years ago. I feel for you, man. Very sorry for your loss.

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  22. Frank,

    I am sorry to learn of your loss. From what I have read of your writing over the past three years, both of your parents did a fine job. And your dad must be very proud of you. Also, this is the best eulogy I have ever read.

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  23. Sorry to hear about your Dad, Frank.

    As someone who has lost both parents in the last few years, I know how rough it can be.

    May God bless you and your family, especially your Mom, and may you find comfort in the good memories in this difficult time.

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  24. I am so sorry for your loss of such a fine father, father-in-law, and Papa. Losing a parent is not easy. And there’s always something you should have asked them before they passed on to where they planned their whole life to go to when the time came. I think of things all the time that I should have asked my Daddy about. He was the only one who could have known the answer. I am sure you will find the same questions. Remember the good times you had with him. Write them down before you forget them. Buttercup needs to hear those stories along her way, too. Love and hugs to the three of you. Please give my condolences to your mother please.

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  25. It’s hard man. I’m 27 and my father died just a little before my daughter was born (three years ago). He had fallen down the stairs and was comatose for a while, so he never knew he was going to be a grandfather. It’s hard to lose your father so young but you never really lose him. His influence will continue to shape your decisions and your life and you will remember him every day. It might sound cliche but you will always have him with you. I wish the best for you and your family.

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  26. It’s always too early for a loved one to die, and it really doesn’t make any difference how much warning you have. I’m offering prayers for you now, and I’ll be offering more in church tomorrow.

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  27. My condolences, Frank. I lost my dad last year, so I know a version of what you’re going through. I find that as much as I’d like to fill his shoes, it really is more a matter of reshaping them to fit your own feet. You’ll do fine, and Buttercup has wonderful parents.

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  28. An Irish blessing to you and yours

    May the road rise to meet you.
    May the wind be always at your back.
    May the sunshine warm upon your face.
    May the rains fall upon your fields.
    And until we meet again,
    May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

    The pain will get better I promise. It won’t ever go away but it will get better.

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  29. My condolences on your loss. My dad passed away almost 3 yrs ago and still to this day I miss him. Keep his memory alive by telling Buttercup all about him when she is old enough to understand it all. I do that frequently with my 3 kids. If you can do half of what your father did in life I think it speaks volumes on how a great dad he was.

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  30. My condolences. My Dad was a VN Vet Navy Corpsman who passed due to lung cancer in 2009. He always taught us to go for the laugh. I can appreciate your sense of humor because of my Dad and through your Dad. RIP.

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  31. He thought so highly of you, Frank, he gave you his name when you were born – probably because he already know who you were. That happened (the knowing) with my two sons.

    I’m sure he’s happy that you bring joy and laughter to us all in the best Fleming tradition.

    Highest regards.

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  32. God bless you and your family at this time of sadness and hurt. Frank, your Dad was obviously a great man who raised a great son. His strength of character shines through in you, along with his humor. We are praying for you and your family

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  33. Frank, I’m very sorry for you lose. Your dad sounds a lot like mine. I’m very glad he passed his sense of humor on to you. I thank him and you for all the laughter and joy that IMAO has brought me over the years. May God give you peace at this difficult time.

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  34. Every word in what you’ve said here tells me that your Father did his job well, and it’s clear that you got it. You’re blessed to have had such a Dad, and so is Buttercup. You’re Dad’s fight is finally over, and now he can rest. For him, no more pain, no more bullshit. Agent Orange is a killer, with a very long fuse. I know, I’m 66 and I’ve been dealing with it all for a long time. The consequences are cumulative. Apart from immediate family, just about everybody I associate with is a Vietnam Vet, and a large percentage of them are dealing with this same thing. I respect them all. I suspect that your Dad would have been right at home with us.

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  35. Deepest sympathies and condolences to you and your family. I lost my mother to cancer when she was only 44, and my father passed six years ago. I can assure you that eventually the fond memories will overtake the pain by a great magnitude.

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  36. My mother passed away three weeks ago, lost my dad years ago. Your words are so typical of a great father and son relationship. Glad you had that, so did I. Sorry for your loss. God bless All.

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  37. I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost my dad 4 months after my twins were born. He had a sense of humor, too. At the wake I told my dad’s sister that the only good thing was that my dad wouldn’t see the further decline of the country. She replied “Oh, you’re a conservative, too?” I said yes, then asked if she thought my dad would now be able to vote twice in the next presidential election. Now that ACORN is no longer around I don’t have much hope for that.

    And when I ask my husband if he’s hungry, he says “No. I’m Jim”.

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  38. Frank, I should have also said that I hope that you will take your own time. You may wish to jump back into things right away, or you heart may need time with family right now. Don’t worry writing at the moment. Harvey has a loose rein on us, and we’re pretty good at amusing ourselves.

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  39. As sad as this is for you and your family, it is always good to hear that a soldier passed at home in his golden years and not upon a foreign battlefield in his prime. May his wisdom and strength carry on to your daughter’s children and beyond.

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  40. “I think a good rule in dealing with my son, is to smack him up side his head every time I see him.”
    – Frank J. Fleming, Sr. Sep 22, 2010

    Sounds like a good man. My condolences.

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  41. I’m very sorry for your loss. I, too, know how real the pain is.
    It was a year and a half before I could joke about my dad being gone. Quite absently I stated to a casual friend that I hadn’t heard from my father in over a year. My friend asked why. I stated, “‘cuz he’s f*****g dead.” It wasn’t intended as a joke but just came out that way. We laughed pretty hard. I really miss him.
    I will include you and your family in my prayers with my two sons tonight.
    Your father’s legacy will live on with your daughter and in the way you raise her.
    God bless your family.

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  42. I often wondered what your father must be like, what he must be thinking when he read your funnies. Now I know. Thanks for that ! Thanks to your Dad for raising you so well ! Thanks to the good Lord for good people like the Fleming Family! 🙂

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