Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happy Father's Day, Dad

My dad and I haven't always seen eye-to-eye, but he is a special man and truly one-of-a-kind. Some would call my father narrow-minded, and you could include me in that group at times. But as the years pass and my faith deepens, I am beginning to realize that there is some wisdom to Dad's way of thinking. Maybe it's because I'm nearing 40 (the age my father was when I was born, the baby) and my own children are giving me some of the same griefs and joys that my parents experienced. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned. Whatever it is, I am feeling a strong need for life to SLOW DOWN and for people to acknowledge God as the original Creator of the FAMILY. I don't know how to talk about my dad without being politically incorrect, so please forgive me if this comes off as judgmental or righteous. I don't wish to sound that way--I'm just trying to express how I share my Dad's belief in "the good old days". (You know, the traditional structure of Mom and Dad are married, take the kids to church, spank the kids when they need it, love the kids at all times with together time/work/chores/play; everyone eats together around the dinner table; prayers at bedtime, that sort of thing.)

My dad has taught me so much about being content, putting family and faith in God before anything of materialistic value, and appreciating the simple things in life. Dad grew up during the Depression years so he knows what it means to "go without"....and he never really had the desire for the newest model of anything. He learned how to fix things and re-use them; he farmed his whole youth and working adult life, so he knows hard work and sacrifice. I was so proud when I finally got the chance to milk cows alongside him and my sister Julie during our high school and college years. Dad taught us to treat each cow as an individual (we only milked around 20) and consider each one's temperament. We had names for each of our "girls", and Swissy (our lone Brown Swiss among Holsteins) was the clear favorite. We had a lot of laughs out in the barn!

I read a statistic where children are 40% more likely to be active in a church as adults when their father helps take them to church (as children). Dad was right there with Mom, taking us to church most every Sunday. Dad is very musical, playing the organ "by ear," so Sundays were a great chance for him to sing the bass version of our German Lutheran liturgy and hymns (I was raised "Luth'ran".) As far as the 40% statistic, we can vouch for that, as most of us 9 siblings are active participants in our own congregations (Sunday School superintendents, teachers, VBS organizers, choir members, church council officers, confirmation leaders, etc.) . I don't say this to brag, only to share this vital part of my upbringing which came largely from Dad. (Not to be outdone, Mom has grown steadily in her faith and is the best example of a "saint" here on Earth, I kid you not. Just ask Dad--she puts up with him!!)

Dad has always been very vocal about what his expectations for us kids were and are. I would love to get him and Jim Dobson in the same room....they would probably laugh and reminisce and get into a passionate conversation about how today's society is veering away from God's path for us. Growing up and dating my future husband, I never wanted to disappoint my mom and dad. Mom led by quiet example, and Dad was always very "black & white" on "right and wrong". You knew where you stood with my folks, and you knew that you were going to get it if you crossed that line.

In today's world, there are less "black & white" and definitely more gray areas. Dad has had a hard time adjusting to that, and sometimes I get frustrated with him for being so boneheaded. But time passes, new generations are born, and I am beginning to understand more of Dad's perspective. I love talking with him about the funny little things my own children do...and complaining with him about rising prices, today's wasteful society, and the crumbling family unit. I long for more black & white and less gray.

Don't get me wrong--Dad is not perfect. He is human, and some of the most aggravating things about him are also what make him more endearing to me. I can't pinpoint the exact moment when I bridged from childhood to adulthood, but I can tell you that I grew up a lot when I realized that my father wasn't perfect and that he made mistakes. One of the most precious memories I have of Dad is seeing him break down in tears as he humbly admitted he'd made some bad mistakes. It was a moment where I felt like we shared humanity together....we were both children of transcended time. It was painful but also very necessary in my growth (and in his, too). Dad is 78 years old, but he is most proud of his 27th Birthday this April. His sobriety birthday. When his family intervened 27 years ago, Dad chose his wife and kids over that next drink. There are no words to describe what that says about a person (and the woman who stands behind him).

Somewhere in his young adulthood Dad picked up the nickname "Governor" or "Gov." (Don't forget the period ".") We kids have often joked about how we were going to compile a book of "Gov.isms". Here are some of them. (Disclaimer=These phrases may or may not be politically correct. They are not intended to offend anyone, nor are they all original thoughts belonging soley to my father.)

"When I first saw your mother, I knew I was going to marry her."
"That's a long time with one woman!" (every anniversary year)
"That's why."
"A hundred years from now no one will know the difference."
"It's just money."
"If it works, don't fix it."
"Think about it."
"I got everything I need right here."
"You bet!" or "'Bet!"
"15-2, 15-4 and a pair is 6."
"Take what you're used to."
"That's the way to function"
"physic ya!" (when conditions are harsh)
"I'm just joshin' ya" (teasing)
"Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?"
"He don't know sh_ _ from fat meat."
"Full of sh_ _ like a baby robin."
"Honey...................SHUT UP!!!!" (directed to loud children)
"If you wanna dance, you gotta pay the fiddler."
"His squeeze" (girlfriend)
"Suck face!"
"Don't take any wooden nickels."
"Keep it simple, stupid."
"He/she could stop a clock!"
"Mom had the patience of Job."
"Money is the root of all evil."
"Did Nick get a nail??" (inside joke)
"They oughta make one more like that and throw it away!"
"Get something on your feet!"
"Were you born in the barn?"

Dad has 29 grandchildren, 1 on the way, and 5 great-grandchildren. The kids know Grandpa for cribbage games, tootsie rolls, and dollar bills at Christmas. When Wynne thinks of Grandpa, she puts her finger in her mouth and tries to make that popping sound he always makes. Grandpa makes neat sounds and can even wiggle his ears.

Happy Father's Day, Dad! I love you.


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