Saturday, January 21, 2006

Why I Love My Dad

Let me tell you something that not a lot of guys can say. And of those who can, not many do.

I love my dad.

I am from a weird generation of guys who feel deprived of connection with their fathers. We say they were "emotionally unavailable" and I suppose there is a lot of truth to that. But I think there's more to love than emotion.

Today's blog is something of a photo montage. That's the best way I know to express what I'm feeling right now.

My dad is one of 13 kids born to a depression era family in St. Louis, MO. He is not the youngest, but nearly.

This is my dad's Senior picture from 1948. At 18 my dad could do a standing back flip and land on his feet. He was a limber athletic guy. At 18 my dad joined the U.S. Navy and moved away from home. He believed in giving himself to serve something bigger than himself.

Here's my dad when he and mom were still dating. Don't you love the Jerry Lee Lewis pompadour. My dad has style!

Here's my dad at 22. I *love* this picture!

He and my mom were just married. They lived in Albuquerque, NM. My dad knew the value of working hard and playing hard. And he passed those both on to me.

By 1968 he had 5 kids, and a Naval career that was winding down. He had some tough decisions to make. But he faced them square on, and did what he needed to do. I think I got that from him as well.

We moved to Oregon in 1970 and my dad went to school and held down two jobs. He went from being a Naval Officer with respect and authority to working as a janitor for a local school, and as a security guard for a local rubber plant. And he put himself through Court Reporter School. My mom was heavily involved with all of that as well, of course -- but this post is about my dad.

By the time I was in 8th grade, my sisters had all moved away and it was sort of like being an only child. My dad got up early and read the paper -- the comics, to be specific. The most important part of the paper if you ask him, or me. My mom would get up with him and he'd read to her the comics he thought were funny. When he left for work she'd go back to bed. Then, when I got up for school, my mom came out and sat with me while I had breakfast. I'd read her the comics I thought were funny. She'd laugh a little, but not that hard. When I asked her why, she'd always say "Because your father already read those exact same ones to me." I got my sense of humor from my dad too, I guess. I really like that!

When I moved away from home and joined the Navy myself, I think that is when I first really began to appreciate my dad. We wrote letters to each other. OK, I wrote, he typed. He's always typed. I have a small collection of just about every hand-written note from my dad. They're precious to me.

All through the years I think what strikes me most about my dad is how unfailingly, how thoroughly, and how completely he loved my mom.

They were frisky at times and, while that is a little weird as an adolescent, it is still cool to know your dad and mom still have the hots for each other. Gives you some hope for the future, you know?

As my parents aged, my dad has had some health problems and so did my mom. My dad's were more "have a big problem, get it taken care of, and then bounce back". My mom had chronic emphysema. Years and years of oxygen and pills and machines. But you know what, I never heard my dad complain. I'm sure he must have been bummed and burnt out at times. But he never once let on publicly that he found anything but joy and life in expressing that kind of devoted love for my mom.

I'm 40 now. Cathy & I have no children, but as we age we may have health problems. We have careers and busyness in our lives like everyone else we know.

But may I be known as a man who loves his wife as much as my dad loved my mom. I'm not sure what year this picture was taken, but it kinda sums it up nicely doesn't it?

My mom has been gone for over three years now. My dad has had a couple health setbacks, but is stable. Once again facing tough options, he decided on his own to move into an Assisted Living Facility. I got to see him over Thanksgiving 2005 -- we both flew to Seattle to spend the holiday with my sister Marilyn, pictured here. It was a good time. We laughed and played together, and it was just really really good, you know? Really really good.

Here's the last picture I'll share with you today. This is Easter 1968.

That's me sitting on my dad's lap. That's my uncle Bud in the picture with us. I'm not sure whose house we're at. I don't remember what candy I ate. I have no idea what happened to that stuffed bunny rabbit I'm holding. None of that stuff is in focus for me anymore. All I see is a Dad who loves and is holding his son. That's all I need to see. That right there is just about my most favorite picture of my dad and me.

I love you dad. Thanks for everything you've imparted to me over the years. I am a better man and a better person and a better Jesus follower because of your influence in my life.



Girl in the Globe said...

Wow. That is great! I totally cried. Makes me want to do one about my mom.

JJ said...

I am moved. I never had a dad, not like that. I had my Papa though and every part of your post made me cling to his memory. I wish I had one more time to sit on his lap. Crying now... must go.

Anonymous said...

very nice commentary and pictures. Your Dad loves your Mom and you, you love your wife. I dont think you could ask for a better legacy. Thank you for sharing with us.