Today is one month since my father died. I’ve spent a good amount of time thinking and writing about him. I’ve also thought a lot on the concept of how the way we, as individuals, see a person, is completely different than how others see that person. Because we are all unique individuals, we are also going to interact with others differently. I’m sure that even my four siblings saw my father somewhat differently, and have many of their own memories of our father.
It brings to mind Isaiah 64:8, “But now, O Lord, Thou art our Father; We are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.”
This year, I am doing the “My One Word” Bible study, and my word I’ve chosen is “presence.” I think my Dad was a great example of someone “living in the present”. He led a very full life, and I doubt if he had many regrets in the end. I hope to keep his example with me throughout my life.
What struck me the strongest at his Memorial service, was having the family all together, but not having Dad’s voice and laughter somewhere in the midst. His presence was, and will continue, to be greatly missed.
Dad taught me so many things, not by lecturing, but, by living life. I’ve made a list of ten of his top “lessons.”
But, first, I must say that I can’t leave my mother out of this. My Dad and Mom had such great love for one another…and I’m extremely thankful for the outstanding marriage example they set for me. Jim and I have been married for 35 years now….and I can’t begin to imagine how hard it must be to lose your spouse and best friend after 62 years of marriage. So, although I’m focusing on my Dad here, my Mom was right there supporting him through it all, and caring for him in his last years! Thank you Mom, you are an amazing woman!
Now, on to the lessons:
Family is VERY important – My Dad worked second shift when I was growing up, so, if I saw him at all during the week, it was very briefly. But on the weekends, we ate meals together and we did things together. Sundays, we went to church together; In the summers, we went on vacations together; On holidays, we played board games, lots of games! In short, we spent TIME together…and I believe your TIME is the best gift you can give someone!
Whatever you do, do it the best you can – Dad did nothing carelessly, whether it was mending a hose or buying a house, he did research or whatever was necessary, then carried out whatever task or project he was doing with meticulous care. I remember when I was in Junior High School, I got a pet rabbit and Dad built a rabbit hutch for me, each detail was considered so that it would be the best rabbit hutch around! And best DOESN’T mean the biggest or most expensive!
Work Hard – My father was a die maker for General Motors. I remember as a kid, I thought that he made “dyes” like for coloring things :-) I’ve learned better! But, whether it was his paying job, or the endless work of owning a house and raising a family with five children, he did what he had to do…plus more. He wasn’t lazy, and right up until his stroke, he spent a good amount of time working outdoors, taking care of their home and landscaping, and helping neighbors when they needed it.
Have hobbies and interests to share with your spouse, family and friends – Times change, and Dad was good at finding new interests to go along with life’s changes. The enjoyment of outdoors, camping, and travel were interests he carried throughout his life. When my siblings and I were young, we went on a “special” camping trip each summer, plus other ones, closer to home. As we grew up and left home, he and my Mom continued to travel, even driving to Alaska a couple times and eventually visiting all 50 states in the USA!
Stay physically active and fit – When I was young, our whole family would go swimming, canoeing, for a while we were into ice skating, we had memberships at the YMCA, and then, once he started getting older, he became a walker, often earning awards at the local track for the amount of walking he accomplished. In the years when Leah was growing up, I enjoyed the times he and I were able to go for walks together.
Continue learning new things – Dad always seemed willing to learn something new, and try new things. He always surprised me with his computer knowledge and how he seemed to know the “latest and greatest”. After he retired, when there was finally more time, he and my Mom spent many years researching our family history, then he got into metal detecting as they spent their winters in Texas, then letterboxing and geocaching, and finally token collecting.
Pay attention to detail – Dad was the most detailed and organized person I have ever known! If you had asked him where we went for vacation in 1972, he could have produced not only photos, but the names of where we stayed, how many miles we drove to get there, and how much money we spent! When my siblings and I were young, we all collected postage stamps. We would go as a family to stamp shows and us kids would use our own money to purchase new additions to our collections. We learned all about finding a good deal and handling the stamps, right down to putting the hinge on straight to mount a stamp in our album!
Be kind to others - people and animals – Dad lived for almost three years after having his major stroke, and one thing that always stood out when I would visit, even the times he was really sick in the nursing home, was he was always concerned with how others were doing. He always loved animals, fed the birds and squirrels, and photographed them. I remember him teaching me to carefully pick up a frog and turn it over in my hand to softly rub its belly and put it to sleep :-)
Be a good steward – Whether it was material things or money, it couldn’t have been handled better than in my Dad’s care! It was amazing how long he could make something last! Every instruction book was saved in case needed in the future and maintenance was carried out precisely as needed. Finances were carefully budgeted and expenses were tracked to the penny! Another fond memory I have of my childhood is the train table we had in our attic. Dad had built this, as he enjoyed collecting HO trains. There was an opening in the middle of the table from which the controls could be accessed and we would take turns operating the trains. Each of us kids had our own area on the table where we had a house or farm we built (from kits), and it was our responsibility to care for them.
Have fun! – Dad was always the life of the party, he just knew how to have a good time whether home with family or out with a large group. And he loved to sing! Even in his last months, he would sing along to the old songs he knew :-) And then, at the end of a busy day, he enjoyed relaxing with a good glass of wine.
This past month, as I’ve reminisced about my father, and have also been preparing to start this blog, I’ve realized how many of the things that I enjoy in my life, were things my father also enjoyed. I do, and will continue to miss him, but am thankful that I have so many fond memories, and so many things in my life that will be daily reminders of him. Someone told me that I have my Dad’s smile, and it touched my heart, because I loved my Dad’s smile, so I will try harder than ever to share it with as many others as possible, remembering my Dad as I do!