Last week we went to California to celebrate two birthdays. My dad turned 80 and my first born, Christopher turned 31. It seems hard to believe as the last 31 year have gone so quickly.
Christopher was born on my dad's 49th birthday. The first grand baby born into a family of three daughters. I can remember holding him in my arms the first time. Amazed that this little bundle had arrived on my dad's birthday. Those early years of parenting I had the idea that I had to be perfect. That there was a right way and a wrong way to parent and I was dedicated to getting it right. Perfection is not all it is cracked up to be. I was so intent on being perfect that I sometimes missed out on the living part. But years teach us these hard lessons.
I have lots of memories of my dad and they weren’t perfect, but they were real and there was an abundance of life giving love. Some of my first memories with my dad are sneaking into my parent’s bed and going to my dad's side and just needing to cuddle up next to him in the middle of the night when I was scared. I clung onto his t-shirt as he slept and I felt safe. He was my safe harbor.
My dad lost his dad when he was 5 years old. He was too young to not have a daddy, and two older brothers didn't make it any better. Too much responsibility on them during the depression with loss of income caused resentment and meanness. He was the baby and it was a tough spot to land in a family that was just trying to survive. Even though he didn't have a dad to model his parenting style after or not, he knew how to be a great dad.
When we were kids dad would set up a train each year around the Christmas tree that would delight us to no end. We would go to sleep the night before after decorating the tree and wake up to magic. The tree in the center of a miniature town blanketed with snow. Little houses, church, and store buildings all lit up from the inside calling to the people walking down the snowy streets. Trees and tiny animals sitting on the hillside that created a tunnel for the Lionel black locomotive with all his cars chugging around the tracks bringing our imaginations to life. We played for hours, and invariable by the time my dad came home each evening the train was in need of a tune up. My dad and his patience would fix it up after dinner so that we could again play the next day. I am sure that there were many days when he would have liked to close up that little town and train.
Along with my dad's hobby of trains, he loved to fish. He would take us on fishing trips where there weren’t a lot of fish caught, mainly because my sister and I fought, fooled around and had no idea what being quiet was all about. One time I remember fishing in Oregon and my dad telling us to not throw our lines into the area with all the suckers. Yep, we both snagged suckers and then were begging our dad to get them off of our lines for us. Meanwhile he could not catch a break to actually fish himself. One of his favorite hobbies.
In high school I entered a State competition in Early Childhood Development. My dad came home from working long days and built a display board that I could use for my presentation and could also be used in years to come for others. He helped me bring an imagination board to fruition for part of my display on how to teach children. His creativity years before had sparked my creativity as I remembered him building my sister a zoo for her 4th birthday out of plywood, dowels and paint.
I am sure that as the years have passed the thought of changing his phone number has crossed his mind. There were so many calls for emergency car help, help finding the husband on a late night before cell phones. Neil had hit a deer and was unable to get home, Dad to the rescue. The ER visit when Neil got food poisoning, and I had a nursing baby and a toddler with croup, and couldn’t take him to get the help he needed. Over and over my dad has dropped what he was doing to sacrifice, serve and support us, also known as Love!
Dad has known the highest highs and the lowest of lows. He has modeled to me how to survive in this world when things don't go your way. How to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try, try again. And if need be, remake yourself and do the hard work to succeed. Through those highs and lows I have seen my dad shine. He has inspired not only me but our entire family.
As I see my son, Chris, going through the ups and downs of life I can see some of the threads of my dad in him. Chris is a people lover, a feeler who is smart and compassionate. He is a survivor through the ups and downs. He is truthful and kind. He is as multilayered as my father is. I know that he will continue the legacy that my dad poured into us. I am so very proud of these two men whose lives intersected on November 25th 1985.
I'm so thankful that my dad didn't give up on me in my self absorbed, prideful, and judgmental stages, but he chose to keep believing in me as a person, as his daughter. This is love, and he has chosen this way all along even when he didn't have his own daddy to model it.... And what strikes me is that my Dad has modeled God our Father’s love for us… sacrificial, unwavering and our safe harbor.