My dad is 90 years old.
It’s a significant achievement for any person to live that long. But his age is certainly not his crowning glory. What I think is most significant in my dad’s role in my life is his faith in God and how that helped make him a rock in our family. He was always there, steady, solid, consistent.
My dad was the strong, silent type. He elicited a healthy fear, respect and reverence from my brother, sister and me throughout our childhood. We knew better than to sass or belligerently disobey. Spankings were few, as I recall, but the fact they were a threat proved to be an effective deterrent.
I always saw my dad as the leader of the family. My mom, who died several years ago, was the comforter, the soother, the person I would go to first with my requests. Dad was the final word. He was the decision-maker, the bread-winner, the heavy-lifter.
He was also a lot of fun. He wrestled with my brother and me on the living room floor. We played catch. We played Monopoly and Clue. He took us fishing and swimming. We went on camping vacations around Lake Michigan, to the Smoky Mountains and the Rockies.
Dad could do anything. He once built a sailboat in the basement of a house with a friend. I forget how they got it out. He made his own kayak. He constructed an in-ground swimming pool in our yard and built a pool table in the basement.
So when I got married and bought my own house, who do you think I called when I needed help fixing something? And when I decided to build my own house later on, guess who was there with his toolbox day after day (after he had retired!)?
Dad did a lot after he retired. He played church league softball, drove to Alaska with my mom every few years, came to my kids’ ballgames, took up woodcarving and continued to serve and fix things in his church.
As the strong, silent type Dad stewed behind the scenes when I was a turbulent teen when he was worried about what I was doing. There were times I know I needed a swift kick in the behind to set me straight. But when he needed to vent, it might culminate in a terse warning or a more detailed letter.
Never in my life, though, did I go off course without realizing that I was betraying the hopes and prayers of my dad (and my mom) and the faith in God they had instilled within me.
Their influence was always pervasive throughout my life. And I hope where I am today gives Dad some satisfaction that he was effective and successful as a father.
Now, in these last few years it has been my turn to be there for him. And I’m glad to be able to give back a little. It will never be enough to repay for all the worrying, the sleepless nights, the frustrations and uncertainties I caused him. But he’s never kept an account of those, to my knowledge. Thanks, Dad. Happy Father’s Day!