For my Dad's 80th birthday, Mom and I threw a big party. This is my contribution to the book of letters his family & friends wrote to memorialize the occasion.
When I was a little kid, I thought my Dad was Superman. He was tall and strong and he could do anything. No one was more fun than MY Dad. He read me the funny pages, dragged kids around by their big toes in the pool and wouldn't let the snowplow on the hill where we were sledding.
Dad was my protector. He always stayed with me when I was sick and had to go to the hospital. I remember him refusing to leave me when I had my tonsils out. He told a nun she had a "dirty mind" when she protested him staying my my hospital room at night. I also remember him throwing rocks at a barking, snarling dog in Canada so I could get to the bratwurst stand on the side of the road. We really wanted bratwurst. That dog was no match for my Dad protecting me.
Dad has always been the one who would go on the historical tour with me when everyone else was headed to the Christmas store. We've had great hikes - at Zion, Devils Tower, Arcadia. Our family cheerfully camped in the rain about a million times. My Dad always said "what a revolting development" as we folded up the fulboat or the camper in the lightening and driving rain.
No matter where we go, Dad knows someone. He worked with my neighbor's father, runs into friends around the world and always treated everyone like family. He has the original warm and generous heart.
Once, driving across the country when I was 12 and my brother was 6, Dad said to us "I love your Mother as much as I know how. I love you all as much as I know how." Those words have been my anchor and inspiration ever since. I love him as much as I know how.
My Dad sets the standard for how to treat people with consideration and respect. He listens with empathy and kindness. He laughs with me and shares my joys and sorrows. He lives right up the street and I see him every day. My greatest blessing is the family that we share.
Every once in a while, I see something I really do not want to see. Now might be the time to mention driving by his house and catching him walking across the roof carrying a fully extended ladder. It was the start of some really unpleasant conversations, also the start of some really unpleasant consequences. Only my Dad would insist that the ambulance turn off its siren as it went by our house because he knew he'd get in trouble with me.
Hopefully his ladder and roof dancing days are over.
My Dad is FUN. I'm talking big time FUN, howl with laughter fun, and end up in the emergency room fun. He was always the first one to water ski, sail a little boat, ride a tandem bike, sled down a dangerous hill, ride a moped or catch the lawn on fire. This has resulted in him leaving most of his butt on roadside gravel, getting fishing lures dug out of various body parts and cracking his ribs numerous times. I don't know where we were, but I have a vivid memory of going down a white water rapid with Dad, riding an air mattress.
We have chased tents through thunderstorms, camped for days in force gale winds, played in in the surf and gotten our bathing suits full of sand. Tom once watched him get oil in his ear while tuning up the lawnmower. Remember when he drove over Mom's nice ring? Its a brooch now!
He is still convinced that we turned Uncle Gordon's lawn sprinklers on him, but really, we were just sitting there crying with laughter at his bad timing. No one in my family will ever forget sitting on the metro in Milan when the safety pin holding his money belt to his underpants came undone and poked him for the entire ride. An nicer family would have felt sorry for him, but we just howled because who wears their money in their underwear, anyway?
His love of travel has deeply influenced me. By the time I was in high school we had camped just about everywhere in the US. He and Mom encouraged me to go backpacking through Europe after college using an Eurail pass. "Go everywhere," he told me, "you don't have to settle down yet." What great advice!
He saw me off that first European trip shouting, "Have fun! I'm only a collect call away anywhere in the world." I was embarrassed because everyone was looking at us and laughing, but I was reassured because I knew that if something happened, my Dad would come and get me. Mom says it gives us roots and wings. I've tried very hard to pass that love of adventure to my kids.
I can't even begin to list all the times Dad has had fun with a caulking gun, but suffice to say, the caulk explosion while standing on the roof of the camper might have been the best one ever. The very air turned blue with Dad's cussing. I have many fond memories of Dad and home improvement projects. He has drunk turpentine, drilled through exterior walls and glued phones to kitchen tile. He has a hat that says: "If it ain't broke, I haven't worked on it yet." Mike Fink has the regular rate and the Uncle Harvey rate.
We tease him, but no big project has ever been undertaken by anyone in the extended family that Dad hasn't helped out. I am the beneficiary of two beautiful kitchens myself.
When I look back at the course of my life, my Dad stands at the most loving center. He and Mom have been the central pillar and heart of a long and loving history of family, friends, faith and laughter.
Happy Birthday Dad. I love you very much. You are my hero.
This Father's Day is going to be a heartbreaker for me, because its the first, after he's gone. I had 63 great years with my Dad and I'm the luckiest daughter ever. Happy Fathers Day Dad, you are missed.