Sunday, June 19, 2011

To the Fathers in My Life

My family takes every holiday seriously.  Christmas, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick's Day, Flag Day, you name it we do it.

Father's Day is no exception.  While my dad often could be serving at church all day each Sunday, there was still a whole lotta celebration in our house when he got home.  I'm going to take the time to share some schmaltzy memories I have of my dad.

One of the earliest comes from when I was about three or four.  Our old house was a split-level, and each day before he left for work, my dad would catch me and my brother as we jumped off the stairs.  We called 'em, "mumps."  We each got two or three mumps before Dad had to go to work.  (Sidenote: My brother and I tried recreating mumps a few months ago.  My dad was not amused.)

I remember one day fairly vividly.  I think it was Father's Day, and my dad was out lying in the hammock, as all dads should do on Father's Day.  I remember toddling my 5-year-old self up to him and climbing in with him and we fell asleep together in the hammock.  Cue the Full House "awwwww" track.

One year, we took an exodus to his mother's hometown.  She died 20 years previous, but we wanted to go to her family's reunion, so we loaded up the Taurus wagon (a downright graceful car in toreador red) and drove the 700 miles or so to her hometown in Arizona. He had a bit of a leadfoot on that trip, but we weren't in a hurry.  I think he was just trying to show off to his son.  I don't remember ever being passed by another car once and we hit 100 mph on more than one occasion.  Cool dad, huh?  We shared a campsite at the breathtaking Canyon de Chelly which, while not as large as the Grand Canyon, is much prettier and more interesting.  We hit up Four Corners and took a detour through Santa Fe, which we happened to pass through during their biggest festival of the year.  Street vendors schilled Navajo rugs, turquoise jewelry, dreamcatchers, and ice-cold agua fresca, a drink my dad enjoyed years ago on his mission to Mexico.

He has also educated me about cars and motorcycles, taught me how to bleed my brakes (employed that skill only yesterday) and fix a toilet, showed me the proper way to catch a baseball and shoot a basketball, and even tried to learn the rules when I started playing soccer.  He coached my baseball team one year and was my Scoutmaster for two years.  He taught me how to make a shelter from a plastic garbage bag, as we would both have to do when we underwent the Order of the Arrow Ordeal.

We have our disagreements, but he's always respectful and he's only stern when he has to be.  He tells dumb jokes, he has awful taste in cars, and he dresses like, well, a dad, but I owe much of who I am to him and him alone.  I wouldn't change a thing.

His dad is another great man.  Nearly 90 years old and he still runs three miles a day.  His pace is slow, but goshdarnit, he does it.  More than I can say.  I think, more than anything, I inherit his love of Wendy's.  After every Priesthood session of General Conference, he would take me, my dad, my brothers, and whatever other men there were in our circle to Wendy's and buy us a Frosty, some fries, and maybe a few boxes of nuggets to share.  It's a tradition my dad continues when we're not with Grandpa for Conference.

I learned last month that he and my step-grandma (only a literal term -- for all intents and purposes, she's my grandma) go to Wendy's and split a Frosty and nuggets every day, sometimes twice a day.  It's to the point that the workers will see him park his Cadillac and start his order without him even being in the restaurant.  He's on first-name basis with each of them, something that would be horrifying if it wasn't so goshdarn cute.  They all love him almost as much as we do, proving that to know him is to love him.

This is also my first Father's Day without my maternal grandpa.  His health had failed him 5 years ago, but I was blessed to have him around until February of this year.  He had a bashful smile and rarely spoke more than five words at a time, but if you told a joke that tickled him just right, he'd guffaw till the timbers shook.  He also knew the value of play and insisted that his dessert be served first, so he didn't run out of room by the end of the meal.

To him I owe a great deal of my sense of right and wrong.  He made mistakes like all of us do, but he always took the time to make them right.  He was often the first one to apologize after an argument, but those rarely happened because he was easy to like.

Last Father's Day, his health was awful.  He was tired and lethargic, but still consented to talk to me on the phone when I called.  He talked my ear off!  In all my life, I've never seen my grandpa give more than a few words to answer a question, but last year, he told me about his day with the detail of a five-year-old.  My grandma heard and told my mom how strange it was; I think it was a gift to me from him and from heaven, knowing that he didn't have another Father's Day in him.

So today, in his honor, I wore the tie that I picked out from his collection after he died.  All of the grandsons and many of the granddaughters picked out his ties to wear to the funeral and today, I wore his.  First time since Conference I've worn it and it made me smile to look down at it today and think of all the great fathers I've got in my life.

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