Today is my Dad's 75th Birthday, so I decided to give him a shout out by reminding him of why he is important to me.
1. Practice makes Perfect.
If you want to be good at something, you need to practice. Whether it be shooting baskets, running fast, remembering people’s names, or memorizing scripture, you can be skilled at these things if you choose. All it takes is a choice to practice them diligently. My dad always keeps a little note card in his pocket to help him remember what he is “practicing”: people’s names, quotes he wants to remember, Bible verses, or new jokes he wants to share. I love this quirky method of bettering himself.
2. Always be Prepared.
When I left for college as a wide-eyed freshman, my dad presented me with a map (route to Ames highlighted with a marker) and an emergency car kit (extra clothes, candles, crackers, aspirin, coins for a pay phone, candy, an ice scraper, a reflective blanket) that would enable me to survive for days if I got lost and/or had an accident in this barren wilderness called Iowa. This was in the days before cell phones and my dad wanted to make sure I was ready if an emergency presented itself. Once, when I was in high school, because I hadn’t yet learned the value of forethought, I ran out of gas while driving home from school. I walked somewhere to call my Dad and he promptly showed up, handed me a gas can and drove off. Needless to say, I thought more carefully about preparation that day as I trudged to the nearest gas station alone.
3. Stay Warm
I know cold. I grew up in Minnesota with winters that felt like they lasted forever. And though my sisters and I had to walk to school on these arctic winter mornings, we were fully covered in snowmobile suits, snowmobile boots, scarves, goggles, and mittens that tightened around our forearms. My dad also made sure we kept ourselves toasty by investing in long underwear for all. In the 70’s, all thermal undergarments produced were for boys, but this didn’t stop my dad; his three girls wore long johns. I often got heckled for the long underwear band (that looked exactly like the band on men’s whitey tighty’s) sticking out of my pants since I had tucked my shirt into my thermals to stay warm. Recently, my dad made himself a vest out of reflective insulation to wear under his winter coat to help him stay comfy and cozy. He figured if it was good enough for water heaters, it was good enough for him.
4. Be Resourceful
When I was growing up, my pharmacist father owned and operated a drug store. Drug stores draw an inordinate amount of old folks through their doors. Many of these elderly folks needed hearing aids that required batteries, and my dad would offer to change these. For some unknown reason, he kept the used ones (they look like tiny thick buttons). One Christmas, he wanted to make his little girls a present, and he fashioned a type of table-top shuffleboard game using the old batteries as the miniature pucks. Now he uses his ingenuity to create armoires and cabinets from abandoned cupboards and lumber he finds in old houses or buildings. These resourceful and reinvented creations are a thing of beauty. I think this resourcefulness/creativity is my favorite thing about my dad…and myself :)
5. Be Yourself
My dad never really cared what people—even his daughters—thought of him. Now, I see this as an admirable thing; as a kid, I was just embarrassed that he wore black socks with sandals and an old blazer while watching TV. He even carried this quality into his profession as a pharmacist. One might think that someone who owned a drug store probably just dispensed and sold medicine (and hearing aid batteries) to sick folks, but no, my dad sold wood stoves too. Yes, wood stoves in Arrow Drug. You see, my dad was sort of a wannabe survivalist type who enjoyed heating his home with off-the-grid power. His heat of choice came from the wood stove in our basement. Because he believed that wood stoves could be just as prescriptive for people as could medicine, he became a distributer of Ashley Wood Burning Stoves—sold in the comfort of his very own pharmacy. Nowadays, my dad doesn’t sell wood stoves anymore, but because he is fully himself, he has no trouble wearing his reflective vest or heartily eating his specially designed lunch of instant mashed potatoes mixed with green beans. Yum!
6. Take Care of Pets
Since my birth I have been a pet lover. And secretly, I think my Dad is too. One of my earliest memories is bringing home one of our first pets, a cat that we named Tasha (my mom actually ran over this cat, but we got another soon after which we also named Tasha). But because I was never allowed to house my cats indoors, my dad made elaborate structures to help them survive the arctic-like winters of my childhood (see #3 above). They had little log-cabin-looking houses with carpet-lined interiors, and raised platforms with heat lamps to warm them; my dog (who was actually my dad’s pet) had a pretty fancy house too, built into our garage with a little ramp and a swinging door. Even now, my dad loves me by taking care of my pets. My current three cats and a dog all have their own fully equipped animal “penthouses” in our detached garage that they rarely leave because they are so cozy and coddled.
7. Be Willing to Learn
My parents amaze me in their still-unquenchable thirst for knowledge. After my dad retired, you could find him reading, and reading, and reading; so much reading, so much learning. This truly inspires me to keep on educating myself. And rather than run from technology, my dad has embraced it, learning about woodworking, science, theology, history, and sometimes cake-baking from websites, blogs, YouTube, and yes, even Pinterest.
8. Respect Property
As a kid, I was taught to respect property. My dad said if we took care of things, they would last longer…and they did. When I got a new softball glove, my dad showed me how to write my name on it with a permanent marker (we wrote our names on EVERYTHING in case we lost them), get a soft cloth and coat the glove with mink oil to protect it. Then when the oil sunk in, we put a baseball in the palm of the glove and put rubber bands around the “hand” of the glove—as if the glove were grasping the ball—to form it into the right shape for catching. When we weren’t playing catch, but instead just hanging out indoors, we had to wear slippers or little “socklet” things over our real socks so we wouldn’t wear them out, because you know how many millions of miles you walk when you are in your own home laying on the couch watching Brady Bunch.
9. Be Tough
Though I am sure my dad would have liked to have a son, God saw fit that he got only daughters. And my dad seemed completely content with his three little girls. However, this did not mean that his daughters would be weaklings…in fact, just the opposite, he taught us to be tough. When I would fall down as a kid, or my sisters would tickle me until I cried, my dad would remind me that I was “tough as nails”. When we moved to another home (which we did often), his girls were expected to help move washers, dryers, pianos, wood stoves, safes—whatever was on the truck was fair game. When I was in a sport and wanted to quit because I was uncoordinated and awkward, he reminded me that I was “tough as nails” and that I would stay out for the season. Even now, when I have to scramble up sheer cliffs in Texas on vacation with my family or when I get stuck in elevators in Italy, I remember that I am “tough as nails” and I make it out alive…so far at least.
10. Choose to Leave a Legacy
Though always a church-goer, my dad became a true Christ-follower somewhere in his forties (right, Dad?), and has since been on a mission to tell everyone he meets about his faith, his church, his changed life, his God—just ask the checker in HyVee…or the woman handing out samples at Sam’s Club…or the young gal at 24 Hour Fitness…or the Executive Council that he coffees with several times each week. My dad knows what he is here for and where he is going. The purpose for his life has become very clear to himself and to us, his family. Whenever we gather for holidays or reunions, it is my dad who says thank you (now, often with tears in his eyes) for his family, his many blessings, and for Jesus. Even now, at 75, he is a new creation.
I love you Dad, and I love what you have become—a mighty, but gentle, man of God.
Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.