I want to tell you about my dad and what an incredible man he was, but all I can do is give you my testimony in stories. My story with Dad started at the very beginning of my life.
Dad had a little bit of a wild streak…
The late November day I was born, there was a heavy snowstorm and my dad had an accident on the way to the hospital. He loved fast cars and convertibles. He used to say, ” You don’t work for a car; a car works for you,” which is why he bought a new one as soon as each one quit working. All my life, Dad unwittingly was a hellion behind the wheel–not because he was a rabble-rouser–but rather because first, he liked to go fast and then he was so interested in what you were saying or what was going on outside the car that he would weave in and out of his lane until either Mom cried, “MAX”! or one of us screamed, “DAD!!” His angels watched over him many times to get him to age 85. When we were older, my sisters and I likened the experience of traveling in the back seat of his car to a “white knuckle ride.” Yet when I had MY first accident, he was sympathetic, but still made me get back in the car and drive home, telling me, “When you fall off your horse, you need to get back in the saddle again or you might quit riding altogether.” And as my family knows, I’ve fallen off several horses in my life since then, but I always get back in the saddle. I can thank Mom and Dad for that determination.
My father had a gentle heart. When I was a little girl, I used to wait at the end of our driveway and my dad would let me get into the car and ride all the way up to the garage. Only a kid would find that a thrill and only a man like my father would let me do it–every day.
Dad was a wise man and a great listener. As a young woman, I met him for lunch downtown one day. I had just had an interview and left it so intimidated I was convinced I could not do the job. He said, “You know, Nancy, you don’t have to say yes. You can say no if you want to.” He knew me too well. I took that job and was successful at it for the next 8 years.
My dad could have had a degree at Northwestern University. He could have been an engineer with a big title and a big salary, but he could not afford to go to school and his parents could not afford to send him. From all of the stories he’s told us of his growing up years, I think he got a better education than any college he could have attended—I suspect it was because he had wonderful parents in Ted and Irma. I’ve had the acquaintance of famous men–authors, speakers and millionaires–but my dad is the smartest man I’ve ever known.
Dad was so proud of his service in the Navy and he taught me by example, to be a patriot. Last year, at this time, he agreed to come to one of my district’s middle schools to answer questions about his experiences in World War 2. He called my sister Sandy three times he was so nervous asking, “What if I don’t know the answers?” Well, he did know all of the answers to several of the 80 questions those students had created—and then some. At the end of his interview, he said, “I told myself I was going to say this to you today: when I was in the Navy, this country respected its servicemen. I felt respected when I came home from WW2. But today, our servicemen and women do not get that respect from our country…and they deserve to.” He got a standing ovation from 100 8th graders.
My dad knew what it meant to be a friend because he knew how to give of himself expecting nothing in return and he knew how to forgive and forget. I don’t know of anyone who didn’t like him. When he was 70 years old, a hundred people came to his birthday party. And if more had been alive, they would have come too. And Dad taught us about real and true commitment through the good and hard times of marriage. On the day he died, he was still in love with his bride of 58 years. For those of us blessed enough to be in love with our partners, we know that love transcends space and time; it does not end.
My father worked hard for his family and he was determined to take care of us but he always put honor and honesty first. When we were young kids, he would come in the house, so tired and dusty with a Kool-aide smell from the plant where he worked long hours but I never heard him complain. He worked many years for other people and then one day decided he would work for himself. He took a lot of risks but eventually became a successful business owner–not an easy task. He worried that his grandkids would not grow up in a world where that is possible, but he made it happen for his family.
He loved all 7 of his grandchildren–Elisabeth, Lindsey, David, Michael, Elise, Jared and Emily. When my daughter Emily was born he and Mom raced her other grandparents to get to the hospital. He was so thrilled with his first grandchild and has watched her grow, loved her and has been so proud of her ever since. Jared was his first grandson. He loved to tell the story of watching him at age 3 climb to the top of the rocket climber in the park at Lake Holiday and felt such joy in the last few years to talk with him as a maturing young man . And for several years, Mom and Dad delighted in Elise and I visiting them for spring break. We’d stay up waxing philosophically until Grandma and Grandpa could hardly keep their eyes open. They so treasured that time with their granddaughter and would talk about it for months afterwards. Dad has always been so very proud of all of his children and grandchildren. I don’t know if he realized they are this way because of the values he’s bequeathed them.
This past Saturday morning in the wee hours, the angels came for Dad to bring him home. I have no doubt where he is now. He’s racing along the clouds in the wild abandon of his youth with knees that work just fine; he’s having a conversation with our Lord about what he thinks God ought to be doing with this country and he’s waxing philosophically with Ted and Irma about their grandchildren and great grandchildren. I know he’s at peace and although I am hurting something fierce, I know he’s content and waiting until all of us can be together again…Love you Dad.