Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Three-Quarters of a Century . . . and Counting

Dear Dad,

All God's blessings as you turn 75 today.

Some of my earliest memories were of you taking me for walks in the British countryside, playing soccer in front of our house, or taking me for rides in the car. Given that you were working rotating shift work, these weren't always the easiest things for you to do. Then throw in my three (at the time) siblings who were also competing for your attention.

After we returned from the UK, I recall being summoned frequently to help you out in your basement workroom with some sort of project. You eventually had my brother and I doing all sorts of jobs around the house, including removing paint from the metal porch roof with a blowtorch in the middle of summer (ouch!).

I won awards for the Pinewood Derby in Scouts and the school science fair, but I know who really won them; you did. You attended not only my soccer and football games, but you made sure I got to the practices.

You've been a lector at church for many years, and that was what inspired me to want to proclaim God's Word as well. I recall waking up early with you to sleep pray on the sofa. In your own quiet way, you instilled in me the importance of your faith. Speaking of which, while many of us in the family speak because we have to say something, you speak only when you have something to say.

I appreciate how you raised my brothers and me to be gentlemen, and the way you treat both Mom and your daughters is evidence of that.

We might not have had as many material things as our relatives and many of my friends and classmates, but I never felt deprived as a kid. Maybe we didn't get to Disney World or anything like that, but we did spend summers at the Y and take the occasional trip to Wildwood, NJ. And I enjoyed going to Orioles games with you back in the days when the Orioles were worth seeing.

An important thing you did for me was give me the courage to be on my own. This started with you teaching me how to drive on the old Two Guys parking lot. It continued with you calmly helping me to handle crises like buying my first car or paying my auto insurance.

But maybe the biggest crises you helped with were mechanical. I remember how I drove all the way to Ocean City and back in the Nova while it had a busted leaf spring. You came up with some makeshift contraption to squeeze a new leaf spring onto the body so that you could save quite a bit of money in labor. Even today, you give me encouragement as I try to figure out what's wrong with the car, even offering to drive all the way out to Frederick to help if necessary. You've fixed more things for your family than I can remember.

You encouraged me to apply for a career with the government, and it was an honor to work there with you. Of course, as we discussed over lunch one day, I wouldn't want to try to do your job (technical), and you wouldn't want to do mine (writing)! Guess that throws the whole Biblical presumption of the son doing the same work as the father out the window.

I hope that my elbow allows me to play golf with you again. You might not have taught me how to play golf, but you have indeed taught me how to enjoy it, no matter how badly I play. And I look forward to the times we spend on the golf course; you seem to be in your environment, and we can always talk there.

Which reminds me; I've said this before, but all your life you have struggled with being partially deaf. I know it's been frustrating for you, but you never seem to show it. It must be hard seeing us all laughing at the dinner table, but having no idea what we're laughing at. You have helped me to understand a little bit of what you're going through.

Even today, you continue to pray for us. I wish I was nearly as devoted as you to prayer. But I know that those prayers have yielded fruit in my life. I'm blessed to no end. And? I always look forward to you giving me your father's blessing for the New Year. Even if you forget the words. :-) I also look at all the people over the years that you and Mom have welcomed into your home and hearts, and I know they feel God's love through you.

As my sister said, you show your faith by living it, not by talking about it. I'm sure there's all sorts of other things that you could do for your parish, but you pick up trash. Wow. That's humility.

I feel just a touch sad as I write this, because I know I won't have a whole lot of years left with you, so I want to make the most of the time we have.

I love you, Dad. And as I used to say when much younger, "You're the best daddy I've ever had."

Thanks for more than I can say.