Today would have been my dad’s 91st birthday. He died too young and I miss him a lot. He was a great dad!
In honor of his birthday, I wanted to share a bunch of memories of him, and I certainly have plenty. But I ended up deciding to just share a few that illustrate how he was always there for me.
When I was in the sixth grade, a friend from school invited me to go to church with her and join the youth group. I don’t recall ever going to church with my parents, but when I wanted to join my friend my dad was happy to drive me there. Three days a week he would drive me to the church – for Tuesday night Missionettes, Wednesday night youth group, and Sunday school and church on Sunday. Plus sometimes we had youth group activities on Friday night, and he’d drive me to those, too. Someone from church would drive me home, but my dad always made sure I got there. I suspect that the Bible my parents gave me for Christmas that first year after I started attending that church was my dad’s idea, too.
When I was in high school I was on the speech and debate team. I needed some dressy clothes for tournaments, and my dad took me shopping to find a suit. He helped me pick out the nicest pinstriped suit. I loved that suit and wore it for years. I wish it still fit me, but at some point I had to admit it never would fit again and I gave it to Goodwill. I’m still fond of pinstripes, though, because they remind me of that suit.
When I was in college I was a long way from home. Every student had a P.O. box at the student union building, and one of the best things was to go check your box and find some real mail in it, not just college flyers (or worse, an “air box”). Every once in a while when I checked my box there would be a card from my dad with a $20 bill in it. He’d always write the same note: “Here’s a little mad money for you. Don’t tell your mother. Love, Dad.” Those cards from my dad always brightened my day because I knew he was thinking about me.
When I was in my first year of law school I decided that I wanted to be baptized in the Lutheran church that we were attending. Even though it was a long drive for him to come down from Washington, my dad came to visit specifically to attend my baptism. I remember him beaming with happiness to see me baptized and choosing to embrace faith.
Several years later he was very sick with emphysema and living with his second wife in Desert Hot Springs. My husband and I went to visit him. I remember sitting on his bed going through a box of old pictures and photo albums from when I was a kid. Among the photos we looked at were his and my mom’s wedding pictures. There was also one of him and a woman I didn’t recognize that said “Bob and #1” on the back. “Number 1 what?” I asked. Apparently it was his first wife, but the marriage was annulled so it was as if he was not really married to her. After we finished going through all the pictures, he gave them to me to take back home. These photos are still very special to me and are all that my son knows of his grandpa.
Later, when he had become more ill, he called me and asked me to come see him. At the time I wasn’t working and had the time, but we didn’t have a lot of money so I bought a plane ticket to fly down two weeks later. About a week later he died and I didn’t get to see him again before he was gone. Of all the things I’ve done in my life that I might regret, this is probably my only real regret. If I had a time travel machine, I would go back to that day he called me and I’d buy a ticket on the next flight to Palm Springs so that I could have spent his last week on this earth with him.
But even so, I know that I will see him again. There will come a day when my memories and photos will no longer be all I have of my special dad.