My dad…I thought he was the next thing to Superman. Even though he didn’t leap from tall buildings, (although I did see him fall out of a tree once landing on his feet!), he could do a little of everything, and do it well.
He owned a hardware store and worked six long days a week. When not there, he was keeping our yard immaculate as well as his mother’s yard a few towns away. He could fix a roof, the dryer, build a porch, a coffee table or even a parade float. Many evenings he was off to a community or church committee meeting. He had a beautiful singing voice, singing duets with my mom at local nursing homes and churches. He was comfortable speaking from a podium. It was not unusual to have friends or relatives stop in for coffee where at the table my dad could tell a joke or story or just be a good listener. He could speak some Swedish. A good looking man, as handsome in his paint clothes as his Sunday suit, he always looked many years younger than his age. The man could water ski and run like a teenager. I’ll never forget sitting on the handle bars of a bike as we breezed through town. When other dads watched their kids go on the roller coaster, my dad went with me. Together on a big rubber inner-tube we went down the Apple River. At a town centennial program in the high school gym, he stole the show with his small part as a saloon keeper. An eye for art, he could draw detailed house plans, a boy with a dog or take a photo worth being on a calendar. He once wrote an article for a plumbing trade magazine. He taught me to play my first song on the piano. While serving in the Coast Guard during WW2, he helped save a life. As a farmer he was given an award for his tall corn crop. As a store owner, he gave struggling young married couples unheard of deals on washers and dryers. He hired the first long haired rock and roller in our conservative town and even let his band play in front of the hardware store one summer day. When my dad approached a man stealing a radio from the store and the robber pulled out a knife, my dad quickly grabbed the man’s wrist and said, “I don’t think you want to do that.” The man turned around and left.
I never heard my dad talk bad about anybody. Many times he helped my mom with the dishes and housework. He always kissed her goodbye even if he was just running a quick errand. We’d sing old time Gospel songs. He prayed with me. He prayed for me. His Bible was well worn. Verses were underlined and sermon notes were written in the margins.
When my dad died in 1999 I felt deep pain and loss. But knowing I’ll see him some day on the other side brings much comfort. And it’s true that wonderful memories don’t ever die and they bring me joy!
As a kid I was proud of my super dad who I thought could do anything. But as I’ve gotten older, been a parent myself, I’m proud of the sort of man he was. Kind, giving, helpful, easy to be with, thoughtful, loving, committed to his family and faith. In the end, that’s what really makes a man a good father. Not what he can do but who he is.