Today, June 4th, is my dad’s birthday; he was born in 1942 and passed away when he was just 58 years old. It is hard to believe that he has been gone from our lives now for 15 years. My dad had this quiet personality but with a very hearty laugh. When something struck his funny bone, he would roar in joyous laughter that echoed through the house. He worked for many years in an iron mine and later for another 10 years in a tire factory. Additionally, he farmed and sometimes was self-employed as an electrician. He did everything he could think of to pay the bills and make ends meet. I am convinced that his very best friend in life was his older brother John who was born in 1941 and also passed on in 2010. Even though they lived far apart in their adult years, they shared a special closeness.
My dad also possessed a sense of adventure and wonderment. In 1969 when man first stepped on the moon, my dad watched enthralled. He held me on his lap and pointed to the TV, “See, Becky, they’re walking on the moon.” When I was still very little, he liked to swim and let me ride on his stomach while he laid on his back floating. Years later, he showed his sense of adventure by taking us on a family trip out west. We traveled as far as Utah and visited family there. Other highlights of that trip included seeing Mt. Rushmore and camping at Yellowstone National Park. We spent many summer weekends camping in Hatfield.
As a father, he was stern when he thought he needed to be but also very loving when someone most needed it. At least that was how he was to me. And his gift of joyous laughter with twinkling eyes will always stay with me. He could regale in humorous animation a lively story of his childhood. His Christmas Skis story comes to mind. He also loved watching a comedy or a movie that could really bring out that laughter. But other times he would watch a movie and give it more serious thought. We once had a conversation about the old Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. Through the course of the movie, the main character, George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) is very unhappy and in a dire predicament although through no fault of his doing. The situation seems hopeless to George and he doesn’t want to continue in his life. Near the end of the movie, George is happily running down the street. His dire situation had not yet changed. My dad puzzled over this saying, “His situation had not changed and yet suddenly he was happy.”
“No,” I slowly commented in my own quiet way, “His situation hadn’t changed; just his perspective.”
“Yeah,” my dad’s face lit up now satisfied, “His perspective changed and THAT was the point of the movie.”
My dad’s laughter and his quiet moments of wonder and thoughtfulness are gifts that I will always treasure in my heart.