My dad comes up frequently in posts because I am pretty sure that my work ethic comes directly from his influence more than any other. I know that anything I understand about tools and fixing things was first honed watching him, sometimes directly for hours and sometimes covertly. He is still in the creak of the flooring when I manage to find an old-time hardware store and the smell of freshly cut lumber. I hear him laughing at old puns and sometimes catch glimpses of his very same twinkle in the eyes of both my boys, particularly when some mild mischief is involved.
Dad would have been 77 today, a date that he shared with Abraham Lincoln – one starting out his life and the other’s coming to an end on April 14th, 72 years intervening. Perhaps it was this shared date that started my dad’s deep interest in history, American history, and specifically the Revolutionary and Civil War periods. Abraham Lincoln loomed large for dad. A fascination with history is something else that I share with my dad.
Dad was an only child who came to preside over a noisy family with three children. While he very much wanted a family, I don’t think that he was prepared for the chaos of multiple children so his basement workshop became a welcome retreat. He was always very good with his hands and happiest when working on a project, or even had various projects in different stages. Happy being a relative term for dad.
It was highly important to him to be a good man. A good man provided for his family and had a solid standing in the community. A good man embodied the Boy Scout Oath and Law, particularly since dad achieved the rank of Eagle Scout and went on to make Scouting his career:
Scout Oath (or Promise)
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly,
courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty,
brave, clean, and reverent.
(Borrowed from the official website of the Boy Scouts of America)
These principles were the core of his purpose in life, though he had his times when these failed to help him know exactly what to do. Like many men in his generation, he was at a loss to best express his emotions – positive or negative.
Dad has been gone from this world for a little over 15 years. I just finished reading Jan-Philipp Sendker’s The Art of Hearing Heartbeats and really like what the character U Ba has to say:
“Do we leave the dead behind us or do we take them with us? I think we take them with us. They accompany us. They remain with us, if in another form.”
I like this because I have been thinking a great deal about getting farther and farther away from my parents. Maybe I’m not. Maybe because they are still with me, accompanying me, they are still relevant.
Dad can be anywhere and everywhere now. He is part of the appreciation of a finely crafted wood item, he is encouraging a young man on the path to Eagle Scout, he is present at campfires and taking in museum exhibits.
Happy birthday, dad.
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