My Dad: A Brief Biography Part 11

In the year after my dad died, as part of my grieving, I wrote this book. I’ve waited to make it public for many reasons. But now, more than 11 years later, I want to share it. My dad was a good man. I want you to know about him and his influence. I hope you enjoy.

 

People remember my dad primarily from church. They remember his spiritual training, the ways he explained things. His favorite phrase, “stay straight with the Lord.” His parting comment from the pulpit after every church service, “Leave rejoicing in the Lord.” I remember those too, I heard them each 12 million times. But they aren’t the phrases that stick in my head.

“Don’t run over my pine trees.” Is one statement I remember from my dad. Dads have a way of repeating themselves. Kids have a way of saying “I know.” Kids then have a way of doing exactly what their dad told them not to do when they said “I know.” When I became “of age” to run my dad’s lawnmower, he certainly let me. Every Saturday I was to mow the lawn and I did and usually enjoyed it. My dad had a fixation with turning his yard into a forest preserve. He would always add more trees. One year he planted three little tiny pine trees in the yard. I was not to run them over with the lawn mower. I don’t know what it was, but no matter how careful I was around those trees, I always ended up lopping off a branch or two. OK, I lopped off the top a few times too. “Don’t run over the pine trees” was said to me every Saturday for about five years. For some reason, those trees never did grow up, they remained the perfect size to run over with a lawn mower.

“Don’t be afraid to learn something” was another phrase I remember. Every day when I left for school my dad would say good-bye and then “don’t be afraid to learn something.” I never fully understood this phrase until I started sending my kids to school. He always used to comment on how many movies we watched at school. He would critique my Christian school like so, “I pay $3,000 a year for you to watch movies?” There were times in my academic career it did appear as though I was afraid to learn something.

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My Dad: A Brief Biography Part 10

In the year after my dad died, as part of my grieving, I wrote this book. I’ve waited to make it public for many reasons. But now, more than 11 years later, I want to share it. My dad was a good man. I want you to know about him and his influence. I hope you enjoy.

 

The strange thing about being a pastor is that lots of people think they know you. Pastors often become professional friends. Pastors consider very few people to be actual friends and yet many people consider their pastor to be a close friend. Lots of people made claims to my father, thought they knew him better than me. They would take time to explain things to me about my dad, as if I was misinformed, not around him in church enough or something.

The ironic thing is, no one knew my dad better than my mom and my sister and I. We lived with this guy for more years than anyone else, seeing him in all situations. My mom knows him best, as should be. My sister has a year and a half more with him than me, but I’m in third, pretty good. Maybe his parents know more, OK, I’ll be fourth. But it’s the everyday things that help you get to know a guy.

I was there when he was trying to get me to memorize my Awana verses and I was just struggling, didn’t really want to do it. He kept going over the verse with me, over and over and over and I was not getting it. I was playing with socks, because when you are memorizing verses, playing with anything is exciting. He took the socks away. I grabbed a pillow. Taken away. I started playing with the covers on the bed, still botching my verses. Finally he got up in justifiable frustration and kicked a shoe, which smacked the door with the sole and made the loudest noise I have ever heard out of a shoe, scared the life out of me. He left. About one minute later I had 6 verses memorized.

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My Dad: A Brief Biography Part 9

In the year after my dad died, as part of my grieving, I wrote this book. I’ve waited to make it public for many reasons. But now, more than 11 years later, I want to share it. My dad was a good man. I want you to know about him and his influence. I hope you enjoy.

 

Pastors have it rough. They are supposed to be spiritual leaders who demonstrate what spiritual maturity is all about. At the same time, they are just sinful people like everyone else. Trying to balance the two conditions causes many dilemmas in life. As I mentioned earlier, my dad didn’t wood carve because church people might see him with sawdust on him. Stuff like that made life rough, always having to wonder if this was OK for a pastor to be doing. Non-pastors always tell pastors that “you can’t try to please people.” Right. If you don’t try to please people you’d have to cease being human.

I wouldn’t say that my dad was fake as a pastor, he was real, but not the real I saw at home. He was the same guy, just more reserved in public. I saw things in that man outside of his pastoral life that were anything but pastoral! Allow me to explain!

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My Dad: A Brief Biography Part 8

In the year after my dad died, as part of my grieving, I wrote this book. I’ve waited to make it public for many reasons. But now, more than 11 years later, I want to share it. My dad was a good man. I want you to know about him and his influence. I hope you enjoy.

 

I remember my dad getting in trouble from my mom for throwing a ball inside the house. I had been throwing a football in the house and my mom told me to stop because I would break something. In walks my dad, not having heard this comment, sees my football and, of course, being a man, picks it up and throws it. Wouldn’t you know it, he hit one of my mom’s collector plates hanging on the wall. It fell off and broke into several pieces. How refreshing to see my dad get busted! But how nice to see how much a boy needs a dad. A mom sees the danger of throwing a football and wants it stopped.  A dad sees a football and has to throw it. Sons need their dads. I needed my dad and I got him.

Everyone remembered this event about five years later when my buddy Joe and I were throwing yet another football in my room. I had two beds from a bunk bed and we were throwing the ball between them. One of the throws got a bit carried away and knocked the glass light cover off the ceiling light and shattered it into a million pieces. Even though we all remembered dad’s errant throw, I still got in trouble. I had to use my own money to buy a new light fixture. My dad and I made yet another trip to the Ace hardware where I picked out a light fixture, bought it, took it home and put it up. Lesson learned. You can throw the football but you will pay for any damages. Can do.

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My Dad: A Brief Biography Part 7

In the year after my dad died, as part of my grieving, I wrote this book. I’ve waited to make it public for many reasons. But now, more than 11 years later, I want to share it. My dad was a good man. I want you to know about him and his influence. I hope you enjoy.

 

My dad was a riot. He just had a way with life that cracked me up. He always had a comment, usually a depressed hilarious comment. It was great. He was always helping us do new things and taking us new places. Our family could never forget the one year we drove our old brown Ford out to Montana. I was probably seven or eight and our Ford was having trouble. We couldn’t turn it off at any point otherwise it wouldn’t start again. When we got to the Badlands, my mom and sister would get out and go look at them, come back to the car and then my dad and I would go look. We did this all the way out to Montana. I remember one morning being out in the hotel parking lot with my dad who had strung a bunch of hotel extension cords out to the car and had my mom’s hairdryer blowing in the engine until the car started. Stuff like that, just goofy stuff that sticks with you. It makes no sense really, there was nothing he did other than just be him. But that’s all I wanted, just to be doing stuff with him.

We did lots of things together. Someone gave him two tickets to a Brewers game at County Stadium about ten rows behind home plate. Neither one of us really cared for the Brewers, but it was one of the sweetest nights of my life. Just me and dad at the game, talking, being guys, watching baseball. Sweet. My dad would drive me around to baseball card shows all over southeastern Wisconsin. I had little money and bought very few really good cards, but my dad always took the time to take me to those places and hang out with me. For a while, we would go out to eat every Monday night at a new restaurant, just me and him. One night we went to an Italian joint and had spaghetti and meatballs. We went home and watched Monday Night Football on the TV in mom and dad’s bedroom. My mom walked in and choked, “What did you guys eat? Oh, it wreaks in here.” Yup, just me and dad, stinking it up. What a man I was that night!

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My Dad: A Brief Biography Part 6

In the year after my dad died, as part of my grieving, I wrote this book. I’ve waited to make it public for many reasons. But now, more than 11 years later, I want to share it. My dad was a good man. I want you to know about him and his influence. I hope you enjoy.

 

No father is perfect. My dad made mistakes. He admitted these to me as I grew up. He would tell me when he did something wrong. When I was old enough to have man-to-man talks, he told me he was sorry for the mistakes he made, that he had done his best job. My dad knew his flaws and wanted me to know he knew them. The worst thing a father can do to his son is pretend that his parenting skills are flawless. You don’t have any idea what you are doing. When a child is old enough to handle that truth, you have to tell them. They know it anyway, they will be reassured that you agree with them.

No son is perfect either. I apologized to my dad more in my life than he ever did to me. This was mainly because in our relationship, I was the blithering moron, not him. I took him for granted, I verbally ridiculed him and my mom. I undermined his authority. I ignored his warnings. But this is all part of growing up. The worst thing a father can do to his son is expect him to be perfect. Fathers and sons are human and, by nature, are pretty screwed up. But with age, sons come to the awareness that their dad is probably more right than they ever thought before.

The Bible contains two verses that say contradictory things about wisdom. On the one hand, Scripture says that with wisdom comes joy. On the other hand, Scripture also says that with much wisdom comes much sorrow. They are both true. Wisdom is a mixed blessing. Solomon, the smartest guy in the world, was the one who knew so much he saw that everything was pointless. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. There is nothing new under the son. At the same time, Solomon understood more and thus enjoyed more things. Getting to know your dad is filled with sorrow and joy. I can see my dad’s wisdom, how he thought things through, why he did what he did and it makes sense. At the same time, knowing what I know of him, I feel bad for him. I feel bad for all he had to put up with. My knowledge of my dad helps me love him and also gave me more reasons to despise him.

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My Dad: A Brief Biography Part 5

In the year after my dad died, as part of my grieving, I wrote this book. I’ve waited to make it public for many reasons. But now, more than 11 years later, I want to share it. My dad was a good man. I want you to know about him and his influence. I hope you enjoy.

 

It was a dreary day, clouds hung low with intermittent sprinkles peppering the surface of the river. The river was running fast and we were making good time. My dad sat in the front, his back to the water facing me as I crouched on the floor in the middle of the canoe clutching the brace in front of me. Wayne sat behind me watching the river and steering. As the day dragged on, the two men began talking. Not much of what they said made any impression on me, I was no more than four at the time. I was just in awe to be with “the guys” and a bit uneasy with this tippy canoe. My unease was not unfounded.

At one point in their conversation, Wayne took his eyes off the river at the precise moment that the front of our canoe hit a tree that was laying diagonally into the river. We hit hard and the canoe went over. My dad’s memory is that he kept going down. He was worried about me and was hoping to kick off the bottom to reach the surface and get me. The bottom was long in coming. He finally touched with his feet and kicked up to the surface, frantic for me. If it was that tough for him to get out of the water, what would happen to his four-year old son?

One of the things he lost in the river were his glasses. Even without them, he clearly saw me, still sitting in the canoe, clutching the brace in front of me. I had no idea what had happened, but I distinctly recall sitting alone in the canoe, clutching with all my life to the brace. The canoe had completely flipped over and righted itself with me in it. Wayne and my dad pulled the canoe over to shore and laid out their wallets to dry off their stuff. My dad’s watch was broken and his glasses were gone. But I was fine. Still not letting go of that brace!

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