Today I’d like to write about my father, if you’ll indulge me.
He’s at home at this point. Yesterday, while working at the church, he fell off a ladder and broke his ankle. It’s a bad break – clean in two, the doctor says. This means my very active, septuagenarian father will have to be completely off his feet for a couple of weeks. This is the man who, up until the recent past, continued to chop his own wood for firewood and spray the pine needles off his roof once a year.
I think being sedentary will be the hardest part.
Ever since I can remember, my dad has been active. As a boy, he was a Boy Scout, eventually attaining the rank of Eagle Scout. In the summers he went away to camp and learned to swim, shoot arrows and race. He entered the army and jumped out of planes while training to be a Ranger. When I was little, he took us (my brother and I) hiking and then camping in the woods. As a card-carrying member of Mazamas, he was the perfect guide. This wasn’t luxury camping inside a well-appointed RV. This was camping near a stream, cooking over a fire. We bathed in that stream and dug holes to go to the toilet. We boiled the water before we drank it. We slept in a tent, on pads, yet somehow always with a rock stabbing us in the middle of our backs.
We loved it. Food tasted better, and the fewer baths, the merrier we were. Being out in nature yielded many surprises. We hiked into deep forest glens, shrouded in shade. We saw deer and species of birds that didn’t frequent the pastoral Oregon countryside where Dad lived. We learned a little about how to survive with a few supplies and your wits. We packed all our gear in and out, learning to travel light. It’s because of him that I appreciate creation.
As time went on, Dad remarried and our priorities changed. At that point, I didn’t care for camping anymore. I was a sophisticated teenager. I felt my father had nothing more to teach me, anyway. I had all the answers. Insert guffaw here.
I didn’t. I’m so grateful now for his patience and persistence to teach me, well, persistence. This is the man who taught me to drive a stick shift! If you want something, you need to work for it. If it’s worth having, you must not give up. It’s because of him drilling this into me, when I was ready to chuck it all in, that I have any skills today.
Physical activity is good for the body and soul. We weren’t made to sit around. Dad’s had a couple of heart issues in the past 15 years and he’s slowed down some, but he didn’t lie down and give up. I plan on being active the rest of my life. Being retired doesn’t mean you’re dead.
I’ve also learned to be more giving because of him. His heart is always to meet the needs of others. He’s the kind of man who will give you his last dollar; he’s done it for countless people over the years. He’s the person you can call on in the 11th hour and he will be there.
As I review the legacy of my dad’s influence in my life, I am grateful. He’s shown me what it means to live with purpose. We haven’t always gotten along perfectly over the years. Two stubborn people with different points of view won’t always agree. But he’s always loved me and tried to bring out the best in me, along with everyone else he meets. He encourages people and lifts them up. May I learn to do the same.
Love you, Dad.