Thursday, June 17, 2010

Everybody loves dad!

6/16/10 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Everybody loves dad!

My father has been gone nearly 27 years and I still miss him. Every time I have a really difficult decision to make, I wish that dad were here to help me make it. And every time I have a family joy to share, I wish that he were here to join me in celebration.

Dad was an every-day kinda guy. He was a good husband who tolerated things like my mother’s passion for ballroom dancing when he’d rather have been elsewhere. He was a loving father to his three kids. He was a pillar of the church and a tough as nails businessman with a great reputation for honesty and ethics. And when he died, he left a hole in my heart.

Ordinary dads sometimes get a bad rap because they don’t measure up to some glorified “Leave it to Beaver,” expectation that society has of them. In reality, most dads are hard working guys just trying to keep bread on the table and the wolf from the door. They’re not perfect and they can’t always be at every class play or sporting event. They’d be there if they could but their support comes in other ways.

Looking back on fatherhood, my husband says, “It took me awhile to recognize the joy of being a father. But being dad became a way of life. I built Kathy dollhouses and the boys Sting Ray bicycles. We had squirt gun fights, played hide and seek, camped with Indian Guides and went on vacations. Later, together, we built street rods with custom paint jobs. It was life shared and it was all good.”

This testimony is from a man who for two decades worked 12-hour days, 6 days a week and had one week’s vacation a year. He made family memories through his boundless energy, work ethic and penchant for wicked fun.

Dad memories in our household run a wide range of everyday events. John (our youngest son) says, “One of my earliest memories was of dad scooping me up when he came home from work and rubbing his 5 o’clock shadow against my face. I remember laughing and squirming and feeling warm and loved. I did the same thing to my 3 boys when they were little.

“One time Dad came to pick me and Kathy up from the ‘Tigres Track Club,’ still wearing his cowboy boots and jeans after work. He told one of the coaches that he used to run track. The next thing we knew, he was down in the starting blocks; the gun went off, and he went flying down the track. He was still fast, cowboy boots and all.”

Our son-in-law Tim has memories of his dad Miles, teaching him and his brother to ride motorcycles on an old Honda 55, when he was 4-1/2 years old. Their feet couldn’t touch the ground so his dad would start them off by holding them up. When they were through riding, Miles would run up alongside to keep them from tipping over.

Paul, our oldest grandson, remembers family vacations at Hume Lake. “One year my dad, brother and I drove back into the woods to go target shooting. As soon as we started shooting the shotgun, a deer walked up, laid down and just watched us. We all had a good laugh.”

Grandfather memories run deep in our family. My dad purchased season tickets for the yet to be built Dodger Stadium after the Brooklyn Dodgers came to Los Angeles in 1958: Row 29U, seats 4,5,6 and 7. Lots of learning came from that quality time with grandpa and grandkids.

John remembers “I learned all about baseball at those Dodger games with grandpa: when to steal bases, the suicide squeeze, matchups, etc. I knew the stats of every player on OUR Dodger team: Cey, Russell, Lopes, Garvey, Yeager, et al. The first time I went to a World Series game was with him in 1974 against Oakland. Joe Ferguson made a great throw from right field to nail a runner out at home but the A’s took the Dodgers 4 games to 1. ‘Wait till next year’ grandpa said.”

“I learned about sportsmanship from him. He had utter disdain for those who booed Pet Rose or Willie McCovey at bat because they weren’t Dodgers. He loved, loved, loved the Dodgers! A family tradition he handed on to me and I’ve handed on to my three sons.”

Kathy remembers, “Grandpa would always give us money to go get snacks. When you returned and offered him his change, he'd always say ‘Oh, keep it honey. You'll probably want something else later.’ BUT if you didn't offer him his change, he'd look you in the eye and ask if you were forgetting something and want it back. My life lesson from grandpa was that in the middle of having fun you always do the right thing and you get paid back in the end (in this case, literally!)”

Tim’s “Grandpa Linman was the best grandpa anyone could have,” he says. “I still remember cutting wood for the cabin stove with him and a two-man saw. Bob and I swapped off on one end and he kept both of us going on the other end.”

Chuck’s memories of his grandfather are equally glowing. His father worked in the shipyards and money was scarce but grandpa Sautner lived nearby. “He was my mentor. My idol. My everything. He started me on my lifelong interests in gardening and woodworking and I’ll never forget him,” Chuck says nostalgically.

This Sunday we Americans celebrate Father’s Day. If your father is alive, rejoice and let him know that you love him. He may not be perfect and even seem boring but he’s doing the best that he can and someday you’ll appreciate the memories you make together.

At the end of life, it won’t matter if your father was rich or poor or what others thought of him. I know this because all that ever mattered to me about my father was that he loved me. He was — MY dad — a not-so-ordinary man who left me a lifetime of treasured memories.

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads and granddads!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.
Her weekly columns appear in the Cottage Grove Sentinel

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