Monday, August 1, 2011
Who Is This Man?
Some of my earliest memories are of sand castles. Summer vacations on the beach in Miami or Daytona with my dad spending hours building the most beautiful sand castles with me. This is a man who loves to build things. I remember on those same summer vacations, he would build things in the back seat of the car to make it more fun for my sister and me. One year it was a desk on each window. Somehow it dropped down and we could write and color. One year it a wooden “floor” over the real floor with trap doors that opened to stash our things. This was before seatbelts and air-conditioning.
This is the man who held my hand through countless dentist appointments (I always wanted daddy), became president of the school board when he wanted things done the right way and asked me “have I ever told you about sex?” as we were walking down the aisle at my wedding to try to keep a very terrified bride from fainting. That same night I found a very long letter about life, love and marriage tucked secretly into my honeymoon luggage.
This man loves to learn. He got his engineering degree, his MBA and various other accolades. He started his career digging ditches and ended it as a top executive for a major company, but he didn’t change. People still tell me stories about how much they liked working for him and how he always treated everyone with respect. He learned to water ski when I did. I was in high school, he was in his 40’s which seemed very old at the time.
He is the father of 2 girls, who always said he loved having just girls…until he had grandsons. He bought trucks and tractors, built wooden trains and played and played some more. Now we watch him do it all over again with his 2 little great-grandsons. Of course he also found ways to bond with each of his 4 granddaughters. Each of them would have stories to tell.
The past year has been the worst of his life. He was 16 when he started dating my mom and 20 when they married. They were a solid unit, a partnership and one of those couples that you didn’t think of as individuals…they were “Bob and Lou”. He could have given up when she died, he could have shut himself into his home and refused to participate in life. He didn’t, even though I am sure there were days he wanted to. He has gotten very involved in a new, smaller church. He has built and painted a deck for the church and helped at a migrant center. He has made several visits to see my Disney daughter, riding roller coasters and pounding the pavement from park opening to park closing. He is doing all the things my mom didn’t want him to do because she was afraid it might kill him. I get messages from my daughter saying that she can’t keep up with grandpa. He has learned to cook. He always did a little cooking, making Sunday brunch or grilling. Now, he really cooks, bakes bread and shares the food with his friends. He swims laps most days, plays golf and enjoys an active social life. He did his own Christmas shopping and hasn’t missed one of our birthdays or special occasions yet. He kept moving even when he didn’t feel like it because he knew we needed him and that my mom would want him to enjoy life while he could. I couldn’t be prouder to call this man my dad.
So, today as my father turns 85, he looks 70 and acts 12. He makes us laugh, he has been our rock and he provided us with a childhood so wonderful that we knew we were lucky even as children. Happy Birthday Dad!