My father died near the end of May in 1994, an anniversary that will soon be here. Time passes, and I have gotten used to living in a world without him. But hardly a day goes by when I don’t think of him, wish I could ask him something, or have the fun of continuing a conversation or friendly argument from years ago.
Dad had a unique relationship with each of his four children. He was proud of us all, loved us all, and butted heads with us all. My three older brothers would no doubt tell of their Dad in a different way – but I was the baby of the family – and this is my take on our remarkable father.
Our home is littered with things his hands touched, gifts he made, furniture and oddments he owned and a few of his books. How may I convey an impression? He was all of these things: A lawyer by profession, a woodworker for fun (aided by a client who bartered with a table saw and a wood lathe), a feeder of birds, a planter of trees, and a grower of roses. He was a war protester who became an American patriot when serving in the army during WWII. He was an exuberant collector of books, Christmas ornaments, and antique tools. Beyond all of that, he was a man who loved history, studied theology and while courting our mother, argued with her over the church’s claim that the God of the Bible, as described in the ecumenical creeds, is a triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He was swayed by her arguments, pursued more rigorous study and left his college agnosticism behind.
He gave me lessons on driving a car, using the lathe, choosing the right hardware for a job, and much about weird ancestors. He demonstrated an exuberance of excess in decorating for Christmas and gleefully rearranged the candlesticks spelling Noel, to read Leon. I mention his crazy Christmas excesses here: The Countdown is On. He prepared a tool box for me when I went off to college and bought me a crystal wine decanter for my first apartment. He loved to argue a political, cultural or theological position and was known to write lengthy inscriptions in books given in response to a request when he thought the author or subject merited parental guidance, critique or comment. He encouraged and expected a spirited debate when we disagreed.
He was a gentleman to the core and on my twenty-second birthday decided that my language needed parental guidance. His gift to me that year has made me laugh throughout all the decades since and is displayed proudly in our home office. It was comprised of a letter typed on office letterhead and a book. I provide copies of both for you to see — if you click on the letter you will see it in print easier to read!
One of the best lessons I learned from him was that his children were not the center of his life or the center of our family. He loved each of his children, but his relationship with our mother always came first. When he came home from work, he always greeted me in a friendly fashion as he walked right by me in search of the love of his life. I have written about them often before, and you may read one such story about them here: Love and an Acre of Land. They were well matched intellectually and had delightful fun together. I could not have been blessed with better parents. When I reflect on the many blessings in life — my remarkable father is way up on that list.