Sunday, December 28, 2014

Happy Birthday, Fritz

Dear Dad,

I still have the bricklayer's tape measure. And the trowel. and the hat. There are other bits of odds and ends of yours that I have -- a handkerchief, your father's railroad horn, just to mention a few.

But more importantly, I have what you taught me. Or at least I'm working toward having it:

Compassion. You saw a lot in your life, many things that have made people hateful and bitter. You saw your homeland taken in war. You saw prisoners of war and refugees. You knew hunger and fear. But they never drove you. You came out of your experiences the better, wanting to help those in need, even when you didn't have much yourself. I'm sure I don't know all the sacrifices you made providing for eight children. I have only three, but I know what I've done for them. And I know what I have done for them, I learned from you and Mom.

Desire. I look at my own kids reading, learning, growing, and sometimes, it's frustrating. Especially the reading -- they get so buried in books I can't get their attention when I need help. I was probably like that as a kid. Buried in books. Always wanting to learn something new. Because you did. One of the things you provided in our home was books and a desire to learn. I hope I pass that desire on to my children, because in them I see reflected the upbrining I had, and that is a monument, I hope, you enjoy seeing.

Faith. I know you grew up in a different religion, and even after you joined the Mormon church, had many things to say about the furvalente Mormonjes. But I recall that day in the temple when we were there with you -- your four sons. What a fine day that was. Ad I recall you saying that you felt like church was the only place where the devil couldn't get you. I remember that, sitting in the chapel, walking the halls, seeing all the familiar faces. I feel like I'm at home. And I know it's my job to bring that feeling home to my own family. Just like you did.

Love. You never gave me reason to doubt  you loved me, my brothers and sisters, or my mother, no matter what inventions my teenage mind might have come up with. Maybe I look back with rose-colored glasses -- but that's as it should be. Because maybe there were times you thought I was a real pain in the butt. But I never heard you say it. And I don't think I ever felt it.

Patience. What goes for love goes for patience. I wish I had your patience. That's one I'm still working on the most -- maybe it's the one I lack the most. But I have wonderful role models in patience in you and Mom.

Hard Work. Yes, I moaned a lot about work as a teenager, working with you and then Al in construction. You put up with me far longer than you should have. And even after I left construction for what I thought I wanted to do, it took me ten years to figure out that even work I enjoyed doing is work if I go at it with the wrong attitude. You worked at a job you knew you could do and that kept us in a house and in clothes and food and books and pretty much everything we wanted, and I rarely heard you complain about it. You probably complained a lot on the inside, as I do now, but you rarely said it aloud. And that left an impression on me. And it's something I hope I can pass on to my kids. I'm grateful now for the boxes and buckets of nails and screws and other bits that I keep, following your lead. I'm grateful for the tools you left me, but I'm far more grateful for the opportunities you gave me to use them and to learn from you. I'd be far less handy around the house, in my own bumbling way, if you hadn't caught me by the neck and taught me a few things when I probably wanted to do anything else in the world but be there.

Parents put up with a lot. Maybe they think that if they can thump the skulls of their thick children long enough, they might learn something. I know that's the attitude you had. And you were right.

I love you Dad. And I miss you.

1 comment:

Maaike Davidson said...

I love my Daddy! Thank you for writing this. I think I'd add that I admired his innocence--that childlike part of him that he kept no matter how many years passed.