My first hero….

He never ran for President. He didn’t win an academy award or play football on television. He wasn’t even the mayor of our little Minnesota town. He didn’t pull children out of burning buildings or write a best-seller.

So what makes my Dad so darn special???

Everything that really counts.

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When I see my father’s 85 year old face, I see the face of unadulterated faithfulness. I see my first hero and my first best friend.

As a very little girl in the early 1960’s , my family went through some deep waters. Years of living have taught me that pretty much every family does. But when you’re in the middle of a test, it feels like it’s only your house that’s in crisis.

I am the oldest of 2 children. I was a toddler and my brother was a baby when our movie star beautiful mother fought a battle with depression (greatly misunderstood in 60’s era rural America).  I will most certainly get many of the details of the story wrong, as our extended family did what people did back then. They protected the young with silence. We didn’t get all the facts, but we knew enough and my child’s heart filled in the rest with the imagined.

There followed years of fuzzy memories of Mom in the hospital.  Grandma Frances moved in to take care of us and keep house and what a blessing she was!!! In the meantime, my mother was fighting the hardest part of the battle….all alone in a hospital. How different medicine is now.  And what a sacrifice she made to spend all those years away from her family, unable to see her babies growing up….. But that’s another story…

my mother’s incredible courage and determination

and how much I admire her for these!

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Our childhood was one predictable day after another of watching Dad eat eggs for breakfast….. take his gray lunch box with the thermos of coffee…… and go to work as a lineman for the rural electric company.

My brother and I spent our days at home with grandma, watched television, played both inside and outside and as we got older, went to school. The afternoons brought a snack and classic afterschool tv while we waited for 4:30 and our father’s clockwork return from his workday.

I look at those years now and realize how unusual it was for a young man to try to raise small children without a wife at home…… day care was unheard of…… single dads just didn’t seem to exist. But our dad spent his entire life giving us the most stable, loving and safe home two kids could ever ask for. Everything he did and everything he had was for us….. and he was my first and best best friend.

….I never knew real fear, because I absolutely KNEW that my dad would always be there for me.

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He taught us to love animals and the beauty of nature….. He brought home fertilized chicken eggs and we hatched them in a makeshift incubator in the house. I remember dad explaining how we mustn’t help the chicks pull the shells off , because they needed to open them on their own. But then…. eventually…… the cheeping, struggling baby chickens got the best of him and he couldn’t resist helping out…just a teeny bit!

He built us the world’s coolest fort in the backyard one winter, made of stacked haybales. We had haybale benches inside and played house for hours.

We went “road-hunting” for pheasants along the gravel roads near our home. We rode along to take the garbage to the local dump…I still consider a trip to the dump a rare treat! He took us on vacations to the lake, the Black Hills and Yellowstone National Park.

I loved 4:30 in the afternoon. Grandma would be making dinner and Dad would walk through the door with his empty lunch box any minute…..without fail.

We watched television most evenings….our mid century rambler a cocoon of predictable security. I loved sitting at the end of the couch while Dad watched his favorite shows.

Some children inherit large sums of money from their parents. Some inherit fame and prestige. But my brother and I inherited a lifetime of security and love. Everything I know about unconditional love and faithfulness, I saw first in my daddy…..

We got the best deal of all….there simply isn’t anything better.

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Afterward…

……my father passed away just a few weeks ago after a sudden illness. Ironically, it occurred only days after I wrote the draft of this post. I miss him terribly, but he has left us a beautiful legacy. Thanks Dad:)

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