We always take what we’ve learned with us, and much of what I’ve learned came from my parents. Not to displace my mom’s lessons, I want to focus on my dad this time. It’s his 60th birthday today, March 23, but you wouldn’t be able to tell his age from looking at him.
As an athlete, he took the number 23, a number later made famous by the great Michael Jordan. I always thought it was fate since I felt he was easily comparable to such greatness. He epitomized the mix of hard work and ethical standards. He even surpassed Jordan in that respect. He always did things with other people’s concern in mind. His compassion and respect for life always led to an insightful decision. Once when I was a young teenager, we missed mass to get a few head of cattle out of a bad situation. I was concerned that we missed a Sunday of worship and when I voiced my concern, he told me that God put us in charge of His creations and it was our responsibility to take care of what he gave us. I instantly felt better because I knew he was right.
As a farmer, he cited the best satisfaction was from seeing the results of his hard work coming up through the fields. As a rancher, he appreciated spring time when the new calves were running and playing in the pastures. As a father, he selflessly watches his children with pride play sports, win contests, get married, have kids, yet not take credit for himself.
His strength comes from wisdom. His ability to listen to anyone’s problems does not come from words, but rather to see what is really going on, voiced or not. He understands why people do what they do even if they can’t see it. Then, instead of judging someone, he quietly shows them why it could be that way. He leads by example and has the patience to let us figure it out ourselves.
Proof of his patience comes from the fact that he raised seven willful girls to become strong women. In the mix, he helped two boys become very impressive men. The strength of faith, self-confidence, and love that his children now show comes from his and mom’s parental decisions. He set the bar high, and I am grateful for his expectations that we felt growing up.
His example lives on in the nine of us, and now nine grandchildren. Watching him hold my six-year-old son’s hand while taking a walk on the farm reminds me how much he loves children and how much they love him. Everyone, young and old, knows that they will receive a kind word from him, sometimes in the form of a joke. His humor allows those around him to feel at ease and people sincerely enjoy being around him.
Until I became an adult, I didn’t understand how truly blessed I am to come from such a strong and loving family with no hidden agendas attached. Simply love. Hard work. Respect for one another. And God.
Thank you dad, and happy birthday.