Tuesday, February 19, 2013
A TOAST ON THE OCCASION OF MY FATHER’S 80TH BIRTHDAY –FEBRUARY 5, 2013 Who said: “Boys are like buses, there will be another one by in 10 minutes.” MY DAD. Who said: “God is not mocked.” MY DAD. (and neither was Dad). Who said: “You reap what you sow” (which I thought he meant “sew” and so I became a quilter) MY DAD. Who sang the soundtrack from “Student Prince” around the house? MY DAD. Who waxed his car every Memorial Day listening to the Indy 500 while I sat in the back seat reading my book? MY DAD. Who said, “I think you are a little young to get married, Virginia” but gave me a lovely wedding anyway. MY DAD (and he was right but no regrets here; that marriage gave me my two lovely daughters). Who had a copy of “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Sex but Were Afraid to Ask” in a drawer in the kitchen by the phone? Believe it or not, MY DAD. In response to my sisters’ and my broken romances, who said: “There’s plenty of fish in the sea.” Yep, MY DAD. Who beat the preacher regularly at ping-pong? MY CHAMPIONSHIP DAD. Who tried and succeeded in convincing us that hot dogs were really tube steaks? MY DAD. Nice economizing trick, Dad, but we now know better. No fooling us any more, we will have the prime rib, thank you very much. When my sister Bev got her first car, a mint green Rambler, who constantly intoned, “Check the oil.” DAD. And Bev, I want to take this opportunity to tell you how impressed I was with your knowledge of that car, a STANDARD transmission and you knew how to pop the clutch, whatever that means. Who is the best looking guy in a fishing boat? MY DAD, of course. We always thought he looked like Perry Como. Who was forgiving when I sideswiped a car going down 7th Street hill to Wilson’s gas station (and didn’t realize it til the insurance agent called?) Who took me with him, all excited, to Wilson’s Filling Station because there was a 26 cent gas war on? He made it seem like such a special occasion! Who was understanding when Mom backed the car into the back porch or when one of us backed the car out of the garage with the passenger door open? DAD, of course. Who said “Ask your mother.” More than once. Many times. Countless times. You guessed it, MY DAD. Who put me up on water skis, instructed my sister to make sure I was upright and then gunned the boat without checking that I was still above water? DAD Who taught me to bait a hook, catch a fish, and take that fish off the hook? MY DAD. A skill set, I might add, that really surprised and impressed my husband, George. Who roasted hot dogs and marshmallows late at night on a fork over the gas burner on the stove? And if you were a lucky girl, you woke up and heard him coming home from second shift and he would share his late night culinary skills with you. DAD. I would wager almost every daughter at every age idolizes her dad. I have been no exception. My father was the hardest working man I ever knew. He taught my sisters and me to work hard by his example. He worked long hours for his employers (the 1967 spring flood when he hardly ever came home for weeks), kept a well maintained home and a meticulous lawn that my sisters and I were privileged to share the chores of trimming the edges and sweeping the sidewalk and driveway. Every. Damn. Week. His cars were usually in excellent shape as well, with the exception of the “3M Special,” his work car he claimed was held together with duct tape. I think it was the color of duct tape as well, wasn’t it? Kind of a dull gray? My dad also gave time to his church, helping to build it, serving as a deacon, then an elder, and keeping a careful eye on its finances. He regularly gave blood. When people ask me today why I give blood, I tell them it is because my father did. My father loves his country. He flew the flag everyday (so did his father) and now, so do I. I know for a fact that we have different ideas about how our country should be governed and who should lead it but I do not doubt we love it equally. He knows I am one of those damn liberals ruining this country but he loves me anyway! My father loved his parents. The first time (and possibly the only time), I ever saw him break down and cry was at his mother’s funeral. I was 16. It was very disturbing to see the rock that was my father sobbing. I have always felt safe with my dad. As a child, I remember trips to see our grandparents in St. Louis or in the Missouri Ozarks. Dad would get home after working second shift, pile us all in the car and start the long drive south, staying up all night while we slept in our makeshift beds in the back of the station wagon. You’d get a seat belt/car seat ticket for that now, Dad. When we made the change from station wagon to sedan, I remember staying awake with him as he made the long drive and he would call me his “driving buddy.” I had the seat right behind him in the back. I have childhood memories of crossing dark parking lots holding his hand as we made pit stops in the middle of the night. NOT TOO MANY, mind you. He was “a get in the car and get going” kinda guy. As the sun came up, we would stop in Bowling Green (is that right?) and have breakfast at a truck stop. His heroes were Arnold Palmer and the St. Louis Cardinals. He once told me the two things he misses most are golf and driving. My father has known a great deal of disappointment and sorrow in his life but I hope he would also say he has known fulfillment , joy and love. I have no doubt that many times he despaired but it is important to recognize that he also prevailed. As the writer of Ecclesiastes states: “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all.” [Ecclesiastes 9:11] Without talking about it directly, my father taught me that life does not promise you ease and success and sometimes it even denies you your heart’s desire but one does not give up and die. You carry on. If my father was British, he would have a stiff upper lip. My father does not talk a great deal about the past. I wish I knew his life story better, what he was like as a child, a teenager, a young married man. Maybe that is something he will choose to do in the time still left. I do know he has always let his actions speak for his beliefs and I know that he loves me. In closing, I want to share with you the truest thing my father ever told me about his life and it has been the primary tenet of my existence: “I was there when you were conceived; I was there when you were born and I’m still here.” Thank you, Daddy-o, for always being there. I love you with all of my heart. Happy 80th birthday.
In 2003-2004, George and I had the privilege to host an AFS student from Germany for a year in our home. It was an excellent match and we think of Atilla as our son. While Ati was with us, he was very interested in the quilt I was making for my mother, Marian Long. He told me if she did not want it, he would take it! So before he left, we visited a fabric store together and picked out fabric for his quilt. Two years later it was finished but Ati asked me to keep it while he was in college and really did not have a place of his own. He is now finishing up graduate school and we arranged to send it to his girlfriend's place until he has his own place. It arrived today (I am so relieved!) and here are some pictures of Ati, Marie and the quilt. The back of the quilt has a quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu that says: "You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them." It also lists us with love as "Ginnie and George, your American Parents." The pattern is a log cabin with a star variation. You can see more pictures of the quilt in my albums. So another quilt has found its home. As I packed it up, I felt like I was sending one of my children far, far away when actually, I was sending a boxful of love to my son and his sweetie. Life is good!