My dad would have been 101 today. His gentleness and genuine love for people and animals was as natural to him as breathing. His quiet charisma drew people to him, his calmness could sooth the crankiest baby or frightened, hurting animal.
He had to drop out of school while in his teens in order to work the family farm. But he never stopped reading and continuing to learn as much as possible. One time when I was quite young we were eating a Sunday dinner with friends and the two men were deep in discussion when the other man looked at my dad and said, “Paul, it’s a shame you were not able to finish school and become a doctor. With your personality and brains you would have made an excellent doctor!” Looking at the man’s earnest face, for the first time in my life I realized what not being able to finish school meant to my dad. Words like that, one doesn’t quickly forget.
He enjoyed being with women but never pursued any in a romantic way until he met the love of his life when he was in his thirties. They married when he was 34 and stayed in love until he died 38 years later. In this picture, taken at Thanksgiving 1950 he is looking at his darling wife, who is expecting their first child – my sister.
I am thankful that he encouraged each of us children to reach for the stars. He never discouraged me from my dreams and was quick with quiet praise for work well done. As the youngest of four children by the time I was sixteen I was his “right hand man” in helping him with the various maintenance tasks that fell to him as caretaker of the small Navajo mission where we’d moved when I was thirteen. He taught me to change tires, change oil and replace a U-joint. I climbed the ladder and helped put new roofing material on our small house and the building that we used for Sunday school classes and game nights. I dug ditches and pits for the grey water from our house, chopped wood and carried coal for heat. He made me feel loved, confident and competent. I was blessed!
I’m thankful that he welcomed loved ones and strangers alike to our table and was always willing to share what he had with anyone in need. Holiday meals always meant the table leaves put in, card tables placed nearby and chairs clustered close to squeeze in as many people as possible. Often they were people that had no place to go, no relatives nearby. When I was six or seven he invited two Iranian men who were studying animal husbandry at Oregon State U to spend the Thanksgiving break with us. A change encounter through his job that turned into a long friendship of letters exchanged between the two men and my folks long after they’d returned to Iran.
Shonto Canyon where I learned to do so many tasks at his side.
Twenty-nine years have passed since his home going to Heaven. I’ve grieved that my children didn’t have the opportunity of his warm love.
I am so thankful that we will see each other again! Happy Birthday Dad!