Father’s Day… a time to remember the dads we treasure. They’ve taught us well in the ways of life. I remember a lot about my dad. In fact, it would be fair to say I had put him on a pedestal while growing up. It seems he could do anything and everything, a jack-of-all-trades. Though none of us can measure up all the time, there is One who is perfect… who forgives all our failings… our heavenly Father.
There is so much my Dad, Ralph, taught me and my siblings, including all about the love of Jesus. As a small child on the farm, I would say, “Jesus is my best friend!” But, for a time as a teen, I forgot my childhood friend until my Dad reminded me of those words I used to say as a little girl. Oops!
I loved playing board games on Sunday afternoons with my Dad, especially Scrabble. I love the challenge of this game and tend to play aggressively, perhaps because I was in tough competition with my Dad. Though I won only one game against him over those few years, it was a sweet victory knowing that I’d accomplished the win without his having given me an edge.
He taught me honesty was the right way such that in 8th grade English class I chose to write an essay entitled “Honesty Is The Best Policy”, receiving an A. Actually, I think I may have gotten writing and art abilities from him. Although he was an exceptional storyteller, imitating voice and mannerisms of various comedians, I speak best through the written word. He also had a gift for drawing with his talent for art passed on to me and my son.
As we grew up, we loved hearing Dad tell family stories of his and our childhoods. He had a gift for telling them in a personalized humorous way, and how I long to hear them all again. I asked him to write them down for posterity, but he never did. When he drove truck in the latter 1960s through the 1980s (and later huge tractors for an Iowan farmer in the ‘90s), he’d come home with stories from the road. He shared radio routines by Bill Cosby and southern Cajun comedians, recalling their stories and imitating accents perfectly! That was way better entertainment than TV any day!
I also recall a few stories of his time in the Army at Fort Greeley, Alaska (1956-1957), a foreign assignment before official statehood. From 18 months to 2 years, I was too young to remember my six months at Delta Junction with my baby sister. But, I do remember having heard how he and several buddies found a sunken rowboat. As it lay not far below the surface of a lake, they pulled it up, cleaned it off, and took it out to fish. It made for an interesting adventure to say the least – while they each took a turn fishing, the other three worked hard at bailing to keep the boat afloat! Now that’s dedicated fishermen!
Fort Greeley is also where he learned to drive big rigs. With someone ill, he was asked to take over in the motor pool one night. Proving he could handle backing up a trailer perfectly, the commanding officer asked where he’d learned to do that since everyone else struggled. “Backing up a manure spreader, Sir!” was his dutiful reply. They kept him in the motor pool, where he got invaluable training for later driving 18-wheelers.
He also was given an unprecedented promotion because he took the time to thoroughly clean an office coffeepot, a skill learned from his Dutch immigrant mother who had taught him all aspects of housekeeping while growing up, like any good Dutch mother. With a general visiting Fort Greeley, and the coffee-making task handed down to my Dad, he took pains to provide a clean urn for making fresh-brewed coffee… which greatly impressed the general. When the general asked who made the coffee, the aide who was supposed to have made it “blamed” my Dad. Instead of the feared reprimand for the typically bad-tasting coffee the office was known for, the general complimented my father on the best cup he’d ever tasted! Turning to the senior officer, he told him to give my father a promotion!
When we were younger, he always had time for us. I enjoyed it when he took us fishing. And, though I could never bring myself to touch those worms (still can’t!), let alone put them on a hook, and never did catch “the big one,” it was the quality time with our Dad that meant the world to us kids. As a tomboy, I especially enjoyed working outside with my Dad whether it was in the barn learning to care for the animals, in the huge vegetable gardens, or traipsing the fields and woods hunting. That love just naturally transferred to enjoying the time spent working alongside my husband out in the barn or in the yard, even growing my own gardens.
As we grew older, I still adored my Dad. In my teens, he listened to us and gave sound advice, but I wasn’t always ready to listen to him. His careers changed from farming, to driving a grain truck delivering feed to dairy farmers, to carpentry with his Dad, a general contractor in northeast New Jersey, to driving a tank truck “locally” and later OTR (over the road/cross country). When we lived in Clifton, he drove chemical tankers locally in northeast Jersey, southern New England, and New York City. What stories he brought home from his experiences! I got to ride with him only twice and wish it could have been more.
I was never so happy as when we moved back to New York in 1969! Though I hated city life, I can now look back with fond memories of Clifton. But, as we settled in to “backyard farming,” he taught me how to raise our mare, War Bugg, a granddaughter of Man O’ War. I helped him build her corral and box stall in the small barn, along with re-roofing and remodeling the old chicken coop for our flock. And then came the heavy-duty barn chores of mucking out the pens, learning to groom War Bugg and how to pick up her feet to clean the undersides. I saw his deep concern when I stepped on a wasp’s nest in the haymow with 11 stings on my leg, and saw his gratefulness for my dousing him with a 5-gallon pail of water when a torch threatened to catch him on fire while trying to burn tent caterpillars. But, I also learned the hard way that running War Bugg flat out up the road and back could have killed her. I was scolded but good, yet taught to walk her slowly, allowing her to have only small sips of warm water until she cooled down.
As we grew older, we teens were often in our own world. Soon enough, I got married and began a new life with my new family, while my siblings and parents scattered themselves around the U.S. Life changes, and we change with it. I well remember teasing my Dad as a child when he turned 30 that he was old, and that when he would turn 50 he’d be “way over the hill.” Well, Dad, guess what? Your oldest daughter reached that milestone a ways back, too! Giving him this writing in 2014 before he passed away in 2015, he knew I felt blessed to have him as my Dad. Sometimes I wish I could go back and recapture the childhood fun of days long ago, but I greatly treasure the memories that linger.
May you each be blessed with very special memories of your Dad! Happy Father’s Day!
I Remember A Dad
Linda A. Roorda
I remember a dad who took me fishin’
And remember a dad who hooked my worms,
Who took those hooks from fishy mouths,
And showed me the country way of life.
A family of six, two girls and four boys
Fun and trouble we shared as we grew.
From farms and fields to paved avenues,
Walking and biking, exploring we went.
I remember a time spent playing games,
A dad who’d not cheat for us to win.
Family and friends and holiday dinners,
Lakes and farms and countryside drives.
Weeds were the bane of childhood fun,
So ‘tween the rows we ran and we played.
But as I grew and matured in age,
Weeding was therapy in gardens of mine.
I remember a dad who thrived on farming
Livestock and gardens, and teaching me how.
I remember a dad who took me huntin’
Scouting the fields, always alert.
I remember a dad who taught us more
For growing up we learn by example.
I remember working alongside my dad
Roofing a barn and building corrals.
I remember a dad whose gifts were given
In fairness to meet each child’s desire.
I remember a dad whose wisdom we honor
In memories of caring and love in small ways.
I remember a dad who brought us laughter
With Cajun and Cosby stories retold.
For blessed with a gift of retelling tales
Family and childhood events he recalled.
I remember a dad whose time was given
To help his children face life’s turmoils.
Time spent together are memories treasured
For things done best put family first.
I remember a dad who taught me more
To treasure my faith in Jesus my friend.
In looking to Him as Savior and Lord,
Salvation by Grace, not earned by my deed.
As I look back to days long ago,
I remember the dad I knew so well.
For I miss the dad who took me fishin’
And remember the dad who taught me more.
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