My Dad will be 81 on June 4th, and I’m pondering my favorite memories of him…here are a few:
Let’s start with some food memories (since Dad and I both love our food!) We had a huge hickory tree next to our driveway, and each fall it would drop thousands of nuts—at first they we insulated in 1/2inch thick covering, that would fall off in quarters as they dried, then leaving the small (about the size of a blackberry) nut that also had 1/8-inch of shell. My dad made me a “Hickory nut cracker” –a strong contraption that would break through that heavy shell. Once when I was around 10, I took the time to crack a lot of hickory nuts and then I baked them into cookies. They had a strong, pecan-like flavor. I took some out to Dad working in his shop, and he liked them.
When I was a teenager, Dad decided to try making maple syrup from the dozens of sugar maple trees we had in our 80 acres of woods! The first year we used metal taps with cut out milk jugs, the second and third year Dad set up complex plastic pipelines to bring the sap into the two sap camps. He made these big wood-burning cookers to cook down the syrup, and we enjoyed the syrup all year. The end of the season sap would turn into this molasses type- stuff, and Dad dutifully ate that stuff too on his oatmeal each morning.
Speaking of oatmeal…we ate oatmeal many mornings…once Dad tried to save even more money on oatmeal, so he bought a bag of horse rolled oats from the feed store! We had to pick dozens of hulls out of our oats for a few mornings, before we went back to regular rolled oats.
Dad would buy peanuts in the shell and sit on our couch reading and cracking peanuts…we would join him.
Dad and I were the only two in the family with glasses, so that bonded us—he would take me to get my eyes checked and get new glasses. He recommended I get titanium frames (since they would last!), and I wore those for years…because they lasted so well.
We got to work on the farm with Dad. The work during winter was throwing wood into the basement –working together to stay warm. He would bring a big load of wood from the woods, cut it up and split it using the big log splitter he ran with his John Deere tractor. Then everyone was out there throwing the wood down into the storm cellar.
Dad just would throw me into things—like driving a car, a stick-shift VOLVO, the first day I got my permit, without practicing or knowing how to use my mirrors, in the rain –all the way into Naperville. We didn’t die! I learned a lot, fast.
Dad was glad I went to college and then graduate school. Once he even said, “You could be Dr. Campbell…” I don’t know if I’ll get a Ph.D., but I’m glad he believed I could. He made it to all my graduations, and he gave me this beautiful card for my graduation from graduate school.
Speaking of cards, for several years he would send me St. Patrick’s Day cards—saying, “I love you!”
I’m glad Dad gave Stephen permission to marry me—after asking Stephen, “You like kids, right?” Stephen responded, “Yes, I like kids.”
Dad was the first person who “knew” I was pregnant! On February 28th, 2017 when I was in Rockford for a teacher’s in-service, I went and visited Dad at the nursing home. He was sitting at lunch, and when I was telling him that Ruth’s baby—Meave– had been born on the 23rd, because Dad said, “Your baby!” and I corrected him—“No, it was Ruth who had the baby.” He just looked at me with this twinkle in his eye. Dad was right—a week later we found out we were pregnant! J He had a prophetic side to him.
His happy smile – was gentle, warm.
I’m thankful I got his blue eyes, and that my son did too!
In January, Dad got to meet Joel, and they both smiled at each other in such a kind way. Joel got excited to see him, which made my heart happy.
Recently when I’ve been reading in the Old Testament, I’ve been hearing Dad’s voice in my head reading a certain passage because he faithfully read the Bible to us every morning after breakfast—an old testament chapter, a Psalm, the Proverb of the day, and a chapter from the new testament. I’m thankful he did that with us.
So, I’m thankful for my Dad’s spontaneity, creativity, hard work, willingness to just throw me into something new, how he believed in me, his love, and his faith in God. I love you, Dad! Happy Birthday.
Here are some photos from our January visit:
P. S. If thinking of your Dad brings pain, I understand that too. A book that has helped me come to more peace with my Dad is this one: Making Peace With Your Father
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