Monday, September 21, 2015

Keys: A tribute to my Dad

Prologue:  As my Dad asked me what I wanted of his, I really didn’t have much that I could think of that I would want.  Out of nowhere, I remembered a box of keys.  The next day, I thought of how they relate to what he has done for me, my brother and others.

A Tribute to my Dad.

My Dad loves to collect things, and keep them.  Part of his collection is contained in dozens of old Dutch Masters cigar boxes.  You may remember these boxes, they have an image of six men that look like pilgrims, otherwise known as Rembrandt’s painting, The Syndics of the Drapers' Guild.  Who knew Dad would have something so sophisticated!?  Each of these boxes has a piece of tape at the bottom that was fashioned into a pull-tab and each box is meticulously labeled.

I pulled out one of those boxes once and asked Dad why he needed all of the keys in it.  He said to me, “You never know, one of them may open up that door.”  Indeed, my Dad opened many doors.

Dad took my brother and I skiing at an early age and we quickly learned to love skiing.  My brother replaced skiing with snowboarding and now he’s teaching his own sons how to snowboard.  Dad’s skiing trips took us many places including our first trip to Colorado.  I fell in love in Colorado and I am now happy to call it home. 

My brother and I spent quite a bit of time with Dad in the basement working on random woodworking projects.  I made a crib for my Little Ponies.  My brother and sister-in-law made a crib that Conner, Reece, Zachary and Wyatt have all slept in. 

I think I somehow absorbed knowledge about building houses, since he and my Mom built two before I turned ten.  That’s probably what gave me the confidence to do a little electrical work on one of my own homes.  I ran into a small problem when trying to replace one outlet that also needed to be tied into a light switch.  So, I called Dad up.  He’s walking through all the steps with me and just before I needed to connect it all up he asked if I turned the power off.  I promptly said yes, just as I got zapped with a bit of electricity.  Apparently I didn’t absorb enough about electric work.

Dad loves to tinker, with just about everything, and my brother was often next to him helping.  They fixed up one of the tractors and painted it with flames on either side.  I swear that tractor is older than I am and it still manages to run.  For some reason, we also liked to stand underneath the snow blower on the tractor to get bombarded with rocks.  Did I mention we had a gravel driveway?  Not sure what doors that opened up for us.

As early as I can remember, we were on bikes riding without much fear.  One of my earliest memories is from a bike ride we took from the Hootie Hoot Retreat, my Uncle’s Cabin near Winter, WI.  I got pretty worn out from the hills.  Dad fashioned a rope between his bike and mine and he helped pull me up the hills.  I thought we biked all the way to Winter, which was 22 miles, I think my 40-year old memory is starting to fail me!  Regardless, all of his grandsons are learning or have learned to ride bikes.  I can’t imagine not getting them out on their bikes as early as possible!  It gave us such freedom to go anywhere.  We even managed to bike to our good friend’s home, The Stipeks, from Highway K to SH 178 south of Cornell, WI.  Really, we biked along 178?  Crazy.

We had an awesome fort at our home on the Chippewa River.  Dad built a platform and hung it by chains to four different pine trees.  He put an A-frame roof on it, just like our home, and a trap door that had a rope ladder to get into the fort.  To bad the door was closed on that fort.  Maybe I wouldn’t have been a speckled mess of mosquito bites from my overnight stay.

Dad definitely made sure I was prepared for traveling.  He made sure I knew not only how to change a tire, but how to rotate tires by the time I was 15.  I had barely had my license for five months and he made me drive in downtown Denver and over the snowy Monarch Pass.  Nothing like being afraid of heights and driving over a mountain pass that is snowy and icy.  (I think he just didn’t like to drive in those areas himself)  To top it off, I am all about reading maps.  He taught me so well, that when my flight from the southern beaches of Thailand to Bangkok was canceled, I hitched a ride with two Canadians that would have been seriously lost if it weren’t for my map skills.  And I have never been stuck at the side of the road because of a flat tire and that drive in Denver opened the door to some of my racecar driving (Have to keep up with big city traffic!). 

My stepbrother and stepsister were treated to many snowshoeing, hiking, kayak and canoe trips and got to see how natural it was to him.  He marked up maps with each trail length and shared so much knowledge of the paths and loops on hiking trails in Eau Claire.  Today, they still enjoy the outdoors and all it has to offer.

For others he has shown them his patience, teaching, encouragement and attention through years of leading church youth groups, pie rides, building and renovating trails, and so much more.

I always told my boyfriends that Dad is going to ask lots of questions.  He’s not doing an interrogation, he just naturally asks lots of questions.  When I was in college I asked him why he did this.  He told me that people like to talk about themselves and I like to hear about them.  That’s probably why those that meet him feel like they matter. 

Whether Dad was teaching, woodworking, hiking, tinkering with tractors, avoiding driving in annoying conditions or listening to friends, strangers and family, he has given so many others and me the key to open the doors to so many experiences, lifetime of memories, and qualities that can only be attributed to him.