By Ken De Laat
Had he been alive my Dad would have hit the century mark today.
He’s been gone 25 years now.
He was born in a post WWI, post pandemic world to a pair of Dutch immigrants and was the youngest of 9 children they brought into the world.
He married young, served in the second world war, raised 4 children and touched the lives of many on his all too short journey on this planet.
My earliest memories of him are filled with fondness for his gentle manner and loving ways.
As we both grew older our relationship evolved. We had our share of arguments, something I think both of us enjoyed, but he also provided guidance and comfort when asked.
And that last phrase, ‘when asked’ is what stands out for me because he was respectful enough to not to offer unsolicited viewpoints or advice about my life's decisions and yet always willing to offer counsel when it was requested.
My Dad could be curmudgeonly opinionated and rarely hesitated in offering his take on anything from politics to the relative merits of hospital food. He had his share of feuds with others, could be significantly stubborn when he found it necessary, and was unafraid to tell those who deserved it what he thought of them. He didn’t talk much about himself and never ever spoke about his time as a soldier, something we all knew not to ask about.
He preferred his food cold, including corn on the cob and mashed potatoes, enjoyed a good joke, liked Old Milwaukee when it came to beer and loved having his family around him.
And his grandchildren adored him.
I’ve listened to people who say they think of their late loved ones every day.
Well, truth be told, I don’t think of my Dad every day.
Not even close.
I go lengthy periods of time these days not thinking about him. He comes to mind on occasion when something or someone reminds me of him and I can admittedly still be a bit surprised by his image staring out at me from the mirror some mornings but he’s not in my daily thoughts by any means.
When memories of him arrive however, they seldom take shape as fleeting moments. They tend to be lengthy as are my contemplations of them. They linger in my private thoughts for much of the day as I sift through conversations we had, activities we shared or conflicts we eventually resolved. Sometimes the recollections are just snippets of time spent one on one with him that range from my childhood to adult years but each is visited at length and mindfully mulled over.
And each time I am struck by the deep abiding kindness this man was capable of.
I am certain my siblings (all of them way, way older than me I might add) are equally familiar with that endearing asset he possessed and value it as well.
Personally he continues to inspire me to do better in that area.
So on the day he would have begun his second century I just want to say thanks, Dad.
And as for not keeping you in my daily thoughts?
When you were on this earth you once said we didn’t talk often but when we did we talked pretty well.
Seems like some things never change.
“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”-Umberto Eco
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