This is a very LONG post, and is written here for my benefit more than anything else. It is just something I have to do here today. I will be adding pictures later, but today this is on my mind. . .
20 years ago, I had a lovely little family, an amazing husband, three girls, ages 10, 6 and 3, and had an eight month old baby boy. We were having so much fun! We had begun building our present home in the fall of 1992, when our baby was four months old. We looked forward to what fun times were to be had in this new home. Grandparents and cousins were all around and we enjoyed all the wonderful events with them, but we couldn't really have them at our house because it was so small.
Our family was living in a 14 x 70 foot mobile home on the farm. With three small bedrooms and a medium sized kitchen, dining and living room. We did feel lucky enough to have 2 toilets and two bathroom sinks...one of the showers was our pantry. People visiting gave us the funniest looks when I'd ask the girls to "Would you, please, go get me some peas out of the shower...."
Life was good. We had plans for big family events in our new home, Thanksgivings and Christmases, a kitchen we could actually have a large group of people in for extended family gatherings....I have a LARGE family!
In this home we have had Easter Egg hunts, even that first year while we were building, when it was only still a foundation! The next Easter, the kids were roller skating in the basement and putting chocolate eggs in the electrical outlets and switch boxes for the dry wall contractor to enjoy while he finished texture the walls and ceilings. Christmas brought bicycles for our small family, in our living room, which had no carpet or tile in the entryway, no finish work was done. We have enjoyed 40 people at a time here for Easter Dinners, Mother's Day dinners, 4th of July Celebrations, Thanksgivings, and Birthday parties.
20 years of all of those fun occasions...we had anticipated happening in our new home...
Just as we had planned and hoped they would, all those things have happened in our home, but 20 years ago today changed the dynamics of all of those events.
My father had been a construction worker as a young husband and he had wanted to help with the work on our new home. His hips were warn and he had a rough time getting around on flat ground, let alone a construction site, so he couldn't not help but he did say "I really wish I could help you.....I am just so sad that I can't!" Everything was an "Adventure" to him...
But at 74, he was NOT going to stop having fun, even if it hurt! He could no longer snow ski, one leg was shorter than the other and had always been. The length difference was markedly different now, and his hips wouldn't move well enough for that. He couldn't ice skate, and he couldn't water ski. All those things he loved. But every few years a particular spot on the Yakima River, just before it meets the Columbia River, would freeze. And it would freeze HARD. Hard enough for ice skating, and Daddy just could not stand to not be on that ice.
So, he made what he called "Ice Cruisers", out of plastic lawn chairs and old wooden water skis. He bolted them together and sat in them on the ice, propelling himself around with his snow ski poles... it was a sight! He got such a kick out of it, and I would roll my eyes and say, "Dad, you are gonna kill yourself and you don't even care!"
Well, on this day 20 years ago, my father accidentally did just that...he went ice cruising alone, which was the biggest NO~NO in our family, his very own rule he broke....and he hit a thin spot in the ice and fell through. The water was not over his head, it was about 4 feet deep and he swam like a fish, but he could not get out of the ice alone. He died of hypothermia in the cold water. I will not share any more details, except that every time he had gone out on that ice in the months prior, he had had someone else with him, and someone seeing them on the ice had contacted the police. Each time the police would come down and tell him he really shouldn't be on that ice, but what could they say to a 74 year old man...one of the officers was an Eagle Scout of his, and he would say, "I will go talk to him..." and would then go watch Dad on the ice saying, "Dean, I have to tell you this isn't safe....not that it will do me any good....". Interestingly enough, no one saw him on the ice that day and no one called the police...
This man, my father, was a true patriarch in our family. His faith and strong attitude about living a good happy, helpful, productive life was a huge influence on his children, his grandchildren and his great-grand children. His love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ dominated everything he did each day of his life. Scriptures, family prayers, honesty, keeping the commandments, and serving his fellowman was a part of every day life for him.
He loved music and taught us to sing, which we have always done at family gatherings. In harmony and love we sang for as long as I can remember.
He played musical instruments and taught me how to play the guitar. He encouraged me to play for others at every chance he could get me to do it. I knew he was proud of my guitar playing and enjoyed it.
He played board games, but only the grandchildren would still play with him at that point, the rest of us just refused...he HAD to win the game....too competitive for the rest of us.
He was warm hearted and would give someone the shirt off his back if they needed it. He had such a generous heart. He had had a heart valve replaced six years prior to his death and we always kidded him that he wore his heart out loving so much.
He helped people and took us with him to help people. We learned the joy of service as children and sang through a LOT of service over the years, and we just had fun. You gotta get the work done, you may as well just have some fun... He worked hard and played hard.
We did not have much money, but I never knew it until I was an adult. There was enough money for us to be healthy and enough love for us to not notice the lack of money. Of course I was at youngest of the family where there was more money to go around, but I have no memories of older siblings complaining about not enough money. We were frugal and learned to appreciate the things we did have, and that was because of our parents and what they taught us.
This man, my father, was a Scout Master or Assistant Scout Master for as long as I can remember also. He influenced literally thousands of lives for the better through his scouting leadership. Of course with one son and nine daughters, we ALL were qualified to be Eagle Scouts....**shaking my head, rolling my eyes**...Just let me say that it was a good thing I knew how to swim or some of those boys who actually received their life saving merit badge would have been charged for the accidental drowning of the Scout Master's daughter! He was given the Silver Beaver Award, the highest award that can be given to a Leader in the Boy Scouts of America. He taught those boys who would be men about becoming an honorable father, about honoring God and living clean lives of honesty and taking responsibility and choosing to do good and BE good to others.
I know the constellations in the night sky, I love outdoors in the summer nights. I love yellow roses, I know how to tie knots that hold, I can sharpen an axe and a knife, I can change a tire on a car, I love music and harmonizing, I love mountain hikes, I love lightening and thunder storms, I love snow skiing and water skiing, and bowling, I can stand fishing, I love bonfires, I CAN start a bonfire, I love camping (Before I started having anxiety issues, anyway), I love American, I love Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ...because of the influence of my parents and specifically my father...
He got after us for getting after him about the ice cruisers. When my sister told him, "Dad, if you go through that ice and die, we will never find your body!" You know what he said to her?
"You girls just need to recognize that if I go through that ice, which I won't, and you can't find my body, it won't matter, I'll be dead. If you are going to heaven, you have to die, that's all there is to it!"
He had lived a full, wonderful life and loved and worked and challenged himself and others to be good hearted, loving and strong people. He was happy with his life and if it was his time to go, so be it. His body was worn out anyway and if the Lord saw fit to take him, then who was he to argue...THAT attitude of his DID make me very mad at him after the fact.....
Because of that faith and love for the Lord, we were able to get through the front page news of his death, not with just pain and sorrow, but also with the peace and support that comes through that kind of familial confidence in the love of God and the love from family and friends. I had friends who knew him call the news stations in our area and the newspaper and complain about how they handled his death. They knew him and loved the man he was and said "...HOW could you put this family through this, that picture on the front page was so horrible, you have NO idea how many people in our area this man has influenced for good whom you have greatly offended!!!" Some even cancelled their subscriptions to the newspaper! Dad would have thought that was unnecessary and a bit humorous.
Four years ago, next month, will be the anniversary of our sweet mother's death. She happily died taking a nap in her own home, and in the Obituaries, like most other people. But that wasn't my father's way, I am sure he was happy to have taken up a huge chunk of the front page of the newspaper as he began his "Next Great Adventure". . .
I miss him, my children miss him, I miss that my grandchildren will not know him in this life, I felt that losing my father at 33 years old was rip off...but what a legacy of love and care he gave to me. He wasn't perfect and sometimes he was just a downright pill....and bossy....he could be sooooo bossy....and he had to be right....silly man, and he had a hard time admitting when he was wrong....but his love buffered the worst of his behavior...and it was a privilege to be his youngest daughter.
Daddy, I love you...Mama, I love you....I miss you both, so very much. But, you are tied so tight to my heart, I can never, ever, ever let you go completely....and because of the Savior, I do not have to let you go, we will be together again...
Love you forever, like you for always, as long as forever, my parents, you'll be,
Hugs to my dear blogging friends, You warm my heart as well!