When commenting on my dad people say one of two things; either that he is a great guy with so many interesting things to talk about or that he is rather intimidating. Tony favored the latter for the better part of our courtship, as most people do (but come on, he looks like Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven for Pete's sake). He is the kind of guy who commands authority without saying much, unless of course he is trying to stop the tee-heeing at the dinner table, you know what I am talking about. Today as I think about my dad I am flooded by memories that shaped my perception of the world. In that world you value forthcoming-ness, care for those who can not care for themselves (no matter if they are two-legged or four-legged), work hard and think harder.
I remember a time when I decided at the ripe age of 16 that I should study abroad...in Russia...by myself. Why Russia? Easy, a letter came for me that planted the idea. I left my parents an itemized list of what I thought it would cost, including what I estimated for meals and spending money. He told me he appreciated my frankness about the additional costs and said that yes, I could go. Come to think of it, his appreciation of straight-forwardness is probably one of the reasons he and my mom have been married for 42 years. My mom said I couldn't go unless I found someone who could go with me, preferably someone who spoke the language. The only person we knew was my not-yet-beloved Tony and his mom said absolutely not. But knowing that my dad believed in me, and told me why he thought I should get to go, meant more to me than I think the trip would have.
It was clear growing up that you take care of those around you. At 6 he taught me how to team up with my sister against the bully at the bus stop to end her brief tirade against the kids of block 102. There was no question as to whether or not I would spend my savings to take care of my one-eyed-brain-damaged kitten when he needed emergency eye surgery for stabbing the blind eye through with a shish kabob skewer or whether my parents would pay the way for surgery when he mistakenly ate the bristles on the broom, because that is what you do. There were countless lambs who he attended in the middle of the night, no matter how tired. There was more than once that we would wake up to the clickity-clack of a freshly warmed and sometimes bathed lamb catching its second chance after my dad filled its belly with colostrum. Every single Christmas bonus ham or turkey went to a family in need. The kid who was selling ad space in the FFA calendar got his sale from my dad, but more importantly he got a lesson in business etiquette first. Lane, Kaid, Aidan, Nadia, MacKenzie and Cooper know that if they need something, even a lesson in riding a four wheeler, they can ask Papa, he will think of a way to make it happen.
One on my favorite sayings of my dad's, of which I have many, starts with "A guy otta..." like he keeps solutions handy in his back pocket just waiting for someone to need it. I don't know whether my dad is a plotter or a planner, a designer or an inventor, a thinker or a dreamer or whether he always just finds a way to solve problems but he will find a way. I took an experimental methods class in college where we observed a psychological experiment related to functional fixedness. Most people fail, they can't think beyond the current function an object is given, but I know my dad would rock that test. He is ahead of his time, he is the ultimate repurposer! He is no stranger to hard work, but he is the first to out-think a situation that requires extra work to make the best use of what is in front of him.
Today, on his birthday, I think about how lucky I am to have a dad like him!