Monday, March 31, 2014

Dad's Favorite Places

Yesterday I read a good friend's blog post about a trip to the Railroad Museum in Sacramento.

Image courtesy of dan /

That brought back the memories.

I've been there many times.

Too many times.

You see, when I was growing up, everywhere we lived (and that is several places) my Dad had a favorite spot to bring people who visited us or just the family if he could hoodwink us into it.

In Sacramento that place was the Railroad Museum.

I have nothing against the Railroad Museum.  It is a fine museum.  I probably even enjoyed it the first time.  But as a teenager I was not thrilled with numerous repeat visits.  Dad would drone on and on about the various locomotives.  He was endlessly fascinated with machinery and engineering and how things worked.

The good thing about the Railroad Museum was that it had a gift shop.

This was important because the only way to get Dad out of a place like the Railroad Museum was to tell him that Mom was in the gift shop.

That usually got him moving in a hurry.

In Louisville, Kentucky his place was the the locks on the river.  This was much worse than the Railroad Museum because there was no gift shop.  Dad had the car keys and the only way to leave was to wait for him to be ready to leave.  This always took forever.

When we heard a visit to the locks was in the planning stages, those of us old enough to be left home alone would scatter and hide or suddenly remember vast amounts of homework due very, very soon. Younger siblings would beg to be left in our charge.

None of this seemed to dampen Dad's enthusiasm or his belief that if he just explained it all clearly enough we would all find the locks fascinating and enjoy it as much as him.

Not long after his death I took a ferry boat ride on the river in Tokyo.  As we enjoyed the scenery, I found myself taking lots of photos of locks and river gates.  Until I realized I was taking those photos so I could share them with my dad.

I wish I could go now to the Louisville locks or the Sacramento Railroad Museum with my Dad and listen to him talk.  I'd let him talk as long as he liked.  And I'd even listen this time.

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Punny Kind of Guy

My Dad loved puns.  The more groan inducing the better.

Image courtesy of smarnad /

His favorites involved Jonah.

It's a whale of a tale.

Can be a bit hard to stomach.

The whole thing seems a bit fishy to me.

Some theologians have a tough time swallowing it.

What, you don't like these?  It made the whale so sick he barfed on the beach.

Have any more?  Add them in the comments.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Latest Creation

Maybe I can't show my dad, but I can show you.

This is my latest creation.

We call it the antique corner.

Lots of challenges faced us when we moved into this house, the fact that it rained in the basement if we used the upstairs showers, chipped and broken asbestos tile in the family room, windows only the Professor could open, just to name a few.*  But even greater than those challenges was the challenge of what to do with all the stuff.

Because home repairs can be accomplished with enough money and/or blood, sweat, and tears. Dealing with stuff can threaten to end 25 year marriages.

A decade ago when we first prepared to move overseas the option of putting stuff into storage until our return saved our marriage.  I wanted to toss everything.  The professor wanted to keep everything.  As time ticked down and the arrival of the packers loomed large, storage was an attractive option.  We stopped debating and just shifted items into the destined for storage pile.

Unfortunately, what goes into storage must come out.  So in the midst of dealing with showers that rained into the basement and crumbling asbestos tile, we also had to deal with boxes and boxes of stuff we hadn't seen for years, much of which I would have been happy to never see again.

The Professor and I are clearly opposites when it comes to what stuff should and should not be kept. They say opposites attract but I've never heard anyone say that opposites make for a strong, stable, conflict free marriage.

Let's just skip ahead in the story and say that the large crawl space in our house has become the new storage and with God's grace and constant help our marriage is good for another 25 years or more.

But some items don't belong in the crawl space.  What to do with the antique typewriter, adding machine, and old rotary telephone?

And thus the antiques corner shelf was born.

The first plan was to buy a couple of shelves at Home Depot and put them up in this convenient corner space.  The only problem was that the exact sizes we needed weren't available.

No problem I thought, this is the land of things delivered right to my door.  I'll order something.  But I couldn't find anything that was both the right size and not expensive.

So I decided to do it myself.

I checked out what random scraps of wood were present in the shed and found two beat up shelves that the Professor had gleaned from the neighbors trash back in the early days when he was gathering any wood he could find to put on the floor of the crawl space to protect stuff from potential water damage.

I very scientifically made my quarter circle shapes with the marker tied to a piece of twine method then cut them out using a jigsaw.  I filled in the old screw holes with spackle and sanded everything down.

I found more wood scraps to serve as brackets and screwed them into the wall.  I primed, attached everything and painted.

I'm pretty pleased with the result.

After looking at the final product, the Professor added the antique I-Pod.  I'm trying to decide if I like it or not.  Should I add a small shelf above the phone to hold the I-Pod, leave the I-Pod on the shelf with the phone or get rid of the I-Pod altogether (and by get rid of I mean put in the crawl space of course). What do you think?

* I could get the windows open if I used a hammer but for some reason that made the Professor nervous.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Thank you Dad

Thank you Dad

For loving me.

For loving mom.

For loving life.

For loving God.

For loving the church.

For loving creativity.

For loving the little ones.

For loving the overlooked.

For loving tools and junk and science fiction.

For love.

Two Dads

Last night I pointed out to the Professor that the anniversary of my Dad's death was coming up.

Image courtesy of mikumistock /

"I'm sorry" he said.  "I hadn't thought about the exact date."

Before I even had a chance to feel upset about that he added, "It was 20 years ago this year that my dad died."

There's a dose of perspective for you.

My dad didn't live to see me move back to the states.  He didn't live to see me learn how to use power tools.

The Professor's dad didn't live to see him get his doctorate. He didn't live to see him established in his career. He didn't live to see his son become a father. He didn't live to see him follow in his footsteps in so many ways both big and small.

Maybe the wound isn't as fresh but do you ever get over losing a parent?

I had 18 more years with my father than the Professor did.  My Dad saw my graduation with a Masters degree.  He baptized my three children.  He visited me in England. He discussed my job with me in the final days of his life.

I know it isn't a contest.

We both had wonderful fathers.  Imperfect, flawed, colorful characters the two of them.  And both of us lost them way too soon.  Because it is always too soon to lose a parent.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Lent and Loss

Two years ago tomorrow my father died.

He died in the middle of lent.  On Easter Sunday I said goodbye to my mother and the house he died in and headed back towards home on the other side of the globe.

Image courtesy of bela_kiefer /

Three years and a couple weeks ago was the great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in northern Japan.  My world had already been rocked a couple months earlier by dad's cancer diagnosis but now the frequent yet unpredictable aftershocks caused my physical environment to match my emotional environment.

One year ago I was preparing to move back to the country of my birth after almost a decade overseas.

This year I often feel like a stranger in a strange land as we all seek to adjust to life back in the states.

Sometimes it feels like the world hasn't stopped rocking.

I miss my dad.  I remember how proud he was of me when I went to seminary and got a masters in youth ministry.  I don't think he ever said those words to me but I knew it.  He was pleased as could be that I was following in his footsteps even though he wished I would have gone all the way and gotten ordained ("When are you going to start preaching?" he would ask).

And now I'm living in a old house and renovating it using as little money and as many reclaimed materials and creative solutions as possible.  I'm doing things I never imagined myself doing like climbing into crawl spaces to identify plumbing problems, snaking out drains, hanging drywall, demolishing and rebuilding, laying flooring, and using power tools.

And I want to call my dad and ask him questions.  I want him to visit and see my handiwork.  I want to discuss options and ideas.  But most of all I want to see how proud he is of me for following in his footsteps.  He wouldn't say it, but I would know.  I would hear it in the tone of his voice and the questions he asked and the way he smiled.

I believe in heaven.  I believe my father is there. But I suspect heaven is nothing like popular conceptions of it. I don't believe my father is sitting up there looking down at his loved ones and smiling as he follows our daily lives.  And frankly even if he was it wouldn't make me feel better.

I miss him here and now.

Maybe that is what lent is about at least for me, for now, for this season.  Lent is about loss and the instability of this world, about sacrifice and denial.  Lent leads to the cross and the cross leads to resurrection: Jesus resurrection, Dad's resurrection, my resurrection.

But before we get to Easter there is a whole lot of lent and the whole betrayal and anguish in the garden and crown of thrones and "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me."