I know that some of you will disagree out of a sense of loyalty to your own...but I am absolutely certain that I have the best father on earth. Sure, he isn't perfect...but I've grown to find most of his quirky habits endearing and amusing. Two examples pop into my mind...
Dad is easily frustrated by refrigerators. He is convinced that the contents of the refrigerator have rearranged themselves (surely he doesn't blame us!) in order to hide things. The pickles hide the jelly, the mustard hides the relish and the good Lord only knows where the mayo is hiding! I'll admit that he has a point sometimes - if I were to count the contents of the fridge we would have at least 5 different mustards, 7 different pickles and an even dozen or more jars of jelly. You know...yellow mustard isn't enough, got to have dijon and stone ground and honey mustard and spicy brown and something called dijonaise which is a blend of mustard and mayo... And certainly Dad would be perfectly happy with cherry preserves and grape jelly - but sometimes when wandering through the market we are tempted to add things like fuzzy navel, raspberry cognac, apricot/kiwi and blackberry preserves...till we have quite the collection of little pint jars.
As much as Dad hates refrigerator mysteries...that is how much he LOVES rope. Anytime you need to tie something down or keep a float from escaping - you can always count on my Dad to have a rope, string, shoelace, bungee cord or strap to fit the bill. You will almost certainly need to untangle it from its brothers - but that is part of the charm. (much like finding the correct washer in his collection of jars and loaf pans of random hardware) And he can never turn down a free piece of rope. I think one of my bonding experiences with Dad was one afternoon when we were driving out into the country to mow a yard for someone. We were on a back road and as we passed around a bend I saw a short length of rope lying in the road. I knew that he had also seen it - but I guess since I was driving, he figured it was not meant to be his. Without even asking, at the next cross road, I turned around and drove back. It was about 15 or 20 feet long but (I can't believe I'm saying this) it was a nice piece of rope. And it made him happy.
There is also a very long story that my sister Denise wrote about another rope adventure. I think it is called The dock, The Tree and the Rope - I'll find it and post it another time. That was one of the few times that Dad put his life in danger in order to claim a piece of rope - but it was about 200 feet long!
Speaking of putting lives in danger...one of our favorite "Dad stories" is the time we went tubing on the Little Piney when it was at flood stage. That is one of those stories that CAN take half an hour to tell...if you include all the details. I'll abbreviate. My sister Susan's birthday is in August and for this particular birthday she wanted to go tubing. Our family packed up the big blue van with inner tubes and a picnic lunch and headed for Goshen Pass in the Shenandoah Valley. The only problem with our planning was that we neglected to check the river's status. Apparently there had been a lot of rain that week, because when we arrived we discovered that the Maury River was flooded. Like trees rolling down the river kind of flooded. Like people searching for lost kayaker kind of flooded. It was clear that we weren't going to be tubing for Susan's birthday and we were all very disappointed.
As we headed back home, Dad decided to take the scenic route and we happened to end up at the Little Piney River - which is normally about 2 feet deep and more like a creek than a river. And despite the protests of my very wise mother...he decided that we could tube down about a mile stretch. We kids were ecstatic! So Dad, Susan, my brother Gordon, our neighbor Billy and I headed off on our great adventure. Several flaws with this plan. First, we started just above a small bridge...I should have known we were in trouble when I had to lay flat on the tube and the bridge still passed inches above my face. The second obstacle was a tree that had fallen across the river. Dad chose to roll over it...I went under, flipping upside down in the current...the details are a bit fuzzy. I remember the next challenge was when we found ourselves sailing rapidly through a construction site...dodging rebar sticking up from the riverbed. But the biggest feat was as we approached our planned takeout point...the bridge at Lowesville where Mom (and my wiser older sisters) and the van were waiting. Dad managed to get he and the tube out on one side, Gordon was agile enough to get stopped and out across from him. I was stuck in the middle of the rapids hanging on to a clump of river grass with rushing water on either side. Susan and Billy were nowhere to be seen. After Dad and Gordon formed a human chain to drag me out - we found Susan and Billy walking up the road toward us. They had been swept along about another mile. Both of their tubes (and mine) were gone...along with Billy's shoes.
Now I know that it is all a matter of perspective...Mom probably doesn't remember that afternoon with the same emotion that I do. But I will always remember it as a great day. We were all so sad at the smashed plans for our day...and Dad found a way to salvage the outing! Sure...it had a few sketchy moments...but I thought he was awesome.
And he still is awesome. Some of my mental images include hiking with him along the Blue Ridge Parkway - if it had rained he would hurry a little ahead of us, hide behind a tree and shake it just as we went under...yelling "hey, it's raining!!" Or when we would go swimming and he would get everyone to start "rocking the pool" - everyone cannonballing as fast as we could until there were 2 foot waves on the surface! (I was always kind of proud of the fact that he was the only adult that the lifeguards made sit out)
And there are quiet memories too...like watching him wrap his arm around my Mom's shoulder at a funeral, or teaching Bible study to a dozen youth sprawled around on a basement floor, or especially when I was feeling so desperately low last fall...how he shared how he felt when the company he had worked at for over 25 years closed its doors.
I've often said that I can completely understand the concept of a loving Heavenly Father - because I have experienced the most incredible earthly one. Happy Father's Day Hairball - I'm so incredibly lucky to be your daughter. I love you.