Category Archives: Fathers

The story of the traveling hutch

 

 

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I love this hutch. Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s sort of a family heirloom. Let me tell you the story.

This hutch was housed in the one bedroom “shotgun” cabin my parents purchased on a lake 20 minutes from their house about 25 years ago. The seller of the cabin had no use for this hutch, as he was an elderly gentleman with no family around. He simply left it there, where it sat in a corner in the kitchen/dining space.

My mom has never been a fan of antiques. She much preferred to decorate her home and that little cabin in a more modern fashion, which at the time was a lot of country blues and pink hues on the furniture as well as the walls. She has always been stellar at organizing small spaces (the home 5 of us and a dog lived in for eons was 3 small bedrooms and one bathroom with no shower, just a tub. Yes, I didn’t get regular showers until I moved into my dorm in college). So this hutch served a purpose for her as it was a place to store dishes. She and I, along with all other female family members, also relied on this hutch when visiting the cabin, as a make up and hair styling station. There was an outhouse in the back.

My dad and I, however, had an appreciation for this old hutch. We saw it as a pretty well preserved piece of history, and a beautiful one at that. I remember telling my parents as a young mom and wife that this was likely the only piece of furniture that I would like to be bequeathed to me someday.

Someday happened about 15 years later. My dad, then about 76, asked me during a phone call (back when he could still hear well enough to have at least a short conversation on the phone), if I’d still like to have the hutch. I told him emphatically yes and he said he’d like to deliver it to me the next time they came to Wisconsin for a visit.

So my dear old dad drove himself and my mom over 5 hours one way and delivered the hutch. Hubs and I picked out just the right spot for it between our dining and living area. Hubs served as Dad’s apprentice to move the hutch from the back of dad’s pickup truck, and together they carefully lugged it up the stairs to put it in its’ designated spot. I was in awe that my dad was still the strong man he always was at 76 and appreciated the teamwork it took he and Hubs to get it into the house.

Miraculously, the hutch survived two more moves, one from our family’s home in a more rural area, to our new “empty nester” home in the city of La Crosse, Wisconsin, and the other from La Crosse all the way here to Colorado. I fully expected that the hutch would suffer some type of damage during both of these moves. Perhaps the mirror would crack, or the old glass pane would shatter into a million pieces. But alas, it survived.  I like to think it survived because of the appreciation we had for it. More than likely though it was just dumb luck.

I’m really pleased with where we chose to place it in our townhome. Especially because it was pure happenstance that when you walk towards it, in the mirror you can see the peace sign that we hung on the opposite wall next to our front door. What sweet serendipity.

There are few tangible “things” I treasure in this life. And this old hutch, with the memories that go along with it, is right at the very top of the list.

 

Hindsight: Memories from a Grateful Daughter

I’m struggling here. If you’ve been following my blog, you may have noticed that since the beginning of this year, the frequency of my posts has decreased. There’s valid reasons for that. Life. And death.

You see, my Dad passed away on 2/18/18. It actually happened. There’s no ‘how to’ book on how to prepare for this inevitability-that your parents will one day die. But there’s also no way around it. As “they” say, no one gets out of here alive.

My Dad was the best. I paid tribute to him on my my Father’s Day post last year, knowing that it very well may be his last Father’s Day here on this earth. Now that it’s been a few days since the funeral, and Hubs and I are safe and sound back home in Colorado, I see that there are things that went unsaid, on my part, during the chaos that was this past week and a couple of days. Chaos including traveling by car for several days in inclement winter weather to reach my hometown. Chaos including making travel arrangements for our youngest spawn to be there. Chaos including helping our oldest spawn keep her 4 year old entertained. Chaos including helping my sister with picking the “right” pictures to display on the boards she bought at the hardware store.

But we got through it. As my sister whispered in my Dad’s ear during his final hours and I tearfully conveyed to him on the phone the day before he passed, “We will all be okay. Mom will be okay too”. I hope that he took that in, internalized it. I hope it gave him the piece of mind he needed to allow himself to peacefully surrender to the next dimension.

The beautiful thing is that the memories of my Dad will remain. And there are so many precious ones. We will hang on to those memories for the rest of our lifetimes. These memories are blessings.

So while driving through boring old Nebraska, on our way home this weekend, I gave some thought to the things that, to me, made my Dad the special man and father he was. The things that went unsaid, by me, while among my family during this sad and chaotic time.

Let me share just a few….

Dad loved to “bullshit”. As in, telling jokes and stories in his booming voice to elicit wonder and laughter to those fortunate enough to be there. Anyone who ever knew him would certainly agree he was an excellent person to “shoot the shit” with.

Dad had a great talent for sleeping. I am grateful that I inherited this trait. He could literally fall asleep anywhere. No matter how much noise was going on around him. And he was such a deep sleeper that it would take at least 6 separate tries for me to wake him up in the afternoons to go to work (his second full time job).

Dad was a great American citizen. He served proudly in the Korean war. When I was a kid, my teacher gave us a lesson on nationalities. I went home and asked Dad what my nationality and and his reply was “You’re 100% American, Rhoda Joda”. Of course, Mom gave me the real answer, which was French/German. It was just that important to my Dad that I took pride in and appreciated being an American.

Dad had great affection for small creatures. He routinely referred to our Lhasa Apso, Max, as “your brother”. After Max become older and his health failed, Dad had him put down. It broke his heart in a million pieces. He kept a framed photo of Max on his bedside table from that point on.

Dad was the best dining partner. He appreciated his food. Except when he didn’t. Then he would remark that it was “horseshit”, and we would all snicker.  He wasn’t a man to mince words, that’s for sure. He certainly was not a cook; but sometimes in the evenings, I would find him in our little kitchen, mixing a package of dried onion soup mix in with a carton of sour cream, which we would dip our “Old Dutch” potato chips in while watching t.v. He would be the keeper of the chip dip, and sometimes when I’d reach over for more, he’d tease me by covering it over with his hands and giving me this look, conveying “It’s all mine!”

Dad had great posture. He wasn’t a big guy by any means; he was more in the category of “stout”. But he had broad, strong shoulders. And he always had a confident stride, with his shoulders up and back, looking straight ahead. He often reminded me to “stand up straight”.

At my elementary school, which was almost literally a hop, skip, and jump from our house, every spring, dandelions would dot the lawn outside. Most people consider these weeds (which I realize they technically are) and would mow them down. Dad would always comment how pretty they were, and how he didn’t understand why anyone would want to get rid of them (of course he mowed them down when they appeared in our yard as I recall, to appease my mother).

I am looking forward to visiting my family in Minnesota with Hubs this summer, when I can go through his belongings and reminisce. When we can gather with extended family and share our stories about my very special Dad and truly celebrate his great life and the positive impact he left on ours.

 

Dads I love with my whole heart

Where do I even begin? Saying my dad is the best is an understatement. This is the man who worked up to 3 jobs at a time to provide for myself, my mom, my 2 siblings and our dog.  This is the man who expresses his affection for those he loves freely and openly. This is the man who has a knack for coming up with nicknames for his loving family members to express his unabashed love for us all. I loved when he would refer to me as being “Yoon-a-que” (a clever play on the word “unique”). He is more likely though to call me “Rhoda Joda”, which he’s been doing for most of my life. My sister, Kelly, is referred to by him as “Kel Kel Poo Poo” and mom is “Mama Buns”. I think it is fair to say his original nicknames for each of us made us feel beloved by him. And he is so beloved by so many. He taught me through example the importance of honesty, integrity, patriotism, hard work, teamwork, and determination.  He had a keen interest in what I was learning in college and the work I did as a social worker. He taught me how to appreciate nature and all the critters (especially dogs) within it. We shared a love of ice cream at the Dairy Queen. Often he’d sneak me off to scarf down hot fudge sundaes in the summertime, followed by a peaceful drive in the country.  His existence raised my standards in who I would choose as my partner in life, and for that I am forever grateful. While I won’t be able to spend Father’s Day with him, I hope he truly knows how much I love, admire, and respect him.

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My dad groovin’ out with his mardi gras beads in Alabama circa 1990 something

 

My father in law, Jim,  is the best second dad I could have ever hoped for. He is patient, funny,  and one of the most generous people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He loves to talk politics/conspiracy theories. He is well known by all who love him for his great sayings like “You win some, you lose some”. Hubs tells me as a teenager, Jim’s one piece of advice to him was to “wear a raincoat if you’re going to play in the mud” (you get it right?). He is fun loving and a very involved Grandpa to our two kids. He has always had a habit of napping in his big comfy recliner, even amidst the chatter of those around him and the t.v. on. When the kids were in elementary school and they would spend weekends at Grandpa Jim and Grandma Alice’s house, he wouldn’t even flinch (though I highly suspect he was really awake) as the kids would adorn him with funny hats and lipstick. He has a deep love of animals and an uncanny ability to communicate with them. He has been known to take his cat Chester (whom was rescued as a wee kitten from the bushes in front of his house by our youngest) on a walk around the neighborhood with a leash. He is great at fixing cars, and along with my dad, got our old black Oldsmobile into good running condition the day Hubs and I were to leave on our honeymoon road trip to Mackinac Island 27 years ago.  A gift of labor we appreciated more than words could say. I am blessed that Hubs was raised by this guy. He was an excellent role model for how to be a good man. I won’t be seeing Jim on Father’s Day this year either, but I hope he’s able to spend time doing his favorite things like spending time outdoors and watching Nascar on the tube.

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Classic Jim from circa 1970 something

 

Hubs-the love of my life and the best dad my kiddos could have had. Patient, just like his dad, which is much appreciated since I am quite certain living with the kiddos and I all these years would have been challenging even for Job. Hubs at his core is fun-loving, affectionate, and a wonderful teacher of life lessons. He is the dad that spent hours upon hours helping our kids with their homework. He is the dad who taught them how to fish and how to ride a bike.  He is the dad who  modeled how a good spouse operates by always working in partnership with me to ensure the house was kept up, supporting me in my career/job choices, treating me respectfully, and not shying away from showing his affection for me each and every day. He is the dad who modeled for our kids how to be a good citizen and human through taking them to see Obama speak, chaperoning church youth mission trips, volunteering,  and writing thoughtful, heartfelt, and thought-provoking editorials in the local newspaper. He’s always encouraged the kids to further their education and delights in celebrating with them when they’ve achieved milestones in their lives. He is a great communicator and his listening skills are admirable, which I’m sure the kids would attest to. He loves having conversations with them about life and love. He learned much about how to be the wonderful dad he is from both our dads, which is a great blessing. I will be spending this Father’s Day with Hubs and plan to do everything in my power to make it a day he will appreciate and enjoy, because well, I love him and he deserves it.

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Hubs in his happy place…fishing on the Mississippi River