By JIM NICHOLS
Here in the calendar vicinity of Fathers’ Day, I have some “thank yous” to identify. It sounds like a prayer for my dad.
We met in a delayed fashion. You were in Italy in the war when I was born and we first encountered one another when I was 14 months old. Mother told me many times that such a wartime situation was common, but it did mean we had some breaking in to do with one another. You had to get up speed as a new father and I had to adjust to a man other than my grandfather. I am sure there were stresses there; I sensed some in later years.
I was proud you were a soldier. Although you never told me much about your responsibilities, I felt you were brave. That was important to a boy.
Thank you for being my mild-mannered baseball coach for years and for teaching me how to keep a scorebook of the games. You never got upset about my teammates or my own poor or dumb play and did not yell at the umpires or other coaches as some other dads did. There was that one time when you did, and Mom had to warn you that such behavior should not be repeated. When Kansas City was granted a major league team, you caused delight by taking nine-year-old me to my first game. Our home team lost 29-6.
I am still impressed that you graduated from college at the age of 20 and got a job. Except for the interruption of the war, you worked for the same company for your whole career. You were a valued and solid employee and I was watching your dedication.
I know mother disliked having to wash the smoke from your clothes after you spent a night at the bowling alley, but you seemed to like the camaraderie. Since you were a bit of an introvert, I was glad you were having fun. I think your quiet nature came from being reared in a family with two bossy (from my child’s point of view) older sisters and two parents who were straight and strict.
You were great at organizing and carrying out summer family vacations that were both fun and educational. The car was really hot, though. One time it was so hot that Mom pulled up her skirt up real far to try to cool off.
Thanks for teaching my sisters and me about money and for just generally treating us as equals. You laughed at our concocted theatrical events featuring our stuffed animals and imaginary characters.
You loved our cat, Amanda, as much as we did and I remember your distress on one of my trips home from college when you told me she had died.
I liked being in church with you and thought it wonderful that you would hum the first measures of the hymn while the organist was introducing it.
You could write small rhyming poems and people would ask you to write one as part of some presentation or award. You could juggle three balls at a time. You could sing, “Mares eat oats, and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy. A kid’ll eat ivy too. Wouldn’t you?”
Thank you for showing us compassion for others such as your evenings at church with a group of children with disabilities; you spoke of them a lot at home.
Thank you for loving not only God, but also our mother. Stuck in your memory somewhere was a Bing Crosby song from 1932 with a recurring line of “try a little tenderness.” You clearly took that to heart in your marriage. In some ways, I was closest to you as we sat at the dining room table and you had me telephone friends and tell them that mother had cancer and was dying. After she was gone, you remarried for another 17 years; lots of people do not even have one good marriage, and you had two.
When you had your own final bout with ALS, your bravery showed up again. You were sad, but you were unchanging in your kindness and appreciation.
You were such a good man and father. I’m confident I’ll see you again soon.
Jim Nichols is a retired Abilene Christian University biology professor and current medical chaplain