Friday, May 26, 2017

Dad's Tribute

I grew up in a home where we could run and shout and jump and chase, be loud and play, joke and tease. It was a happy place for kids because my mom and dad had few restrictions. My favorite memories as a child with my parents and family include BYU football games and Brick Oven Pizza, going on jogs, tickle monster and epic games of Hide and Seek, seminary student spook alleys in our basement, adventurous trips in a car that was always breaking down or travels through Mexico on a hot Mexican Train. Not to mention, Dad could summon us from anywhere with his incredibly loud whistle!

I loved that he always called me: “La.” I could always count on him making me laugh with his jokes or teasing. He made me feel like I was perfect just the way I was. I loved when he put his arm around me and asked me all about my life. He always wrapped his suit coat around us if we were cold. And if we were hungry he was happy to share his sandwich or would say, “Here! Have mine! I’ll make me another one.” He was the first to jump in a scrub clean my kitchen and happy to change a baby’s diaper. He never flinched at running to the store to buy feminine products for his girls. I will miss snuggling up next to him.

He was always optimistic and lived with the assumption that everyone was his best friend. When we got TP’d he told us children, “Getting toilet papered, means people really like you!”

One of his favorite expressions was: “I don’t see why not!” Can I have a sleepover? “I don’t see why not!” Can we host a New Year’s Party? “I don’t see why not!” Can we build a treehouse or hang a pulley or dig a hole to China in the backyard? Can I walk to the mall in bare feet or ride my bike and not come home until dark? Can I play nightgames and invite the neighborhood or turn the whole basement into a fort with blankets? Can I go toilet papering with my friends? “I don’t see why not.”

Dad didn’t order a Burrito, but a “Burrito!” And he didn’t love Mexico, he loved “Mexico” and served his mission in “El Salvador!” I loved hearing him speak Spanish to anyone who looked like they would understand. I was proud that he spoke so well and used it so frequently. If he guessed that someone spoke Spanish, he asked them where they were from and struck up a conversation – genuinely interested in learning as much as he could and making them new friends.

He loved my friends and especially loved getting to know them. He actually took it a step further and essentially interrogated them so he could get to know the REAL person. A friend just messaged me remembering the first conversation he had with my dad. First Dad asked him all about his job, where he was from, his education, etc. And then, within the first 10 minutes of meeting, Dad asks (as he probably stared intently in his eyes), “Now tell me about your wife. What about her first attracted you to her?!” So typical Dad!
I always looked forward to get togethers between our family and my dad’s brother Ron’s family The two of them would get comfortable, stretch out, and tell stories that made each other and the rest of us laugh and laugh. They enjoyed each other so much, I knew that was the relationship I wanted for me and my siblings.

He let me get my own testimony at my own pace. He wasn’t nervous or concerned that my pace wasn’t fast enough. He didn’t check in with me to see if I was paying my tithing, saying my prayers or reading my scriptures. He trusted us to figure life out. As a result I grew up feeling my dad would love me whoever I became.

It was unique raising children at the same time he was. Sometimes I’d confide, “I’m really worried.” His response was always, “You have great kids, Angela. You don’t have to worry about a thing.” He saw our potential and never questioned if we were maximizing it – in both us and his grandkids. He loved us just the way we were.

As a teen I remember saying, “I’m planning on going to the Telestial Kingdom” 
  He stopped short and just looked at me: “Why would you say that?” 
  “Because I’m not perfect and I never will be.” 
  “Angela! Of course you’re going to the Celestial Kingdom! You don’t have to be perfect – you just have to keep trying.” 
That was honestly the first time I realized that it actually might be a possibility. He helped me understand the nature of God. God didn’t expect perfection.

In 9th grade seminary he offered the 30-day challenge to gain a testimony. He asked if I was going to participate. And because I was a teenager, my response was more confrontational. “I don’t want to get a testimony because you tell me I have to. I’m not even sure if I believe the Church is true.” I wondered if this might elicit some anger which at that age I was good at provoking. Instead he was enthusiastic! “That’s wonderful! If you’re starting to wonder about whether the church is true or not, it means you’re starting to think for yourself and not rely on other people’s testimony! That’s the first step!”

It wasn’t the reaction I was expecting, but it opened me up to the idea that I didn’t HAVE to believe to be on the right path. That it was okay to have questions and unbelief and doubt. That those doubts were actually a normal beginning.

My dad blessed my life and the lives of my husband and children. I remember him saying, “If you don’t marry Dan, I think you’re mom will. And if she doesn’t, I will!”

Most importantly I loved his jokes and that he could make anyone laugh. This last month has been hard as some days he was so, so sick. On our first trip to the hospital, Diane was nervously explaining to a Valet as we arrived at the hospital that Dad couldn’t even get out of the car and he was “dead weight.” Literally paralyzed on one side, unable to move and barely able to speak, Dad’s head is on my lap and he whispers in his joking voice “I really wish she wouldn’t refer to me as dead!”

Then up at the hospital the nurse is explaining that she’ll have to give him a catheter and check his colon for a stool sample. He still couldn’t speak, but his lips started working and he seriously got a twinkle in his eye. And Diane and I just looked at each other and busted up laughing – he is totally trying to make a joke! This is killing him that he can’t think clearly enough to make a joke!

Dad, I love you so much. In your words you told me each night as you tucked me in to bed and bounced the bed up and down so even our last awake moments were fun and funny:

Good night, sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.

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