Last week my cousin in Texas had a conversation with me in Scotland (I love the internet!) and stated that my dad was an honourable man. I had to stop and think about that because sometimes people use words that we’ve never thought of using in that way about that person. Honourable is a word we use about soldiers and statesmen and important and highly educated people. My dad never fought in a war or anywhere else that I know of. He wasn’t a statesman. He didn’t hold important positions. He wasn’t highly educated. He was an ordinary Midwestern Norwegian farmer. But I knew that she was right. My Dad was an honourable man.
He had strong principles and lived according to them. He was honest. He worked hard. He had a strong and uncomplicated faith in God. The child-like faith so praised in the Gospels. We always had family devotions and going to church was something we never questioned. Playing the organ and singing in the choir was part of that devotion to God. For him and for us. Even though he had had very few organ lessons and very little time to practice, he did the best that he could every week – and he did well. We listened to organ music every Sunday after church. He went to church music seminars to learn what he could – and sometimes took us along. He encouraged us and others to use their talents and to take the lessons he never got a chance to take. We learned to offer our music to God first by playing duets with him or mom and then on our own at rather young ages. I remember becoming a substitute organist when I was 17 because I had a job and I had stayed home from the family vacation, and therefore, I could cover for Dad. Later on he would play for his grandchildren and show them how the magical stops and pedals worked, just like had shown me. As an adult, I knew other musicians more competent than I was in various churches, but they refused to play in public. But, I had always played in public, that’s just what we always did.
He loved farming and fixing things—which, of course, goes hand in hand with farming—and what he fixed worked well. When we had that ice storm in the winter of ’65 (I think?), we had heat when few others did because he had brought in all the tractor batteries and wired them in series so the furnace would run. If things didn’t go well, he didn’t complain that he had gotten the bad end of a deal. He didn’t complain constantly about taking a factory job to tide the family through the lean years. He just went on and dealt with it. He never shifted the blame or complained about how the world would be a better place if everyone did things his way. The only time I ever heard him swear was when the canners had gotten stuck with a full load of corn in the peat slough even though he’d expressly told them to stay away from that apparently firm but deceptive sod. He said “darn it.”
Dad loved his wife and family. Even though my parents had been married for over sixty years, I never actually heard them have an argument. I knew there were disagreements sometimes, but we never heard them argue. Dad and I argued all the time. Loudly. Daily. Habitually. I think my siblings learned how and why not to argue through having to live through those suppers. I had been blessed to inherent my dad’s strong and determined will. And, it wasn’t until I left home that we stopped arguing.
It wasn’t until I had the first grandbaby that I realized how much Dad loved little babies. He would hold and cuddle a newborn unlike most other men I saw around me then. He loved his grandchildren and played board games with them like he had played with us. He also taught the grandkids to hold and pet kitties and be nice to the puppies that he loved so much. In pictures of Dad as a child, he was often seen holding a kitten. And his dogs were his best friends, too. Especially Pal and Benjy. He had at least one dog who would follow him to the field and stay there to wait for him to drive home again.
Besides little cuddly animals, Dad also had a collection of matchbox tractors that he kept on a special shelf. Sometimes–some very special times–he would get out his tractors for the grandkids and play with them on the dining room table. And then he had great-grandchildren to hold and cuddle and play on the table with tractors. And we have pictures to prove it!
My life didn’t take the expected path or the ordinary one that my folks had hoped for all their kids. I did things backwards, going back to college after my kids had left home. But, the determination that has gotten me through the long years of study and life overseas was– I am sure of this — by God’s grace inherited from my dad. He was a strong man, a good dad, a loving husband, a faithful Christian.
My dad was an honourable man.