Sunday, October 7, 2007

Happy Birthday Dad

Today is my dad's birthday. He would have been 82 years old. Dad passed from this world in June of 1997. He was only 71 years old and seemed younger than that. He was an elder and a hard worker in the church. In fact, he'd been an elder in four different congregations; everywhere he lived they saw in him a worthy man. I always thought of Dad as "president of my fan club;" and becoming the person I was in his eyes will be a life-long challenge for me.

Dad was faithful to God in life and confident in His promises in death. Although he was in great physical distress those last 24 hours, I never heard him complain. He did tell me, though, on that last day, as he was struggling to draw every shallow breath, "Dying is hard work."

Since that day, our family has celebrated a number of joyous events. Those are the times I most miss my dad. I missed him at Chris and Kelsey's wedding; he'd have loved Kelsey and been so happy for Chris. I missed him when Sweetpea was born; she would have stolen his heart. I missed him at Tim's graduation from ITT Tech; he'd have been so proud of him. And I missed him at Mom's 80th birthday celebration; he'd have told her she was even more beautiful that day than the day he married her.

To celebrate Dad's birthday this year, I'd like to write down a few memories I have of him:

I remember, when I was five years old, that we lived in Hood River, Oregon, and my dad built the Dalles Dam. At least that was what I thought for a long time. Later I learned that he was one of probably 3,000 men working on the construction of this dam, at any one time.

I remember, as a child, that whenever Dad held my hand, he would squeeze it in a funny way, and the bones in my hand would wibble-wobble. I'd jerk my hand away, we'd both laugh, and then . . . hold hands again.

I remember once, when I was around six years old, I begged my dad to let me drive the car. He put me on his lap, and let me steer the car around an almost-vacant parking lot, while he operated the foot pedals. Once the steering wheel was in my control, I became terrified and started crying and begging, "Daddy, I don't want to drive!"

I remember, when we lived in Portland, how much Dad enjoyed landscaping our yard. I remember clearly the smell of the nursery where we went to get gardening supplies and new plants. One day he bought a little sapling of a tree, and planted it in the front yard. Many years later, when Dan and I lived in the Portland area, I went by that old house. That little sapling had grown into a massive tree that almost hid the entire front of the house.

I remember how much Dad loved to take pictures with his 35 mm camera. His specialties were flowers and sunsets, and we all teased him about how many of both he had in his slide collection.

I remember how good Dad was to my Grandma Rose, his mother-in-law. I remember her saying, "Bob is the best son-in-law ever."

I remember Dad teaching me a lot of life-lessons. One time, for instance, I was determined to buy a pen and pencil set from the Ben Franklin dime store. He didn't see a reason to buy it, since I already had all the pens and pencils I could use. But I wanted it. He told me, "Wait one week. If you still want to spend your money on it, go ahead." I waited. At the end of a week the urge had passed, and I was glad I still had my money.

I remember, when I was in my "rock hound" phase, that Dad made me a big plywood board, painted, framed, and marked out in a grid, so I could display my rock samples on it.

I remember going to the rifle range with Dad, where he taught me to safely shoot my 22 caliber rifle; and also to the gun club, where he taught me to shoot skeet with a shotgun.

I remember Dad teaching me how to decorate cakes and, later in life, how to make real Danish pastry.

I remember Dad teasing me - a lot! He always told me that when I was born I had a point on top of my head, and the doctor had to remove it.

I remember Dad going as far as Seattle with me, when I left Alaska for college the first time. We spent a couple days there - went to the zoo, went to a movie, did some window shopping - and then he put me on the plane to Texas. And as I turned to wave good-bye, he was smiling, but there were tears in his eyes. [Edit: Thanks to Mom for correcting me. She was the one who took me to Seattle that first year I left for college - and she cried too! Because I remember what movie Dad and I went to see in Seattle, I was able to look up its release date and determine that it was when I left for my second year of college that Dad accompanied me to Seattle.]

I remember when Dad wanted to get his pilot's license, but didn't want to worry Mom. So he borrowed the money for his lessons from me. I was his partner in crime!

I remember the very first time we went salmon fishing in Juneau. I was the first one to catch a salmon, but . . . we had no net to bring it in with. Dad tried to use a plastic garbage can, but it broke my line and I lost the fish; and Dad felt much worse about it than I did.

I remember seeing Dad laugh so hard that tears rolled down his face whenever he watched Red Skelton, Carol Burnett, Dick VanDyke, and other slap-stick comedians on TV.

I remember the letter Dad wrote to me after Dan and I announced our engagement. It was the only letter he ever wrote to me. It was really sweet, and said he believed Dan was a good man.

I remember my dad walking me down the church aisle to give me away at my wedding; and two years later I remember him walking with me at my college commencement ceremony and "hooding" me.

I remember how much Dad liked to shop. He would take Mom shopping, and pick out dresses for her. He even enjoyed sitting and waiting for her to try them on, and then would tell her how beautiful she looked in them, and tell her to buy them all!

I remember what a good "Papa" my dad was to our boys.

This picture of Chris, Papa and Tim was taken in either 1978 or 1979 (maybe that explains the plaid pants!).


Kelsey said...

That was very sweet. And you made me cry. I'm sorry Clara never got to know him.

I wish I could've known him too. I'm not sure if you remember, but I did meet him once. It was when Chris and I came at Spring Break in 97 to drive Chris' jeep back. We went to a mexican restaurant with he and Margaret and he struck me as a very sweet and gentle man.
Chris was so excited for me to meet his Nanny and Papa.

He always speaks so fondly of Bob and I have no doubt he was a great grandpa and would've been a great great-grandpa. Sounds like he was a great Dad too.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, Bob Clark was a great man, and will always be remembered by those of us from Newberg as a great servant of the Lord's and a kind and loving man who will remain in the hearts of your family and many many others whose lives he touched. As a grandmother now myself, also known as "Nanny", it makes me very sad to think of the years he missed out on with Chris and Tim and now Clara. Being a grandparent changes everything!! But we understand that these years are but a mist and we look forward to being together in "the city with foundations whose architect and builder is God" (Heb 11:10). Our dads are saving us a spot.