My son is a good dad, too!

Dad and his girls

My son stopped by recently with his oldest daughter. It was a whirlwind visit, but 3-year-old Hannah ensured we did a little bit of everything. We used the swing and slide. We picked peas and pulled kohlrabi.  We explored the prairie and played with a neighbor’s cat. We checked out the basement because Hannah informed me she’d never seen our basement before. Ever.

While they were here, my son and I had a dozen small pieces of conversation about a dozen different topics. Each time we began to talk, Hannah came up with a new topic to interrupt us. It reminded me very much of when Lance was little and we went to visit my parents. I was still their child, yet I was a mom, too.

Over the years, I’d think about the children my son might have someday. I always imagined he’d be a good dad if he got the chance. And, he is.

Working in the garden

He has spent many Saturday mornings with Hannah running through the exercises in a gymnastics class. They read together daily. They have a dad/daughter craft time on the weekends. He’s teaching her about gardening like his dad and I (and his grandparents) taught him. Because he encourages her to work right along side him, she’s undeterred by dirt. Bugs fascinate her.

When we visited the garden, Hannah picked peas, bit off the stems and spit them on the ground before she ate the pods. Just like her dad! She found her own way into and through the prairie and didn’t even realize she lost a flip-flop on the journey. She loves nature and is ready to explore. Like her dad.

Now my son has another daughter. Eliza took her first steps recently and Dad was there cheering her on. He is a good dad. He’s patient and loving. He teaches and leads. He’s firm and nurturing. He’s involved now.

My son will always be my son, but now he’s a dad, too. And I’m oh, so proud of him. Happy Father’s Day, Lance!

Dad showing love

Love through a breadboard

My dad was not a particularly vocal man. In most cases, he showed us rather than told us what we needed to know.

On our family farm, work came first. Dad definitely showed us about work. Barn chores and house chores were part of my life from my earliest memory. Even before I remember. But he also showed us how to play.

“You have to make your own fun,” he said to me. He meant literally. When my sisters and I were little, Dad made t-shaped handles out of wood slats and fashioned metal hoops for us to play with one summer. This was a toy his dad made for him. Dad demonstrated how to roll the hoop down the wooden handle and keep the hoop rolling. We chased those hoops all over that summer – nudging, guiding, seeing how long we could keep the hoops rolling over grass, gravel and dirt.

Another summer, he showed us how to make kites. Out of newspaper and sticks and string. After we’d tried countless times – and failed – to get the kites to fly, he remembered kites need tails. We went to Mom’s rag drawer and tore up strips of sheet, knotting smaller strips to long strips. Those kites were air born in seconds, feeding my imagination and my desire to fly.

When I got married, he thought I’d need a breadboard. “You can’t make bread without a board to knead it on,” he said. I still use the breadboard he built for me. It serves to knead bread, roll out pie crusts, cool cookies – and it serves to remind me of my dad.

Dad showed his love not just of us kids but of his community and country. He served in WWII and afterwards belonged to the American Legion. Every Memorial Day for as long as he was able, he carried the American flag in the parade. He also belonged to the Salem Lutheran Church, the Lions Club and the Izaak Walton. Never was he a part-time member. He attended every meeting, chopped onions for omelet breakfast fundraisers, baked cookies to sell to bikers on RAGBRAI, served sandwiches at trail rides, signed people up for community blood drives. He showed us how to serve, how to be a good member.

Did Dad say he loved me? Seldom. Did I doubt he loved me? Never.

It dawned on me as I wrote this that my dad showed me one more thing – and that’s how to be a good writer. ‘Show don’t tell’ is advice all writers hear. Show don’t tell. That’s the way my dad lived. I didn’t even realize I was learning about writing from him, too.