Dear Dad

My Dad, Joe, turned 80 years old on Sept 16th, 2005. We had a big family gathering at Joanne and Arlen's on the 24th of September and everyone wrote memories of him that we put together into a book. It was fun to read the things my brother and sisters wrote about growing up. And the different impressions he has made on his grandchildren. This is what I wrote.

Dear Dad,

This has become so much harder to write than I thought it would be. Every time you are at the farm helping me I have ‘Dad Stories’ to tell Kelly, but now when I need them they are all gone.

I’ve been searching my mind for memories of you and what I come up with is that I have always followed you around watching you do stuff. Welding, working, fixing things, repairing things…you have taught me so much. Not to mention all the typical things Dad’s are supposed to teach like responsibility, the work ethic, standing behind my word; all those things you taught me. But you taught me so much more…

It took me a few years to figure some things out…For example I think sometimes you just like to argue. Sometimes you’ll give the wrong answer just to generate conversation. Yes, it is frustrating! All my life you told me how afraid you were of electricity yet you wired all the buildings on the farm. Most of my career today in theater and lighting comes from you and electricity. You could fix, make or create anything.

I was probably 10 when you handed me an old electric motor with no plug; just the wires sticking out of it and you told me to see if it worked. When I said it didn’t have a plug on it you said I should just stick the wires in an outlet. And here I am 30 years later still playing with electricity.

I remember being down in the barn with you during milking and Mom would call on the telephone from the house and tell me to come back up for a bath.

(I can’t remember how that first worked…then the phone company changed something and we figured out a new way to do it and now we can’t do it at all anymore but I’m still trying.)

I remember trying to follow your math as we talked about shingling the machine shed roof. Length times width should equal the square feet divided by 100 would equal the number of squares of shingles. But you had some formula I could never follow that must have been something like total length times height times the number of walls plus the time of day minus the mass of an African swallow divided by 100 and you got the same number but I never could figure out how you did that…

I remember riding with you on all the tractors whatever you were doing.

I remember you chasing down a rabbit in the calf pen and catching it for me. I still don’t know how you did that.

I remember you taking me fishing; we went to the power dam, went to Alma, and went to the ponds in Country Club Manor. You caught lots of fish. I maybe caught one.

Absorbine Jr. is your cure-all. It’s become mine too; makes Kelly crazy.

You like to eat the ‘kinter’ of bread, probably have since ‘Teig was a pup’. And you always had green kool-aide.

Show me the scar again from where the hatchet fell down and split your head open and your mother poured absorebine Jr. on your head and wrapped it in brown paper.

I remember coming down to the barn at milking time. When I turned 10 you said part of my chores would be helping you milk every night and my allowance went up to $1.00 / week.

I remember you putting dual wheels on one of my toy tractors. I still have that one in my office; you could fix anything it seemed. You could invent things, fix machinery, and create whatever tool you needed as long as you had baling wire.

I remember the bundles of straight baling wire you used to get and I remember what a big deal it was when we used up the last bundle.

I remember making fence with you and you teaching me how to pack the dirt around a post. The next time we made fence I packed it like you taught me and you asked where I learned how to do that. Well you taught me!

You did tend to get excited once in a while…(ever see him swat at a bee with his cap?) Once when riding with me while I was learning to drive I thought you waved me through a stop sign and then you got excited when I went through the stop sign. Or that time I drove across the highway, through the ditch and into the church parking lot…you got pretty excited about that.

I remember you laying down on the living room floor and taking a nap. I still haven’t figured out how you can fall asleep so fast! And you never slept with a pillow. You told me it was because your brother Carl never slept with a pillow and you wanted broad shoulders like he had.

I remember listening to polkas while milking cows. And the brown paper bag in the trunk of the car for going to the Pla-Mor.

I want to be able to whistle like you do. I try and try and I practice and I have asked you how to do it and you just do it.

Every time I dig a hole I look for the coffee can full of money your brother buried 70 years ago.

I can dig up some old piece of bent up rusty iron with a bolt in one end and two holes in the other and you’ll tell me it’s the thing-a-ma-jiggy, flux capacitor, do hicky off a 1935 corn husking binder plate that your Dad used on the Schoenfelder farm that time the horses ran away with the binder wagon. Hmm, looked like a piece of rusty metal to me…

It seems everyone knows who you are. And how very well respected you are. And you inspire me. And you teach me still.

These days I have conversations with Preston that are SO FRUSTRATING because they sound just like the conversations I had with you. And sometimes I’ll give him the wrong answer… Like Father, Like Son. You’re still teaching me and for that I love you. Thanks~


More Stories

Write me: