Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there!! Today’s blog is to pay homage to my father.
Babe Ruth hit his 700th home run the year my father and his twin brother arrived. His family lived in a dirt-floored home complete with outhouse in rural Oregon. A wood stove would attempt to keep his family warm in the winter, although the cold would often win. The only plenty in his family was love. Poverty and Eagle Scouts principles would become my dad’s greatest teachers.
By the time I was born, my grandparents had built a comfortable living for themselves, literally. My grandfather was a carpenter and built the beautiful home they lived in on the outskirts of vast farmland in Beaverton, Oregon. This is where I ate my first lemon cucumber picked ripe from my grandmother’s side-of-the-house raised garden bed and where I learned to ride horses. This land would be sold off a little at time with streets popping up named after them. Today in Beaverton you can find a Barnard Lane, Barnard Court, Barnard Street, all named after my dad’s parents.
My dad put himself through school becoming a patent attorney practicing in Seattle for over forty years. Patent law requires an engineering undergraduate degree, and my dad’s specialty was mechanical. His office served as an invention factory. Prototypes of diaper fasteners, crutches, bottled products may line the walls or conference tables. Dad was great at technical description and arguing cases passionately. Despite his great abilities, he never enjoyed public speaking and often ran off an elevator to relieve his bowels before court. He believed in sharpening courage instead of succumbing to fear. He would hire the first female patent attorney into a Seattle office in the 80s. Unbelievably, this was a risky and bold move.
In addition to his love of law, he was an active member of the community. He coached youth baseball and football. This was a family sport, as we all could be caught in the bleachers cheering for his team. True to his commitment of equality overlayed with memories of his own impoverished childhood, he anonymously underwrote many of the player’s fees and equipment. He would tell me character could be built through the game and money should not get in the way of opportunities for youth. If dad wasn’t on the field or in the office during ball season, he may be found with us kids in tow at the local thrift store buying bikes to fix up for his team members; providing them with their own form of transportation. He followed the progress of each one of these kids turned adults, who would be a part of our extended family, throughout his life.
As a single mother, my dad was around often for both myself and his granddaughter. I was twenty-eight when I hit a deeply wounding emotional rough patch. Being good with things, and not emotions, my dad drove me around town for two hours asking me questions and wanting to help without knowing how. During this ride he shared with me what it was like to be a man growing older in our culture, knowing it was different for women. He spoke with me about overwhelm and perspective as he listened thoughtfully. I made it through this rough patch with the realization that most of healing and loving boils down to showing up for one another.
The last five years of my dad’s life lacked much of his earlier zest. He couldn’t understand a world which didn’t reflect back to him the principles he lived. He was disappointed that law was not about truth, but about tricks and money. He needed medical care and was frustrated that patient care and well-being was replaced by a “system” which didn’t have accountability. Politics were no longer about the creation and debate of ideas for the betterment of society. They appeared to him to be about denigration and scandal. As his life began slipping, his faith in humanity tempered. With a weary body, he passed away in January 2009 of undetermined causes. His family was by his side.
Today I celebrate you dad with a full heart.
Happy Father’s Day to all of you men and women who assume the role of “father.”
To Love, Bonnie