“I love him.” My son replied after I asked him what came to mind when I said “Grandpa Peterson”.
“I do too, buddy.”
Last November I wrote about my desire to write about two very important people in my life – my mother and my father. I wrote a post about my mother on her birthday. Today, on my father’s birthday, I share a post with you about him.
This one’s for you, Dad.
In September of the year 1980, my parents had their first born child – that would be me (two younger brothers followed in the next four years). I remember my mother telling me that when I was born, their good friends called me Little John as I looked very much like my father. But, my father had his own special nickname for me. He called me Erin Jean Jelly Bean.
Dad was great about making life special. On weekend mornings when he didn’t have to rush off to work, he’d make his delicious breakfasts. French toast with homemade syrup was my favorite, but pancakes and scrambled eggs with cheese were a close second. Every night before bed, he would fluff my feather pillow so it would be just right for sleeping. On weekday evenings, I remember watching through the living room windows for my father to return home from work. If I was lucky, he’d bring me a special treat – usually Tootsie Rolls. I loved sitting on his lap as a little girl and sucking my thumb. Dad would always ask “What flavor is it today?”
As I grew, my relationship with Dad was strengthened in new ways. I began to realize the qualities that made my father so special. He was a hard worker, a perfectionist, he was present for his family whenever we needed him, he cared for others, and he was always fair and honest. Dad was the first to grab onto the arm of my elderly grandparents when they started to have trouble walking, and drive them here or there so their safety would be ensured. He was the first to step up to drive family (sometimes extended) members to the airport – even if it was 3am, or pick them up in some remote area if a car had troubles. He’d snow blow the driveways of our elderly neighbors, and mow peoples’ lawns if he knew of troubled times.
Nothing has changed.
From the time I was little I loved to build things. Luckily, my father was an excellent carpenter, so I couldn’t have had a better mentor. In high school, I was the only girl in my wood tech. class, but this didn’t bother me. My goal was to build the best piece of furniture in class. Besides working on my project at school, I spent weekends and weeknights building a drop top desk with my father as my guide. Dad was patient and informative – he has always been a great teacher. My father is still the first person I go to when I have project questions, or when I hit a DIY milestone. This winter my father and I are planning on designing and building barn doors together for my basement that my husband and I have been working on finishing. I can’t wait!
Another trait I admire about my father is his love for family time. Many weekends were spent up at the family cabin where Dad taught me how to build the proper campfire, how to fish, and how to tie a respectable fisherman’s knot. He was always the perfect driver for our water skiing and tubing adventures on the lake. We never had to worry about him going too fast, getting too much slack in the line, or trying to throw us off (unless we wanted him to).
Family vacations with “just our family” were also a common occurrence.
Getting married was very special, but difficult at the same time. I was excited to build a life with my husband, but sad to leave my parents. A sign of a great childhood, right? Before I walked down the aisle, I saw my dad waiting for me, and the first tears were shed. He looked so distinguished and handsome in his tuxedo. Don’t even get me started on the Father-Daughter dance. Let’s just say that my guests were running tissues out to me. I knew that Butterfly Kisses would be a tough song to dance to. Gosh dang-it, I’m getting teary-eyed just thinking about it.
Dad has continued to be one of my biggest supporters even though I am married with two children of my own. One particular moment continues to shine over and over again. After much deliberation, my husband and I decided to homeschool our two young children. I gave up my career as a public school teacher to teach our children at home. Both sides of the family (my husband’s and mine) had reservations about our decision, but Dad simply said “Your kids will be the luckiest kids because they will have a teacher that loves them more than anything.”
We are four years into our homeschooling journey now – and loving it. A few months ago, my parents, my kids, and I were walking the trails at my parent’s farm when the kids spied some minnows in a small, shallow creek. The kids ran through the tall grass and trees, following the stream up to the pond to try to catch the minnows in their hands – wanting to identify them. “Do you think the turtles eat the minnows?; Do you think there are bigger fish in the pond?; and Do you think the minnows die in the winter?” were just some of the questions that were asked. The kids were experiencing and learning. My father shook his head, looked at me, and said “I would have given anything to grow up getting the education your children are getting. They are the luckiest kids in the world.” Dad, your trust in me and your support means more to me than you will ever know.
Dad continues to make life special, and now my kids get to experience this too. My son said today how he loves going treasure hunting at the farm, and bobber and lure hunting up at the cabin with Grandpa. My father even invented a contraption (and named it after my son) to help get bobbers and lures out of trees as they search the shoreline by pontoon. My daughter said that she loves when Grandpa gives her treats, plays with her, and gives her tractor rides at the farm. I love to see the light in Dad’s eyes when he spends time with his grandchildren.
Dad, thank you for being my biggest supporter, a great role model, a wonderful father, and a super-fun grandfather. Thank you for being YOU! We are the lucky ones to have you in our lives. Wishing you a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY, and many more years of spending time with family, treasure hunting at the farm, and building wood projects. I love you!