Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Father

This Father's Day is difficult for me also, similarly to Mother's Day, thinking of nothing but my grief over Stefan. But Martin says special day's don't change things for him. It's always the same. So we are different. I got Martin some beautiful no-iron shirts. Win, win for me--a good looking man and no ironing required!

The picture above is of my own father, Werner, born to farmers in Silesia. At the end of the war he was 11, his mother died and he became a refugee. When Stefan turned 11, my dad told him what the day was like on his own 11th birthday, sitting on a tree on a hill, looking down into the valley, with the Russians having rounded up all the cattle, which were screaming loudly with not getting milked, to be hauled off.

He married a beautiful local girl in Hesse, daughter of civil administrator and permanent church elder, well-known pillar of the community. My Dad was talented in a well-rounded way and enjoyed life. My mother sometimes joked about the ironies of having married a poor refugee, but my dad was so great, my grandpa thought he was very intelligent in discussing politics and other subjects. Indeed, we children spent a lot of time listening to adult discussions.

He built three houses in his lifetime, using his own labor to a large extent. Our first house had an unexploded bomb on the lot that needed dealing with. He had bought the lot cheap in a low lying area close to a little airstrip. He became a heavy equipment salesman and sometimes we owned backhoes and equipment that he used. As children we learned to distinguish between different machinery and makes of cranes, types of scaffolding... The post-war building boom made a good career possible.

He always sang in church choir but never took a church position. My mother always said he put his light under the bowl by not being more active on council. He cooked and vacuumed, said nighttime prayers, took us on holidays, taught us to swim clear across little lakes and gravel pits. He took us bike-riding. We had adventures sailing boats including on navigated German rivers. He loved get-togethers and was gregarious. We went camping and made friends with the neighboring campers. He was sensible and gentle. He deeply cared for us in a non-mushy way. He stood in line early in the morning to get me into Catholic girl grammar school. He loved our mother. Our mother was the most beautiful woman in the land. He lost her too early.

I adored him. I once wrote him a letter about it, when I was already married. (Who can say such a thing face to face? We did not even hug in our family. Can you believe it: we shook hands.) I never heard him acknowledge my letter. My step-mother once told md that it had meant a lot to him. It had meant so much, he could not talk about it. People, eh?

(I was going to say: Men!!! But then I thought better of it, since I did not tell him face to face, either.)

He died early this decade of a rare cancer having been afflicted with Parkinson's for a while.

On his right hand is my little sister. On his left hand is my brother. On the far is me, the oldest. I have much to be grateful for.

I am wondering what the implications are for those of you, whom I do know who did not have a good father, or now live in divorced situations. Even though my father was a good man, he was, like almost all decent fathers, very busy with work while the children were growing up, so the time he spent was really often also a "quality" time versus "quantity" time. His gentility, his love of life, his intelligence, his hard work, his treasuring of holidays, his telling of stories, poems, proverbs, prayers, singing of all kinds of songs, his faithfulness in church attendance, even if he was not going to be very involved (he did teach Sunday School once; it was so special, I still remember it was about Nebuchadnezzar), his supportive way of dealing with our mother: all of it still made us secure and happy enough.

My thoughts are with all who are somewhat sad today, including ourselves. All of life is such a mixed-up, messy bag. All of it makes me appreciate Christ more and more, who is gentle and strong and full of life, intelligence, stories, prayers and deep care for everyone. It really does.

1 comment:

Steve Martin said...

What a wonderful Father you had, Brigitte.

The Lord has truly blessed you with wonderful people in your life.

That is a great photo!!