Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Tribute to My Dad (part 7)

My older brother married while I was on my mission. There was some dust-up about this, because my parents thought he wasn’t ready to get hitched. But he and his wife have a great marriage that has lasted nearly 30 years.

I had been home from my mission for about a year and a half when my parents did something that really surprised me. They had always been very careful with their finances. But suddenly they decided to install an in-ground swimming pool in the backyard. They explained that they wanted a venue for bringing the family together as children were leaving the nest and forming their own families. They thought about a boat, but that requires a lot of time each time you use it, and only a few can use it at a time. So they settled on a pool.

The pool was fun, but it is a lot of work. In fact, it was really a lot of work for the first couple of years. We installed the gas and electrical lines ourselves — by hand trenching in rocky soil. We leveled the deck area and installed a brick deck. We built the six-foot cedar fence around the backyard. Dad, of course, did most of the work. But the boys provided a fair amount of brute labor. The pool has repeatedly been a gathering point for summertime family activities over the years.

I had been home from my mission for a couple of years when Dad was called to serve as a stake patriarch. That was a pretty stunning thing for him. PCs were just starting to be common for home use. I helped my folks get their computer set up to print out patriarchal blessings. Dad did a lot of fasting and praying. And then he just went forward, relying on the Lord to make it happen. And it did. Over the next 17 years, Dad gave about 750 blessings. Mom typed up most of them. I typed up a few.

Dad was enjoying his employment with Utah Power, when the company merged with another company. They offered an early retirement package for targeted workforce reduction. Dad was not considering the idea at all until he actually analyzed the package. After painstakingly looking at the issue from every angle, Dad turned to my Mom and said that it would only make a difference of $5 per month if he stayed and worked another decade. So he retired. But Mom was still working.

A couple of weeks after Dad retired, he got a call from a company that was renovating all of the major electrical systems at Kennecott. They needed someone with Dad’s skills. But that would have required a three-hour daily commute. But the job was slated to last only two months and they offered Dad a very handsome rate. The job ended up stretching out over a decade. Dad left the job several times, but was always lured back. Although he was not a certified electrical engineer, he was doing that kind of work. The credentialed EEs frequently came to him for help.

A couple of years into Dad’s Kennecott employment, I got married. Within 11 months, my oldest brother and my younger brother each got married. This was challenging for my folks, but they took it all in stride. My older brother had already provided them a couple of grandsons. He provided one more during this time. Within a few years, the three newlyweds started providing more grandchildren. Dad can be rather stiff. But he loves horsing around with younger children. He almost becomes another person when goofing around with his grandkids. It’s fun to watch.

When Mom retired, Dad retired for the last time. Eventually my baby brother left on a mission to Brazil. Mom & Dad both soon found themselves so busy that they wondered how they had ever had time for employment. They did lots of volunteer work. They did a stint serving as workers in the Ogden Temple. My baby brother didn’t last long after his mission. He was soon married to his sweetheart and was attending college.

After a few years of retirement, Dad & Mom were called to serve as LDS missionaries in Hamburg Germany. Their bishop had connections with church headquarters. He pulled some strings to get Dad’s missionary call issued in German. My folks were soon back in their old stomping grounds. But Germany had changed a lot in 45 years. Every day of their mission was busy, busy, busy. They enjoyed many of the duties and associations, but also found some drudgery involved. When they returned home, they said it was like getting off a fast moving carnival ride and standing on the pavement somewhat dazed.

When my parents arrived home from their mission, Dad came into his house, sat down on the couch and said, “It’s good to be back home in America.” I said, “I thought you had just spent a year and a half back home in Germany.” He replied, “I may have been born and raised in Germany, but I’m an American now. I got back over there and remembered all of the reasons I left in the first place.” Dad was a patriotic American from the time he had become a US citizen decades earlier.

Next time I’ll write about the end of Dad’s life.

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