OHMYGOODNESS, this is a tough one to start. Any post about those who ARE. MY. HEART, just tend to stick in my soul and have a difficult time making it to the page.
HANK. Yup. I call my dad Hank. (I have since I was a smart ass kid in high school, and it’s just kind of stuck) Today, Hank is on my heart and mind as it is his 82nd birthday. I have so many narratives and stories I want to share, but in the name of brevity, I shall attempt an annotated list of the top FIVE lessons learned at the knee of my father.
We’re a funny (queer and haha) family. We cut up. We giggle. We belly laugh. And we get that from Hank.
YOU’RE NEVER TOO OLD
At age 50, Hank was pretty fat and out of shape. He couldn’t run ONE lap around a standard track. In less than a year, he ran the Seaside, Oregon marathon. At age 67, he completed the Disney World half-marathon (with his daughter and grandson!)
At age 60, Hank got his Master’s in Spanish Literature through a three-year summer program at the University of Madrid (yes, in Spain). MASTER’S. AGE SIXTY. In SPAIN.
WORK HARD AND BE NICE
Hank was a school teacher. With SIX children. Ruth didn’t work outside of the home, so she could care for my handicapped older brother, Ricky. I’m thinking you get the picture. There were periods in my life when my father worked 3 jobs in order to make ends meet. THREE. This man knows from work. That being said, Dad had no issues or jealousy of those with money. He taught us that there are rich and poor assholes, and rich and poor badasses. (I’m paraphrasing here)
In our household, the measure of a person?
How does that person treat others. Period.
LIVE YOUR LIFE
Hank lives his life, no one else’s. He left everything that was safe and familiar to join the Mormon church at age 18. He changed schools (came to BYU), went on a long-ass mission to Mexico, and did so without the understanding of his parents or family. His daughter strives to do the same thing (blame the father). He is devout not out of cultural expectations or tradition, but rather, because he believes. And I have mad respect for that.
When my older brother, Ricky, was 6 months old, he was rendered completely physically and mentally handicapped due to the error and arrogance of a doctor. Hank has told me he was angry, bordering on bitter. Then, he was asked (we use the verbiage “called”) to be a bishop in the Mormon church. As Hank tells it, his anger and bitterness were prohibiting him from being able to be close to the Lord. Were keeping him from being able to follow the promptings of the Spirit. Were keeping him from Joy and Love. Although I don’t think the process was easy or quick, Hank was able to lay that anger and pain on the Savior’s shoulders (the atonement isn’t just for sin you know) and get on with his life. Seriously, this man is such a BADASS.
I realize I’ve shared this story before, but it defines my father and our relationship.
When I initially chose to leave the Mormon church, it was, and probably still is, very painful for my family. Hank has since told me that he prayed and wrestled within on what was the best course of action to take with and towards me. Was there a book, an article, a scripture, a hymn, a conversation he should have with me? What would bring me back? He has tearfully expressed that an answer came very clearly,:
His job is to love me. Just as I am. And he does to this day, and always has. That is the rarest gift. To have someone who disagrees, worries, and wonders about your path in life, but loves and adores you anyway.
OK, that was six. And I could have gone on. The conclusion of this missive proves to be just as difficult and elusive as the beginning. Sometimes there just aren’t words. My father is not perfect. But he is perfect for me. Happy 82 Hank.
Light and Love,