Tuesday, June 10, 2014

About fathers

I want to hug my dad today. 

I want to wrap my arms around him to tell him one more time how much I love him, treasure him, adore him.

I want him to know what he always knew, that I love him through and through.

As far as dads go, he hit and missed the mark, as all dads do, no matter what the Hallmark cards say.  He knew how to be a father, learning the practical aspects from his own dad, a North Dakota farmer and banker.

He always had his priorities straight. He put the roof over our heads, and we never.ever.worried.about.shelter.

He put food in our bellies.  And the scales today tell me what I have always known…something I have never known…lack.

He put my mother first and cherished her.  I never heard my father yell, scream, throw things, insist upon his way.  He was always willing to give up what he might have wanted very badly.  He had a knowing about him—something about being willing to lay down your life for your brothers as a soldier made you willing to lay down your will for your family.  There was no guile in my father.

I wish I could remember sitting next to him in church;  I wish I had memories of him reading his Bible.  But his faith was internal, and he kept it there.  Oh, Dad, I would tell him today, don’t you know how much Jesus loved you?  When asked, he would always say, “God doesn’t owe me anything.”  I always wanted to tell him that was precisely the point.  But he knew…he knew.  The reassurance was my need, not his.

I have my father’s transistor radio.  It still works. When he was stationed in VietNam, he kept it in his pocket, and it connected him to us through the armed forces radio station.  He knew what was happening in our world when we knew so very little about what was happening in his.  I’m so grateful he was protected from harm, though he brought home scars from battle that he would never divulge.

I have my father’s first picture book.  Inside the front cover, scrawled in his earliest penmanship, is his name, Lauren.  I run my fingers over that crayon stain, wishing, wishing, that I could hold the little boy he was.  I can picture that boy sitting next to his mother, Julia, showing her the lamb, the cow, the duck.  He was a farmer’s boy—he could have looked out the window to see the same things.

I have my father’s autograph book.  His big brother, Al, whose life journey took him to combat with Merrill’s Marauders and down the deadly trail to Bataan, wrote this to my dad in 1940: “ Dear Lauren, I will always remember you as my fattest little brother…the guy who was always in the way when we were playing games because you were too fat to keep up.  Your biggest brother, Al. “  I have a huge smile as I write this—picturing the big humor and big smile of my dad as he probably took Al to the floor in a headlock. 

From his brother Pete came these words just three months after Al’s:  “Dear Lauren, Christmas comes but once a year, but a chance to write in your autobiography comes but once in a lifetime so I’ll sign my name, Mr. Marvin Overby, better known as Pete.”  Pete didn’t sign my father’s book again, succumbing to a brain tumor when he was still but a young man. 

In August of 1941, his brother George wrote:  “Dearest Brother, well boy, we better get this cake down and nectar too and go to bed.  We got the work to do and we’re just the guys to do it. And if any guys want to make anything of it, well let them do it.  We’re too tired.  Your brother pal, George.”   George sat beside my mother when we laid my father to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in 2004.

On April 8, 1941, my father’s mother wrote: “Dearest son Lauren, There is another album, filled with leaves of spotless white, where no name is ever tarnished, but forever pure and bright.  In the book of life-God’s album-may your name be penned with care, and may all who have written here write their names forever there.  Lovingly, Mother”

Happy Father’s Day, dad.
I miss you. Every.single.day.