I'm thinking of stories because yesterday was my dad's birthday.
I like birthdays. It gives us the opportunity to give the birthday boy / girl the praise and attention they deserve. But this year was different. This year, I didn't want my dad to have a birthday. And I really don't want him to have another birthday ever again. I simply want him to come to a screeching halt with the aging thing.
If you know my dad, you will understand why I long for his earthly immortality. These two stories illustrate my point.
The year was....uh...... not sure, really. Sometime in the 1970's. We were heading west on highway 33 in Rexburg. My brothers and I were bouncing along in the back of dad's red Toyota pickup, sheltered from the wind and cold by Dad's homemade camper shell. It was a beauty: complete with windows and carpeted walls. Dad loved to work with his hands. And tools. Coupled with his industrial and conservative nature, and capped off by his love of all things beautiful, there wasn't anything dad couldn't build or beautify. In fact, dad was such a quintessential handyman that he built himself into something of a masterpiece. And on this day...into a hero.
We had not been driving long when we felt the vehicle slow down and come to a stop on the shoulder of the road. We heard dad get out and walk around to the back of the truck. Lifting the back door, dad poked his head in the camper and told us that he had a 'feeling' that we needed to get out of the camper and ride with him in the cab of the truck. Although we were disappointed, we didn't question Dad. We simply did as he asked and climbed into the cab. We were cramped. There were five of us in there.
We drove off down the road and not five minutes later, without warning, we heard a loud whoooooossssshhhhh followed by a loud bonk. And then dad saw it. The camper shell had flown right off the truck and was sitting smack dab in the middle of the road... looking as out of place as a sloth on a race-track. In disbelief, dad pulled off the road again and immediately worked to get the camper out of harm's way. Then he gave us each a hug...a hug worth a thousand sermons. Nestled safely in his arms, I felt a surge of something beyond his love I had not felt before. The seed of sensitivity to spiritual things began to sprout. My father may have saved my life that day: in more ways than one.
Dad loved to camp. And fish. And the best of times was when he combined the two. For most of our growing up years, these outings involved a large orange tent. It wasn't like the fancy tents of today with three or four bedrooms and a covered front porch. It was simply a one-room tent with all the modern conveniences of an 1820 pioneer. We slept in heavy green or brown canvas sleeping bags lined with flannel flying geese.
One night I was perfectly content among the geese in a campground near Island Park Reservoir. After eating our dirt-seasoned, blackened tinfoil dinners, we stamped out the fire and my family bedded down for the night. Soon, however, my dreams were interrupted by my dad who was shaking me awake. "Kids, I want you to get up and go sleep in the car. I have been listening for some time now and I hear a pack of wolves. They are getting closer and closer to our camp. I will feel better knowing you are safe in the car." Climbing out of the tent into the bright night of the full moon, I heard the ominously eerie howls my dad was talking about. They curled my toenails.
That was a long night. We all slept cramped and cold and safe in our red station wagon. Kinked and shivering, the morning didn't come soon enough. Driving home the next day, my dad spotted a ranger station. "Let's go in and ask them about the wolves," he said. I, too, wanted to know if the dangerous man-eating wolves had a predilection for little kids. So we stopped.
The conversation went like this:
Dad: Are there wolves in this area?
Ranger: Oh no. There are no wolves around these parts.
Dad: Well, I could have sworn I heard a wolf howl last night.
Ranger: Oh that was a loon. It sounds just like a wolf. Scares a lot of folks. But it's harmless.
Following dad's lead, we all just burst out laughing. He had saved us from a sweet beautiful bird.
Dad: thanks for your love, wisdom, advice, time and protecting care.
I love you one million loons.
I love you one million loons.