Tag Archives: dad

“Mom, You Want A Cup of Coffee?”

My older brother dropped me on my head when I was a baby and he was only four.

They rushed me to the hospital, and my brother tells the story of seeing Mom, worried look on her face, not knowing what the doctors would say, nor whether there would be any permanent damage (whether there was or note is a debate we can have—later).

He wanted to help, to fix things, make things all right again.

He somehow managed to get a cup of coffee poured, and he went to Mom in the living room and said “Would you like a cup of coffee?”

Today, Mom got to follow the ambulance carrying Dad down to Virginia Mason hospital in Seattle. He’s been fighting pancreatic cancer, and a number of other ailments that plague eighty-year-old men. She had to drive in the pouring rain, of course.

Dad is probably fine, and he’s receiving the best of care, but from 1,500 miles away it’s frustrating.

I want to help, to fix things, to make things all right again. I want to go to the hospital and sit there with her and say “Mom, would you like a cup of coffee?”

If you’ve ever had a situation like this, tell me about it in the comments section below.

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Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Pole

By the age of nine hiking was a predictable process of pain everywhere for the first mile, thirst and chaffed hips from the pack belt for the next several miles, and turkey tetrazzini around a roaring fire at the end of the day. My interest moved to climbing some of the rocks that towered over us as we hiked. All I needed were ropes, carabiners, pitons, transportation to the mountains, and a group of people who knew what to do with the equipment to climb with. My Dad, his friends, and my older brother were mountaineers.

Perfect.

Every inch of our garage was covered in layers of climbing ropes, skis (downhill and cross-country), ice-axes, gaiters, pitons, carabiners, slings, helmets, packs, boots, crampons, tents, sleeping bags, bivouac bags, maps, and Velcro ties, enough equipment to scale Everest. Dad and I discussed the situation, he made the arrangements, and we ventured forth to conquer the Cascades.

Climbers travel in groups and do much of their work in cold weather. Often snow is still on the ground. There are people, of whom I am not one, who enjoy hiking in snow. They are the same people who claim the end of the trail “is just over the next ridge” and that the sheer rock face above you is “a piece of cake.”

We do not like these people.

We hiked across the snow to the base of the rock we were to climb, and while Dad tied the rope harness around my waist and legs and made sure all was secure the lead climber was sent up with a hearty series of questions and answers:

“Belay on?”

“On Belay!”

“Climbing!”

“Climb on!”

The lead climber was Dad’s friend Joe Kasuba. Mister Kasuba was Polish.

In addition to the belay-question-and-answer routine used during the climb there exist many other rules. The rules are designed to make a risky sport less risky, and to give a reason for the accidents that do happen. A very important rule is that the climber must maintain three points of contact on the rock at all times. (I must stress here that a rule is a rule, and that “points of contact” refers to hands and feet. Another body part that makes contact with the rock is not a legitimate point of contact. It is unsafe, and it is stylistically a kluge–an inelegant solution to the problem.)

Telling a fellow climber he is in violation of a climbing rule must be done for safety’s sake but requires a certain, how shall I say, discretion. A soft whisper in a colleague’s ear while no one is looking, perhaps. The whisper itself can be as informal as the relationship dictates. Many climbers are old friends and one might whisper to another something like “please get your great damn boot off the rope, Stew.”

Mister Kasuba climbed the rock face carefully and well. Seventy feet into the climb he found good hand holds above a narrow shelf of rock but the shelf was too high to step up onto it with his foot. I watched in horror as he put his left knee on the shelf, leaned forward, pulled himself up, and stood up.

In my shock I lost the good manners natural to all nine-year-olds and shouted “You’re not supposed to use your knee, Mister Kasuba!” My words echoed off the surrounding cliffs. “… your KNEE!… your KNEE… your KNEE.”

“That’s how we do it in Poland!” he shouted without a moment’s hesitation. Everyone laughed and I could only believe that it was so Mr. Kasuba would not feel ashamed about his blatant violation of the rules. I made a mental note to speak to him later to make sure he had taken the lesson to heart.

I climbed next behind Mister Kasuba and summited without once pretending my knee was a point of contact. (Those of us with some skill and self-discipline are wise to set an example for the others.) At the summit we signed our names in the summit book and shared Dad’s pepperoni stick (a necessary part of any climbing expedition). After the pepperoni we rappelled down the face and glissaded down the snow field. Glissading is the only good part about hiking on the snow, it means to sit down and make a controlled slide to the bottom of the snowfield.

I never did get the chance to speak to Mister Kasuba about the incident but the story has been told hundreds of times. I’m sure by now he’s learned the error of his ways.

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Teaching Myself

When I was four I decided it was high time for me to learn how to ski. My schedule was pretty open, and I had all the necessary clothing. I lived in Seattle and Stevens’ Pass was only 78 miles east on Highway 2. All I needed were skis, boots, poles, goggles, and a ride to the ski area.

I knew I could rent the equipment once I got to Stevens, and that meant transportation was the only obstacle. Mom was busy making lunches, cleaning the kitchen floor, and watching my younger brother, John, who had a habit of running out the front door naked if left unattended. All Dad did was work six AM to two PM Monday through Friday; he didn’t do anything at all once he got home, and his weekends were completely free. After my midday nap I waited for him to get home so I could pop the question to him.

I had tapped into a hitherto unknown desire because the next thing I knew my red skis and I were at Stevens Pass being whisked up the rope tow while mom waited in the lodge with John and my older brother, Stewart made his way up the tow on his own.

Rope tows were defective in those days. They were set so high off the ground that a two-and-a-half-foot-tall four-year old couldn’t reach the rope. I made arrangements with Dad to take me up the tow by tucking me between his legs while he held the rope with one hand and me with the other.

I discovered that placing my skis in a snow plow* configuration and shifting my weight from the inside of one ski to the inside of the other, while keeping my poles out front ready to mash the moguls as I picked up speed was the best way to make a controlled and elegant descent. From there it was an easy progression to Seventh Heaven (the top run at Stevens Pass) and first tracks in powder so deep it was over my head.

My advice? Teach yourself. It’s a lot easier than depending upon someone else’s schedule and expertise.

Next Week: Teaching Myself To Rock Climb, Age Nine

 ***

*The snow plow is not a wedge, as it is commonly referred to today. You’re not “wedging” your skis between your boots and the snow, you’re “plowing” snow by putting your skis in a “V”. (If you snow plow in deep snow you ruin the hill for others who want to ski through the deep snow and not the bare track you just left behind. You are now in a position of humility and subject to the ridicule of other skiers shouting “Powder Pig!” at you from their seat of shame on the chair lift above you.) It’s a plow, not a wedge.

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Dad’s Challenge, Woman’s Hope


The 21-Day Dad’s Challenge: Three Weeks To A Better Relationship With Your Kids, edited by Carey Casey, CEO of the National Center For Fathering, a Focus On The Family resource published by Tyndale House, offers a concrete challenge and plan of action for men who have decided to become the fathers God made them to be.
Each day is an essay written by Carey Casey, Josh McDowell, Tony Dungy, and others who by dint of their relationships with their children and families and their experience and expertise in family relational matters have much to offer the aspiring father. The “days” are chapters that offer specific advice such as making fatherhood fun, doing what your kids want to do, being there for your children, admitting when you’re wrong, how to be encouraging, unforgettable, strong, and in short everything God made man to be and everything a man’s children and wife wishes him to be.
There are no surprises in the book. It is designed to be very task-oriented, each day/chapter ending with a man’s challenge and his plan, where he fills in the blanks of his own life and his own steps toward a better relationship with his children. The book closes with Bonus Challenges on listening from Dr. “Coach” Gordon, and affirmation by Dr. Ken Canfield.
This book is not for the man who is uncommitted to making his relationship with his children better in every way. It is a practical guide for the man who wants to commit but may not know which steps to take. This book offers those steps.
I received a copy of this book at no charge from Tyndale House in exchange for a review.

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“Let There Be Light.” BANG!

   We all come at the truth by different roads, but truth is still truth. Many people have to understand the facts of Jesus’ divine work before they will investigate further.

   “There is no intellectual road to God. The only way that we know God is by way of his revelation. It is not a mathematical formula that brings us to faith, but it is His amazing grace…. God, I think, is quite happy…. to cater to our intellectual integrity, but not to pander to our intellectual arrogance. He does not invite us to remove our brains and put it under the seat in order that we might come to faith. But it is as Augusten said, ‘faith, seeking understanding.’” Alistair Begg

“You will never get to grips with the message of Jesus from the safe distance of detached curiosity.” Alistair Begg

   My dad wrote his testimony to me yesterday. The full text is below. Dad’s an engineer, and a scientist (as a hobby, no less). He is a prime example of the truth of God’s word, and the validity of the statements above by Pastor Alistair Begg.

Dad’s Testimony: “Let There Be Light.” BANG!

“Here’s the stuff on science and on why I believe in God:

   “The science is definitive in that the universe was created by the “Big Bang” about 14 billion years ago.  This phenomenon made possible the creation of the stars and the planets. Earth was created 4 billion years ago.  Merely 150,000 years later, life appeared on earth. The unique combinations of the comparisons of the half lives of two of three elements give us this data with remarkable accuracy.

   “Consider this:  In one millisecond of time after the initial ‘Bang,’ the universe cooled enough to ‘condense out’ matter and anti matter.  In that initial fraction of time, matter and anti matter, “quarks” and “anti quarks”, collided.  It would be expected that this process would be symmetrical.  But,  if the process had been symmetrical,  matter would have been annihilated and a photon created and the universe turned in to pure radiation. 

   “But, there was an asymmetry.  For about every billion pairs of matter, one extra “quark” was created.  That “quark” makes up the mass of our universe.

   “The universe’s rate of expansion is still measurably close to the initial critical rate of expansion at the moment of the “Big Bang” .  If the expansion rate one second after the ‘Big Bang’ had been smaller by even one part in 100,000 thousand  million million, the universe would have collapsed on itself way before now.  If the rate of expansion had been greater by even one part in a million, stars and planets could not have formed.

   “The way that the universe expanded after the Big Bang depended on how much total mass and energy the universe had and also on the strength of the gravitational constant.  The fine tuning of each of these physical constants cannot be explained.  There are 15 physical constants whose values are unpredictable.  They are a given value.  They are what they are.  They include the speed of light and gravity.  

   “One physicist wrote “… Why did the universe start out with so nearly the critical rate of expansion that separates models that re-collapse from those that go on expanding forever, that even now, 10,000 million years later, it is still expanding at nearly the critical rate?”

   “Not only is the existence of the universe very improbable; the formation of the elements is even more unbelievable.  Protons and Neutrons are held together in the universe by a strong nuclear force.  A slightly weaker force would have allowed only the formation of universal Hydrogen.  If the force had been slightly stronger, only Helium would have been created instead of the initial 25% that has allowed the stars to create the heavier elements.  This nuclear force appears to have been the ‘exact’ force required to create Carbon.  If this force had been only slightly stronger, any Carbon would have been converted to Oxygen.  Life on earth would not exist.

   “The existence of a universe as we know it is just wildly improbable.

   “The same improbability occurs in the formation of the heavier elements.  If the nuclear force holding these elements together was only slightly weaker, then the universe would be pure hydrogen.  However, a slightly stronger nuclear force  would have converted the universe’s hydrogen to helium.  But 25% of the helium was allowed to form early in the Big Bang, and this allowed the fusion furnaces of stars and their ability to generate heavier elements to be created.  Added to this the fact that the nuclear force appears to be tuned just enough to allow the formation of Carbon.  Had that force been even slightly more powerful, all the Carbon would have converted to Oxygen.

   “Many believe this was a remarkable accident.  Others believe that a Divine hand was involved.  I subscribe to the latter.  The reason being that there is too much evidence of the existence of a moral structure that guided civilizations long before the advent of the formal religions; that this structure was simply there and was recognizable to civilizations.  So much so, that their societies and societal law were organized around this structure.  It is called the law of right and wrong; or natural law.  C.S. Lewis called it the “Moral Law”.  According to C.S. Lewis, elements of this law can be found in every ancient society.  He suggests that the skeptic go to the Library and read some of the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. What is found is a massive unanimity of the practical reason in man.  From the Babylonians to the Aussie Aborigines, there are the “same denunciations of oppression, murder, treachery and falsehood and the same injunctions of kindness to the aged, to the young and the weak, of giving, of impartiality and honesty.”

   “It is easy for the scientist to conclude from these miracles that a Creator existed from the beginning and before time.  That is why I’m a believer and a Christian.

   “If God exists, then He is supernatural.  If He is supernatural, then He is not limited by natural laws.  If He is not limited by natural laws, then there is no reason He should be limited by time.  If He is not limited by time, then He is in the past, the present and the future.”

Love,

Your Father

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Grandma’s Bedtime Stories

When my Grandma Leicester was alive, she’d invite one of her three grandchildren over to her house to spend the night. I can only remember once when two or even all three of us were there. Regardless, no matter who was there, as soon as you woke up you went and lay in bed with Grandma. Grandpa just rolled over and pretended to stay asleep. Grandma would tell stories, and soon we’d ask for our favorites.

“Grandma, tell me the story of you and your sisters camping, and Dorothy….” I’d collapse into a fit of giggles at that point.

Grandma would smile and say something, then she’d tell the story, again.

“There were five girls in my family, and we used to go camping in a covered wagon. We’d sleep out under the stars in big quilts, all sisters lined up together. Dorothy was always on one end, being the youngest, and there was an incline to the ground on which we were laying. Well, Dorothy wasn’t trained yet, so every time she’d wet the bed. And she wouldn’t say anything, we would just slowly feel like our quilts were getting wet, and then… DOROTHY! And we’d all laugh and our mom and dad would get up and clean up dorothy and we’d have to sleep in old wet pee beds all night until we could lay the quilts out in the sun the next day.”

I still love that story. And I can see Grandma smiling.

Epilogue:

I had to ask Dad this morning which one of the sisters was the youngest, and he told me that Dorothy lived with he and his mom and dad (Grandma and Grandpa Leicester) during the war while her husband Jimmy, who was in the Navy, was out fighting World War II. Dorothy was very sensitive, jumped at loud noises and such. Well, dad hid in a closet one day and he scratched at the inside of the door when he heard her go by. She opened the door with a big butcher knife in her hand and she almost cut dad’s throat. It scared both of them half to death.

That’s my family.

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A Packard 180 and a 384 Winchester

Dad told me this story again the other day, over the phone. I heard it the first time when us four kids and mom and dad were having dinner at Peohe’s. We were celebrating mom and dad’s fiftieth wedding anniversary. We laughed so hard that the other diners were giving us the stinkeye.

Here’s the story as Dad tells it.

“It was in the late ‘40s, after the war was over. It was deer season. Harold (dad’s uncle) had a neighbor, Fred A., who’d never hunted, probably never even held a gun. He asked Harold if he could go with us hunting.” Dad chuckled. “Harold knew that Fred was a fantastic cook, so he figured he’d set him somewhere out of the way where he couldn’t shoot anybody, and Fred could cook suppers at night. So, Harold said ‘OK, Fred, you can come.’ The only gun Harold had that wasn’t being used was this huge 384 Winchester magnum that he used as a saddle gun, as a protection from Grizzlies. That was what he gave Fred to use.

Harold's Packard looked just like this 1941 Packard.

Harold's Packard looked just like this 1941 version.

“Harold had this Packard 180 that was so big, it looked like a mafia hearse. It had two spare tires, one on either side of the engine cowl. We put the deer, dressed, antlers forward, between the spare tires and the engine cowl, that was how we got them home. That car was a big thing. Harold and his son, Mike (dad’s cousin), Fred, and I packed it up with enough stuff for a four-day hunt and headed east for the Okanogan country.”

“There were lots of deer because they hadn’t been hunted much during the war. Harold got a big buck, and shot a buck and Mike killed it, the day before we left. Harold put Fred on a ridge-top and had him watch a gully all day for deer. He seemed to have a good time, and he really was a fantastic cook.”

Dad giggled. “The morning we left it was wet and raining, so we had to keep the windows rolled up in the Packard. And we didn’t pack very well, we just sort of threw the tents and packs and such in the back seat. The front seat was bigger than the back, so Harold and Mike and I sat in the front and we tucked Fred in the middle of the back seat. I don’t think he could even move he was packed in so tight.”

“Anyhow, we were ready to get going and Harold turned around and asked Fred ‘Have you cleared that gun, Fred?’ No, he hadn’t. So he put the rifle butt between his legs, pointing backwards, cocked it, and pulled the trigger.”

“That gun went off and it nearly blew the windows out of that car. I couldn’t hear straight for three days. Harold and Mike and I jumped out of the car and started pulling the gear out of the back. We were sure Fred had shot himself the way he was rolling around the back seat.”

Dad started laughing hard. “Fred started shouting ‘My nuts! My nuts! Oh, my nuts!’ Turns out he’d crushed his family jewels. Plus there was a hole the size of a silver dollar in the roof.”

“Ordinarily, we’d have driven straight home, maybe six hours or so from the Okanogan back to Seattle. But Mike and I decided to roast the liver of the deer we’d shot, and that liver was full of parasites. We had diarrhea so bad we had to stop about every half an hour or so and get out and run into the woods.” He giggled again. “Every time we’d stop, Fred would cry ‘Do we have to stop? Do you guys really have to stop?’ He wanted to get back and get to a doctor, he was really in some pain. He spent the rest of the trip home with one leg propped up on the gear, just to get some relief.” Dad laughed again, and of course I was laughing again.

I asked Dad if the story got spread around the neighborhood. The answer was no. I guess it was a more genteel time. Nobody wanted to embarrass Fred.

I can still hear Dad telling me “My nuts! My nuts! My poor nuts!” and I start giggling again. And I wish I’d seen the hole in that Packard’s roof.

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