Thoughts of My Dad on Father’s Day
Here are two shots of my father, Robert Sinclair Swanson, Jr. On the left, what are he and I doing? Read to the end to find out. On the right is the quintessential shot of Dad, because to him, punctuality was a cardinal virtue. Except for the time when Larry and I showed up an hour early and he was furious, because it meant we had been speeding. Safe driving was an even more cardinal virtue.
Volumes have been written about finding your life’s work but Dad was succinct; “You have to look forward to getting up on the morning,” he said and he did. Saturday mornings he would dance in the kitchen to his favorite singer, Joe Turner, the Boss of the Blues. Dad knew all the verses to Shake Rattle and Roll; “Get outta that bed, wash your face and hands, Get out in that kitchen, make some noise with the pots and pans.” Mom, who’s idea of breakfast was a cigarette and a pepsi, was not amused. There was usually a work program after breakfast; raking leaves, washing the car, but any trip to the hardware store or the dump always included a stop for popsicles, even between meals.
Father’s Day was the worst day in our family’ s life–that’s the day Larry was killed. Dad was broken-hearted but he set us an example in carrying his grief with dignity and grace. He met with all his friends and cried his heart out with each one. He reminded himself that he still had children and grandchildren, and he continued to find ways to laugh with us. He was determined see Larry in Heaven, and he set about living a life that made him worthy. He had tried repeatedly to quit smoking but the last time he started to light up he swore he heard Larry’s voice saying; “Hey DAD!” He never had another cigarette. He cut back on his drinking to white wine in the evening with Mom, when they’d sit on the porch and talk about the old days. He even started a men’s group titled Devotions, Dialogue and Doughnuts. A group of Greatest Generation men talking about their feelings? I’d love to have been a fly on the wall.
Dad made friends easily–wherever he went he soon became a regular. He was invited to a baby shower for the daughter of the managers of the Quick Mart where he bought his morning paper. Most men would hand this job over to the wife, but not Dad. On his own he went to a baby shop and bought two little blue outfits–he knew it was a boy–and had them nicely wrapped with a blue ribbon. Then he want to a Christian bookstore for a card. “I want a card that’s Christian but not too Christian,” he told the clerk. “I don’t know what you mean,” she said. Dad said, “I’m a born-again Christian. The person I’m sending this to is not. I want to let her know what I am without making her think i’m telling her what she should be.” And the clerk said, “I think I can help you with that.” When I think of this story I think of Matthew 5:16, where Jesus says; “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.”
At his memorial service a lifelong friend recalled Jesus’ parable of the talents, and called Dad a five talent guy, who invested all that he had and all that he was in service to others. Dad was one of life’s encouragers. I’ll always miss him, but the things he left behind will serve me all my life.
and what are we doing in that picture? Snapping our fingers.