“Dad’s had a heart attack He’s in the hospital. It’s serious.”
No. Please no. Oh God. Please no. Don’t take him yet. We need him here. I need him here. His grandchildren need to know him. Our family wouldn’t be complete without him. I can’t imagine life without him. God, please. More time? Please let him be with us longer…
His attack was massive and a good portion of his heart was permanently damaged. Which he found unacceptable, as he had intended on living til he was 150. He had always been confident in his strength and proud of his body. The next two years were difficult for dad….he was embarrassed. He wasn’t superman. Even though most of his heart was not working, he wasn’t interested in slowing down. After 18 months of procedures, tests, cancelled treatments and postponed surgeries, he finally had a triple bypass in 1992. A series of unexpected complications hindered his recovery and we almost lost him a few times during that season.
Dad has escaped permanent death a number of times. So far, all of his dying experiences have been short-lived, so to speak. His heart, with it’s new automated pumper, is a scientific masterpiece. His body, which has been duct taped together on a number of occasions, is unbelievably still intact. His life, even with its tragic early years, has been lived to the fullest, everyday. He is perpetually positive, always looking at life’s bright side. He’s my dad.
“So… what do you think? Do you like it?”
Dad is excited. He’s taken the guys of the family (Jim, Daryl and Mark) up to Cultus Lake, to see a cottage that was for sale on Lindell Beach.
“Isn’t this the best spot? Can you imagine this in the summertime?”
His son and sons-in –law were sceptical. It was a rainy Monday in February, and the run down cottage and surrounding yard looked dreary.
“I’m buying it.” Dad ignored their lack of enthusiasm.
“It will be perfect for all of us. You each will get a room, so you can come up when ever you want. The kids can play in the yard, swim. We’ll have barbecues. Put up a hammock. Maybe buy a boat. We’ll take down this old cabin and put up a big house in a few years…”
It’s as he dreamed it would be. The new house is finished, with just enough special mouldings and archways to make it a “Pete Klassen” original. He is happiest when the yard is full of kids, friends and family. Somehow amidst all the noise and mayhem, he is able to doze on the hammock, at peace. Contentment (and sweat) oozes from his pores, when he tans on the hillside in the backyard, overseeing all that he loves.
So, where is God in all this? Dad’s never been one to preach or quote scripture. I’ve only heard him pray three times in my entire life. He hasn’t gone on a mission’s trip, taught Sunday School or participated in congregational singing. He doesn’t use typical Mennonite lingo, and he enjoys telling (and re-telling) colourful stories.
On the surface, he doesn’t “look” like a Christian. (Especially when he wears the outfit his grandkids have bought him; baggy black jeans, fat, untied skateboard shoes, and a bright red silk spiderman shirt.) And, hmmm, he doesn’t always sound like a Christian.
But he loves like Jesus loves.
I’m sure when he asked me to write his story; he didn’t think I’d squeeze a bible verse in. Never-the-less, when I read Paul’s advice in 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18, I think of my dad. He lives this verse out everyday:
“Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. Always be joyful. Keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful…”
In the spring of 1998, Omi died. For years he faithfully cared for and loved his mom, never complaining. Her “to do” lists became his lists, which he cheerfully got around to doing, eventually. He was a good son.
A few months after her passing, in the winter of 1998, I became a single mom to my three young sons. Dad instinctively knew exactly what my boys needed. After all, he’s been a fatherless child himself. Thanks to him, they all know how to light a fire using only logs and paint thinner. They are comfortable using propane torches, potato guns and electric tools.
“Hey Max. Here…” and he tosses my eleven year old son a set of keys.
“What’s this for, Bups?” Max asks.
“Why don’t you take the van for a drive?”
“Oh, down the driveway. Through the lower field, up to Nan’s store, through the parking lot, and back here to the house.”
Max gets in. Puts on his seatbelt, turns the radio up loud, rolls down the window and rests his arm in the opening. He feels like a king.
“Bups?” Drew whispers into the phone.
“Yeah?” Dad says.
“Can I come to your house for a sleepover?”
“Sure. Should I come pick you up?”
“OK. Can Chad come too? Can we build a fort? I’ve got some DVD’s. Let’s sleep in the family room and watch TV all night, OK?”
“Sure. Anything you want.”
“Hey! How’s my number one grandson?” Dad asks as Clint saunters into the room.
“Good. Hey Bups. Which rims do you like best?” Clint pulls out a car accessory magazine and they both look through the pages.
“These. I like these the best.”
“Same. The others are lame.”
“Yeah. Ugly. Hey, the classic car show is this weekend. Wanna go?”
He is Bups.
While I struggled with all the crap that accompanies divorce, my dad was a gift from God. After a lifetime of helping his mom, he was well trained in how to handle his daughter.
“Are you busy tonight?”
“Nope. What do you need?”
“Clint’s going to cut the lawn, could you come and do the edges?”
“After supper. Come in your van, OK?”
“What else needs to be done?”
“Drew’s bike. And I have some towels rods that should be hung…”
“OK. I’ll be there by 6:30.”
How lucky am I?
Thanks dad. You rock.
I love you.
A Time for Everything
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven--
A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.
Dad, this is your time to rest. Rest your heart. And rest your mind.
You've loved us well, and now it's our turn to love you back.
Know that we adore you...