All about our Fathers

My father’s name was LeRoy. It was supposed to be Lee Roy, but they mashed it together on the birth certificate and his parents never bothered to correct it. So he didn’t have a middle name.

He grew up on an Idaho farm and served in the Air Force during the Korean War. He published a couple of articles in the Ensign (although I can’t find them on lds.org; maybe they’ve been banished); in one of them he tells a story of how he had forgot to feed the cows, and so when he sat down for dinner his mother didn’t feed him, and the lesson he learned from that.

I was born in Logan because he was doing a master’s at Utah State at the time. He then went on to get his doctorate at Colorado State College in Greeley (now the University of North Colorado), so I did first grade and several subsequent summers in Greeley. He got a job as a professor of education at Northern Illinois University, so I grew up in DeKalb, Illinois.

I got married in the Provo temple on 15 August 1980. My parents were not in attendance. My dad was having a fight with the bishop over tithing and couldn’t get a temple recommend. (As I understand it, he insisted on reading “interest” literally, and just tithing that. As a child of the Depression he had saved a lot and I later learned that he was one of the highest tithe payers in the ward, but the bishop wouldn’t give him a recommend. My dad could be very stubborn that way.)

We had a small open house in Provo and then drove home to DeKalb for our reception. My best friend let us spend the night in his mobile home. At some point during the night the phone rings. I answered the phone, and it was for me. That was weird, since hardly anyone knew we were staying there. It was a nurse at the hospital; a woman I knew, since I had worked at that hospital before my mission. She told me I needed to come, and refused to tell me why.

The hospital was just a couple of blocks from the mobile home, and as I was led into a little room off of the emergency room there was my mother. My father was dead. He had been returning with colleagues from a teaching engagement and died of a heart attack. It was the night before my wedding reception.

The reception was one of those cheap Mormon affairs in the church, although this was in the old congregational church the branch had purchased long ago, so it was a beautiful old building with stone and stained glass windows. It was a very somber affair, and would be followed not too many days later by a funeral.

In about another year I’ll be the same age my father was when he died. My 21-year old son Grant is already the same age I was when my father died. Neither of my children ever had the chance to meet him.

There are probably a lot of factors as to why I’m a faithful believer today, but I’m sure my father’s influence is near the top of the list. His faith was like a rock (much stronger than my kind of tenuous variety), but in an old fashioned western Mormon sort of way. He somehow was able to separate out the Gospel from the very fallible and imperfect human beings we find at church. I was raised with attitudes about as far from fundamnentalist as it is possible to be and still be a believer, and as my own intellectual interests in Mormonism have grown, that upbringing has been a godsend.

(Sorry for the morbidity of this post, but my daughter’s kitty, Playful, died the other night. We had him for 19 years, so it was a traumatic thing and death is on my mind.)

Anyway, tell us about your fathers as we celebrate yet another Father’s Day. I am genuinely interested to read your stories about your dads.

Comments

  1. Thank you for your story. I just love Mother’s Day and Father’s Day because you hear the greatest stories from people.

  2. I love my dad with all my heart. Most of the good things I do as a father, I do because I saw my dad doing them.

    Kevin, your dad would be very proud of you. Thanks for this.

  3. My dad was George Edward Parshall. He was named for ancestors, but refused point blank to name either of his sons George because he had grown up being teased by “Georgie Porgie puddin’ and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry.” He grew up in the 1920s in rural western New York, near Palmyra, and never heard of the Mormons during those years. As a young boy he collected family photographs and stories. Most of his extended family lived in the same rural area, and he used to mimic the elderly voices of the Civil War uncles telling of their wartime experiences.

    He and my mother met in Texas while they were both in uniform during World War II. Dad was already married then (which I didn’t know until I was a young teenager; his telling me he had been married before was one of the strangest experiences of my life. It felt for days like Dad didn’t really belong to us, for some reason). A lot of the servicemen and women stayed in touch after the war, and when Dad went to Mexico to get his divorce, he went to visit a brother living in L.A. and called on a few old buddies with whom he had been exchanging Christmas cards. My mother was one of them; they were married a week later. Since neither of my parents would ever tell me more about that, and since neither seemed to me to be especially romantic, this is one of the mysterious events in my family history.

    Dad was the one I went to when the biggest bee in the world landed on my arm and scared me; he was the one who blew hot pipe smoke into my ear when I had an earache and made it go away. I watched him get baptized in the old font under the Salt Lake Tabernacle, on the same evening my older brother was baptized. My own baptism was the first priesthood ordinance my dad ever did; he was embarrassed, I think, because it took three times to get me completely immersed. I didn’t care. He taught my 6th-grade Sunday School class on Church history, which was as new to him as it was to me, and may have been the origin of my love of history.

    We moved a lot while I was growing up because Dad was a photographer, specializing in scientific motion pictures, and you have to chase government contracts when your specialty is submarine launches and missile tests and bomb drops. The bomb drop assignment was his last before retirement — he would drive out into the desert and mark a huge circle around his mount so that the pilots would know where *not* to bomb. Fortunately, the stupid ones who mistook that circle for the target were also too stupid to drop their bombs accurately.

    I went to school in the days before Xerox machines, yet my school reports were always illustrated — Dad would make photographic prints of anything I wanted. My 5th-grade oral report on Scotland was illustrated by 36″ glossy color posters of every man in a kilt I could find, including the Dewar’s man in the ad on the back of Time Magazine.

    He continued trying to do things for me as he grew older, and it got to the point where I had to be careful never to say — even when it wasn’t a hint — that I liked something or wanted something, because he would try to get it for me, and he couldn’t afford to be that generous.

    He has been gone almost three years now. I haven’t been back to see his grave since his burial, even though it’s only a few miles from here (it isn’t on a bus route). Or maybe I don’t really want to believe that he’s really gone.

  4. Thanks, Kevin. I decided to share some stories about my father within my broader theme of Fatherhood as Communion and Community for tomorrow’s talk.

    And no need to apologize for being aware of endings. None of our children ever had a grandfather–both were long dead when my wife and I were married.

    Thanks for getting us all thoughtful. Glad to hear of your father, too, Ardis.

    For those who want a scriptural precedent for everything, these sacred memorials (call them obits if you want to sound fancy and Catholic), consider the Book of Remembrance of the Book of Moses as an antecedent for remembering your parents.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for the stories. I envision us all sitting in the pub hefting pints of (WoW kosher) ale. Keep the tales flowing…

  6. Funny how Bishops can do things like that, I never knew, until I was in my 50′s that our bishop when I was growing up, refused to give my mother a temple recommend because she worked part time as a substitute teacher, and then as a school librarian. I like how now days they have specific questions that they have to ask for worthiness and really aren’t supposed to deviate much from. I think the question now is, Are you a full tithe payer? Answer, yes, end of story.
    Then there is my brother in the stake presidency who thinks it’s OK for his kids to not pay tithing on money given to them as gifts from people who already paid tithing on it…..
    And he used to worry that I was going to hell…….

  7. I’m the oldest, the brother is the third of 6, I once told him he had Nephi syndrome, and he IMMEDIATELY said, “Uh uh,” Which told me that I had hit a little close to home. He didn’t even have to think about what I was saying…..

  8. I don’t have time for a substantive comment, but thank you Kevin and Ardis, for the touching memories.

  9. The following is from a tribute I wrote about my father when my niece died:

    My mom has a rare form of schizophrenia. My father was unaware of this, as was everyone else (including my mother), when they got married. He found out after the birth of my sisters (twins), when she was overwhelmed and her mind wouldn’t shut down and allow her to sleep. She had what was termed a nervous breakdown, which led to her clinical diagnosis.

    From that moment forward, my dad shielded my mom from every care of the world so her condition would stay in remission, if you will. By all practical measures, he became my father and my mother. My mom wanted more children, so he agreed – knowing that meant his responsibilities would increase accordingly. He shouldered all of the financial, household, emotional, physical, disciplinary, organizational, educational, etc. responsibilities for his family and allowed his wife to be seen by the community as the incredibly spiritual woman we knew as our mother – a modern Mormon saint.

    People in town admired his work ethic, but they never realized what he was doing behind our doors – because he never once mentioned it in any way to anyone. He didn’t want others to view his wife as anyone other than the sweet angel he had married – to do anything that would lessen her in others’ eyes in a time when mental illness was not understood.

    Until her first breakdown, my father served in various leadership positions in the Church. He was in a bishopric by the age of 30 and was highly regarded by the stake leadership. After my mother’s diagnosis, he waited nearly 30 years to serve in another position that required he spend significant time away from home – until his children were gone and my mom could function without the stress associated with raising them. He left an extremely well paying job with incredible advancement opportunities in SLC to go back to the small town where my mom was raised, simply to ease her stress and allow her to function normally. He dug ditches, pruned trees, milked cows and did other manual labor until he found full-time job. He became an elementary school janitor, took a 50% pay cut and focused on loving and serving his kids – both at home and at his school.

    Not holding a high profile church position, he came to be known in town as a salt-of-the-earth farm boy – a good man, but certainly not a leader. I bought into that perception until my mother’s second breakdown a few years ago, when her “sleeping pills” stopped working and her whole personality changed. It was only after this experience that I finally saw my father for what he is – as close an example of the Savior’s single-minded dedication to service and family as anyone I have ever known.

    He has a rock-solid testimony of the Plan of Salvation. It is such a given for him that he never even thought to mention it when my niece died. He knew it; he knew we knew it; it never crossed his mind to address it. Instead, just as he always has, he saw the big picture and acted as both mother and father to his family – giving us two beautifully balanced bits of wisdom – one spiritual that applies to all and one practical that applies directly to his own children.

    He told us: “Treasure your children every day of your life,” and “Keep (serious dangers to your children) out of your house.”

    If I become half the man he was, I will have become something great.

  10. Mark IV says:

    My father has been gone for 17 years. I still think about him every day. I have an audio tape of him which I am planning to listen to tomorrow, just so I can hear his voice again.

    He worked two jobs for as long as I can remember and any leisure time we had with him was precious. When I was young I was a pitcher on a baseball team and my father took several hours off work one afternoon to teach me how to throw a breaking ball. He tirelessy played catcher and corrrected my technique as a threw the ball into the ground time and time again until I finally figured it out. The scene in Field of Dreams where a father and son are playing catch is so fraught with emotion for me that I still cry every time I see it.

    He was my first and best home teaching partner. I got the feeling that he really enjoyed being around people who smoke and drank beer, because we always went into their houses and and talked and told jokes and laughed. He always used the same line as we were walking out the door: “Well you know there is a pew at church reserved just for you, right?” I’ve found that I often say the same thing myself to people I visit now.

    After his death, we phoned some of his old army buddies to inform them of his passing. One of them said “Your father was the best damn man I ever met”.

    I don’t think I look, act or speak like him, but when I am around older people who knew him, sometimes they tell me that I remind them of my dad. It’s about the nicest think anybody could ever say to me.

  11. I located one article, Kevin:

    Creativity in the Classroom

  12. That is a great article, Kevin. (Thanks, Justin.)

  13. My dad is one of those dads that didn’t have to be. He married my mom when I was two years old- and I never knew why I was in the wedding pictures. He adopted me and they had my name changed legally. When I was a teenager, they told me he wasn’t my biological dad- which floored me for a while.

    Looking back, he was 24, just back from Vietnam, and married a woman with a child already, stepping right into shoes that he didn’t have to fill. It makes me all that much more grateful for him.

    He taught me how to shoot, hunt, field dress a deer, make a fishing pole, throw a Hawaiian fishing net, build a fireplace, frame a house, camp without an RV, chage my oil, help a hunting dog birth puppies, incubate chickens, lay tile, lay sod, lay roofing- none of which were glamorous to a disgruntled teenager. Now? Oh wow, I’m so grateful for the resourcefulness and confidence I have because of his insistent lessons in non-girly things.

    When I had my first baby, he was right there, ready to hold his first grandson- that same grandson he is eagerly awaiting teaching how to fish.

  14. Dad was raised by an abusive mother. He had a 3rd grade education. His dad wasn’t around. At 15 years he left home never to return and rode the freights. The US was in the depths of the depression. Dad was a strong, good sized man at 17 years. He leaned to fight and turned to boxing so he could eat. He would go into a bar and pass a hat around and would take on any man in the bar, and when the fight was over they would split the take. He told me that in those days men weren’t vicious. They fought hard, but when one had a clear advantage the fight would end.

    As he grew older he became a salesman and earned a good living. But he turned into a boozer, not an alcoholic–he wasn’t addicted to liquor, but I remember him being drunk much of the time as I grew up, that is when he was around.

    My parents divorced and I lost track of dad. Then one day, to my surprise he contacted me and invited me to come visit. He had stopped drinking, and started a business and worked long hard hours. After a few years the business grew into a very successful venture. I finally got to know my dad. He was quite a nice guy and we had some fun times. He helped me on my mission, but would never discuss religion with me. He told me, if he didn’t know much about it he wouldn’t be held accountable.

    In my eyes, dad is a great man. I love him and look forward to the day when I can see him again.

  15. My Dad left us when I was six, leaving me the eldest and 3 others to the care of our Mom. Mom died when I was 15, leaving us orphan and been to a whirlwind of terrible challenges and afflictions. I was glad I became a member when I was 10 years old, that was 1988 and soon the rest of my family followed. I have no picture of the man who brought me here on this earth, not even a memory of him, he is a faceless man whom I do not have bitterness or hate.

    To my father, wherever you are, Happy Father’s Day!

  16. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks, Justin. That 1978 Liahona version was a reprint. It was also reprinted in the 1978 edition of Teaching: No Greater Call (if someone happened to have that old edition, it would give the original publication info). I’m pretty sure it originally appeared in a 1971 Ensign, but it’s not included in the online edition for some reason. The other article was three vignettes of lessons learned at home, or something like that, of which the cows thing was one.

    Tracy, all the cool stuff you learned from your dad points out an oddity of my childhood. My dad was pretty much just an academic, and he didn’t have the kind of practical, real world knowledge that yours did. He wasn’t handy around the house or under a car hood or anything like that. As a result, I never learned those things at his feet, so I’m not handy around the house either. But by some miracle of evolution, my own son is very mechanically oriented, and has somehow breached the lack of practical education from his old man.

  17. My father grew up on the mean streets of Salt Lake City in the late thirties, forties, and fifties, dirt poor and openly rejected by the more well-off members of the Church (well-off, meaning, those who were just poor). Somehow, his family stayed together, everyone working a couple of shifts. He graduated high school, barely, he says. His family were laborers, and he was probably destined for a job in the mines with his uncles if not for the personal intervention of his father, who was a fireman with the SLC FD.

    He had been a high school track champion in Utah, and since the mines were out of the question, somehow, he landed a track scholarship to a small Utah college. After a couple of years, a family bishop approached him about a mission (and paid for it anonymously). Dad slowly developed his intellectual side on his mission. He developed a love for the gospel and the history. Upon his return, he realized that his missionary efforts had taught him how to learn. He still couldn’t master math, but he claims to have taken every science class at Utah State to help keep his average up.

    Upon graduation, he saw a flyer for a graduate fellowship in Detroit — where he had never been. He took it, left his family in Utah, and became a graduate student. He happened to meet my mom there while she was on an internship. They married, and he became a college professor in another dying rust belt town.

    Dad sacrificed some career potential to raise a large family of kids — including a severely handicapped child (now deceased). He couldn’t imagine putting him in a home. He and my mother became my brother’s primary caregivers, even for what must have been very uncomfortable and difficult care. Dad also wanted to be at every track meet, cross country meet, scout camp, basketball game, etc. He wanted a job that would allow him to spend time with his family.

    Because of the family, Dad gave up a lot of research opportunities, but I saw him “at work” — he was a master teacher. We don’t often celebrate the college teacher. He was gifted. In the classroom, he shone. (He didn’t entirely give up research. He achieved tenure, and was known in his small focus area. A cousin of mine said that one of her public health classes at BYU listed one of his papers on the reading list.) But he could capture your attention, even if you hated the subject.

    Dad achieved some of the trappings of professorial life — a house in the suburbs, a modestly comfortable existence, a retirement income. He designed and constructed an addition on the back of his house, doubling its size (full basement and two stories in that addition. I spent most of the summer as an 11-year-old climbing a scaffold and helping hang siding). I think Dad had help doing the masonry work. But everything else was the product of his hands, and his design. It is every bit a compliment that I always considered him to be a “blue-collar professor”.

    Dad was a big scouter. He was a scoutmaster, and later worked with the district. Both he and my mother are Silver Beaver recipients for their efforts, which I’m sure he privately considers one of his biggest honors. All six of his living sons earned their Eagle (we had no choice). Dad would drive us to our merit badge appointments, but he would insist on staying in the car even in the dead of winter, so as to not influence the counselor, who was typically a friend of his from district councils (but, we had to make our own appointments and do our own work). One summer camp, I was working on my Rifle merit badge at the range with a crusty old scouter, who figured out soon enough whose son he had in camp. That counselor rode me harder and yet worked with me harder, in part because of his respect for my father.

    Dad had the biggest impact on my career and studies, as he did with my siblings. He brought me my first computer from the university and encouraged me to learn to program it. Before that, when I had wanted to be an architect, he spent hours teaching me drafting and talking about architecture. When I faced a critical juncture in my studies at BYU and I had to decide to change my major, the man who never quit at everything taught me that sometimes, changing direction wasn’t quitting.

    When I was writing MS thesis, Dad and I talked every day. He was really my advisor and my committee. My brother is a professor at BYU now, and I’m sure that he wouldn’t have become such if not for Dad’s example.

    Dad was generous, even when he couldn’t afford to be. I remember a time when I was a freshman in high school, that a family in our ward was moving and the wife and children would be taking a bus cross-country to join their father in a distant state, right after the Christmas they wouldn’t be celebrating. Dad mobilized people. He made calls. He begged. He pleaded. He raised enough money — at a difficult time, in a difficult economy, in a difficult city — to raise enough money to fly the family to meet their husband and father and to have a few trappings. I still stand amazed at the memory.

    Dad never had enough money to give us an allowance. So instead, he taught us to work. We got a paper route and my siblings and I worked that route for years. Dad never took money out of it — it was for missions and college. But Dad got up every morning for years to drive us, when there wasn’t a 16-year-old child who could drive.

    Dad loved hunting and fishing. After his marriage, he stopped hunting, but loved fishing still. Some of the best family vacations revolved around fishing. When I married, it was expected that I’d take my wife (and later children) on the family fishing trip to remote Canada, where the point of the vacation was to fish.

    Dad’s been sick for awhile. He has good times and bad times. I’ve been privileged to have placed my hands on his head when he’s needed a blessing, and I’ve been privileged to have had his hands on mine. For years, Dad joked that he’d never live long to have grandchildren; now, he’s got almost 20. A few years ago, in a weak moment, he privately complained that he’d never done right by us children, that if hadn’t been so selfish and had a teaching career, maybe he could have provided for us better. My comment at the time was that he needed to gauge his life not on professional achievements or money or the Church callings he may not have had (while caring for my brother in the hallways at Church). His talents shone in the lives of his children — all active in the Church, all married in the temple (save my deceased brother and one on a mission now), all reasonably successful and struggling to live up to his example. His legacy would exist in a small army of health care workers that learned biology and anatomy and physiology and microbology at his tutelage, some of whom later cared for him in the hospital. About 20 years’ worth of university graduates took freshman biology from him. His legacy would live on, on the lips of the grandchildren who would forever repeat his jokes and tell stories about the times they spent with him. His grandchildren keep him alive, with a twinkle in his eye when he talks about them. His entire life has been for his children and now grandchildren.

    Dad was always more concerned with the means than the ends. It mattered equally the method as the accomplishment, and usually more. He taught me to learn from failure; I didn’t always believe it until I wrote a term paper on a failed research experiment — and got the only A in the class (because I could defend my methods and my failure).

    Of course, the best thing he ever did was marry my mother. President Hinckley in recent years talked about being equally yoked. I cannot think of a better definition of this than my father and my mother. They are very different people — different personalities, different outlooks on life. But together they formed a great partnership and a great family. Mom has been successful in her own right, and perhaps has enjoyed more acclaim and “honor”, but neither of them could have accomplished anything without the other.

    Dad has been retired for a number of years (my mother works as a schoolteacher now, although she was a SAHM for a long time). He spends every Thursday feeding lunch to the missionaries (four at the moment). He’s discovered email in recent years. He and my mom go to all the movies we didn’t go to as children, and he’s quick with a review or an opinion. A few years ago, he got heavily involved in FARMS and Book of Mormon studies. (He’s read all of the greats — including Barney — with his scholarly mind, and has opinions on all of them.)

  18. I have a Father’s Day memory not even an Amish boy can top. It has to do with Sally & Bud. The sun on our place in Idaho one afternoon was just right, with a hint of cloud mist, just enough to take an edge off the burning heat. The fields were quiet, partly because we were the last farm around to do without tractors, and mostly because no one but the Grunders would be hauling hay on the Fourth of July.

    Sally and Bud had a job to do. The wagon was loaded high, and it seemed to sway a mile each time we went over a bump. Grandpa and I perched at the top, holding on to the front posts of the hay rack. A wagon could lurch sideways so fast the posts would slap you across the face if you weren’t a farm boy with enough sense to plan ahead. Dad had a leg curled around one post so both hands could be free to hold the reins. It takes a good team to cross a ditch without spilling the load, and that’s what Sally & Bud had to do.

    “Get ready, Ricky,” the old man said calmly, “and climb up the side if we go over.”

    Of course we knew everything would be fine; it always was.
    Dad never took risks, and Sally & Bud were under perfect control. They would no more have moved a foot out of line than we who got up Sunday mornings at 4:30 to milk the cows in time for Priesthood.

    There weren’t many farmers in our ward. Most of the other kids lived in the subdivision, and their fathers only worked until 5:00 in the afternoon. Their dads had time to take them to fathers-and-sons outings. They got to go to the ward banquets and bazaars at 7:00 at night, instead of trailing in at 8:30 after finishing chores and scrubbing off manure. Their dads had money for boats and vacations to California. Their moms got together and went shopping at The Mode, eating chocolate waffles for lunch and planning who would speak at the next PTA meeting.

    The boys I played with were not the kind of kids I could just hang out with. They lived miles from our solitary farmhouse, and I could only play by special arrangement when one of our mothers had time to drive us around. In fact, I don’t remember playing with more than one friend at a time much except at birthday parties, or later in the schoolyard where, by third grade, I had to spend most of my recess time avoiding bullies and learning how to banter my way through the teasing I never understood.

    In retrospect, of course, I can see why they teased. The strange little boy who didn’t know how to hold a baseball bat and whose curly hair contrasted so much with their “butch” styles of the 1950s certainly didn’t deserve to be treated like a regular guy, except by two or three friends at church who had to be nice.

    “It’s okay, Ricky,” they used to condescend, “you do good in other things like . . . piano.”

    I cried myself to sleep a lot. My parents didn’t quite understand. All the love and support in the world can’t quite replace the kind of empathetic but uncompromising direction that could have come from more “intellectual” parents. In many ways, certainly, I was the lucky one, rather than my homogenous friends who grew up to be boring and functional. None of them had parents quite like mine; this I learned a generation and a half after the fact. But it cannot change the fact that Rick Grunder became different.

    “Get ready, Ricky,” Grandpa had said calmly, “and climb up the side if we go over.”

    Years later, when a storm was brewing one morning, Dad jumped out of bed and headed for the Ford tractor. “You get the cows in, while I rake up the hay.”

    Sally & Bud might have told Dad it wasn’t right, had they still been around. But it wasn’t long before Dad remembered.

    “Why, it’s Sunday!” he exclaimed with a kind of awe, “I can’t rake today.”

    We were different sort of people. My mother always looked like she had stepped out of a fashion magazine, and people told her she looked like Ida Lupino, the movie star of the 1940s. But she belonged with my father, a gentle rough man who had a hard time finding words, and who would have worn his overalls to go Christmas shopping if Mom hadn’t put her foot down. They were the ideal couple, so far as loving relationships go, I guess. He had to encourage her to spend money on herself once in a while, and he always insisted on opening her car door for her.

    “She’s a wonderful woman,” he told me once after I saw them have a small spat, as if to warn his boy that life only works when you keep things in perspective.

    Mom’s family reunions were the best. Dad’s side of the family was boring and constant. One or two of Mom’s brothers drank beer and swore a little. When I was about seven, I went to one of these Utah gatherings and saw a bottle of Lucky Lager in Pa’s fridge (we never thought of calling him “Grandpa”). I ran to Mom and reported the horrid news.

    “It’s for his heart,” she explained quietly. He just takes a few drops to make it go again . . . if it stops.” I think she believed it. Something happened to her when she moved to Idaho and married the farmer. The wellsprings of righteousness deep inside her began to overflow when she got with Dad, and she gushed forth holiness from that time until she died.

    “Death will be sweet,” her patriarchal blessing said. I guess it was, only because anything she did was sweet. At one of the Utah affairs, she and her sisters got to talking about Grandma McBride.

    “I’m sure she entertained angels unaware,” said Mom, the credulousness reverberating in her voice.

    “She never turned anyone away from her door,” agreed Aunt Maud. She took after Grandma McBride, whose experiences in a hand-cart company made her generous with food. Maud used to see urchins on the road and take them home to dinner. One time she got too many in the house and the count reached thirteen. The family couldn’t eat for almost an hour until Maud finally found an additional guest to break the spell.

    Grandma McBride was not my grandmother. She was another generation back. In our family, history seemed to blend together. When my older aunts talked about Uncle Reub, I never knew but what they meant Pa’s great-Uncle Reuben McBride. Reub took care of the Kirtland Temple after the “Saints were driven out.”

    Grandma McBride used to read tea leaves for the little girls. Mom wouldn’t touch tea, so Grandma would pour the child a cup and then pour it out again.

    “There’s a bear after your father!” cried the old lady during one such divination. Sure enough, in came Pa a few minutes later; he had walked all the way home, having been thrown by his horse when it was frightened by a bear.

    After my mission, Dad bought himself a horse. He mumbled something about irrigating. But Horse would have nothing of it. When Horse threw Dad, Dad just kept him around in his own pen, quite out of control, without a name. Horse was no good, but Dad needed him, and he kept him around. Sally and Bob wouldn’t have understood. They had always been under perfect control. They might have told Dad it wasn’t right, had they still been around.

    When Dad died, it was like an ars moriendi incarnate. Dad said all the right things, then let the heart machine slow down to the count of one. He was under perfect control. I spoke at his funeral, just as I had at Pa’s and Grandpa’s.

    There are times now when Horse still gets out. But I always know when “I can’t rake today.”

  19. Lem's Thoughts says:

    RE #16

    Teaching No Greater Call (c)1978 pp. 56-57
    Adapted from LeRoy Barney, “Creativity in the Classroom,” Ensign, Nov. 1971, pp. 57-59

  20. Thomas Parkin says:

    A couple quick bits to try to capture something about my dad.

    I can barely hammer a nail straight. When I was 12 we moved to the middle of nowhere, in Wyoming. My father, with help from my mother’s father, built a house for us. We moved into the basement when the sub-floor (what would later become the _floor_) was complete. We had scorpions and Jerusalem Crickets for housemates. Less than two years later, he built a house for us in Colorado, working through the winter. There were times we had to shovel snow off what would later become our second story living room floor. My parents were gypsys and the family adventurous.

    In his first job out of school – I was eleven by that time – he worked with ranchers in the Four Corners region. He would discover untouched Anasazi cliff dwellings, driving around the mesas and the pinion juniper forests, and take us back to them on the weekends.

    Around that time he shortly became very taken (not to say obsessed) with Judy Collins album, Judith. I remember hearing him play it while I was going to sleep. Every now and then I will listen to the first side, and feel completely safe and cared for.

    Now he is having a nice and, I think, unexpected coda working in the Church History library. I know he sees Ardis from time to time.

    My dad has never been afraid to ask questions. Although our family was in many respects very orthodox, and my father served in leadership positions, the answer to no question was ever fixed or pre-determined, and no course of conversation was out of bounds. Everything was meant to be explored and searched through. It is almost entirely due to my father that I personally suffer no dissonance between my own orthodox and heterodox tendancies. I grew up thinking that to be able to hold tension between the two was the marker of a Mormon.

    My father over the years has become a very gentle person. He genuinely cares for other people, is interested in them, and wishes the best for them. He doesn’t testify, there is nothing that loud about his belief, but when I’m alone with him and exploring his views, I understand where searching in the Spirit can get a person. My grandfather, his father, told me once that he saw a lot of similarities between me and my dad; and told me that if I turned out anything like him it would be to my credit. I pray to God that it may be so.

    ~

  21. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks, Lem’s Thoughts, that is indeed the original citation. I just checked the on-line edition, and it’s definitely not there. I wonder why the Ensign would expurgate my dad’s articles? (It can’t be for heterodoxy; that issue has an article by Ed Firmage in it online.) I checked, and my one Ensign article (from June 1990) is there.

    This is annoying to me, because I threw away my old print Ensigns on the theory that the entire collection was available on-line. I used to keep all the December issues in one place so I could go through their year-end index sections to find things before there was such a thing as on-line searching.

    On with the stories…

  22. This is annoying to me, because I threw away my old print Ensigns on the theory that the entire collection was available on-line. I used to keep all the December issues in one place so I could go through their year-end index sections to find things before there was such a thing as on-line searching.

    Kevin, I have a good friend who works for the magazines. I’ll ask him what he knows about this.

  23. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks, Ellen, I’d be interested to find out the skinny about this practice.

  24. Lem's Thoughts says:

    RE 22 & 23

    I remember a while back being surprised when trying to verify an original source that the article in question was not in the online version of the Ensign. I wonder if this is left up to the whim of an online editor or if there is a policy in place to determine which articles won’t be included in the online version.

  25. Lem's Thoughts says:

    Oops!! RE 21 & 22

  26. Here’s a post I wrote about my dad last year. http://thetatiana.livejournal.com/3020.html

    I live now in the house where he lived for the last 30 years of his life. He’s still around here, a benign presence. I miss him during the days, especially his piano playing, but at night he’s present in my dreams. Not just a memory or an idea but really him.

    Remembering those times when he would play that Rachmaninoff waltz and I would dance around the room, I know now that they were infinitely precious. Why don’t we appreciate the inestimable value each day of our ordinary lives and interactions with our family and friends? Why do they have to die to teach us that?

  27. Mark IV says:

    That is a wonderful tribute, Tatiana.

    I especially liked this part:

    hand me that paper there Charlie, I mean Laurie, I mean… what’s your name again?”

    My dad used to do something similar. On a very solemn occasion, like being ordained a deacon or teacher in front of all my peers in my class, he would place his hand on my head, the lean over and whisper loudly, so everyone could hear: “Let’s see. What was your name again?”

  28. Ellen, ask your friend to restore this article:

    “Teaching–At Home and Church: Cows and a Pitchfork,” Ensign, April 1979, 14.

  29. When I was about 7 or 8, my dad and I walked in to a shopping mall toy store together. Just as we entered, he noticed that on top of the shelves that ringed the entire store was a display of jigsaw puzzles, each standing up on end and angled so we could see the front of the box, about a foot apart, all the way around the store. That was too much for my dad. He reached up and nudged over the first one, and watched contentedly as they fell like dominos. He paused for a moment after the last one fell to let the satisfaction sink in, then turned to me and said, “Okay, let’s get the hell out of here.”

    True story!

  30. gst,

    That has to be the funniest Father’s Day story I have ever heard. Now I understand your sense of humor a bit better.

  31. Kevin Barney says:

    Justin #28, that’s the one I was thinking of. You are amazing!

  32. Kevin and Justin (#23 and 28),

    My friend doesn’t know anything about the archiving practices off the cuff. He’s not in the writing/editing field though, and I know he’s swamped for a few weeks, so I’m not going to ask him more now. But I’ll see him when I’m in SLC next month, and I’ll see if I can get any more info then.

  33. I’m a day or two late to this, as my oldest son got married Saturday, and I’ve been busy.

    My Dad was always kind of unassuming, hardworking, but mostly quiet. He pursued my Mom pretty hard, and they married in 1945 just after the war. I think he already knew that Mom’s health wasn’t perfect, but over the the next 15 years, as both of them became more aware of Mom’s many illnesses, Dad just stepped up and helped out. When medical bills took most of the income, Dad, who had been a big time outdoorsman, hunting and fishing, sold his hunting rifles and fly fishing gear to pay for Christmas presents for my two older brothers and I. He sent us away in the summers to work on my Grandfather’s farm, which we always thought was great fun, but was more of an excuse to get Mom in for important surgeries or hospital visits without worrying us kids (or having us underfoot).

    He helped me learn how to work on my cars, taught me through his careful example how to treat my own wife, and how to serve in church. That included learning how to sleep sitting up on the stand in church, a trait that I observed when he served in two different bishoprics, and I later had occasion to put to use myself!

    Mom, in spite of three different bouts of cancer, thyroid problems, high blood pressure, phlebitis, and too many other problems to list here, lived to be 80 years old, and died of complications from a fall at the hospital. I think it is in large part because Dad took such good care of her.

    Dad lived another year and a half, dying the same day my daughter was married, about 5 years ago. We got the word during the reception in our back yard here in Washington, that he had passed away in Provo. According to my brother who was with him at the time, his last words were directed to my Mom: “We’ve got to go, Doris, we’ll be late”. I have often thought that he and Mom got to the reception before it was over.

  34. Kevin F,

    That story of your Dad and his outdoor gear sounds like what my Dad used to do for me and my siblings as well. I still remember when we could not afford a car for him to drive to work because there were 5 kids to feed and clothe he would get bundled up in the cold cold Minesota winters and walk a half mile to the bus-stop for the trip to work at 3M. I think he must have swallowed a bit of pride to do so. He had a PHD and 3 patents at this time. In time we got another car but the memories have stuck with me.

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