Lord, Thank You that Dad is celebrating his 93rd birthday in heaven. You know that he pranked fellow pastors with fake calls (“Reveren’, me and my wife is havin’ problems …”) and sometimes answered his phone with “Joe’s Bar.” With a fishing rod, he once cast a jelly doughnut amid his church’s weight-watching group. But OMG, Dad always was and now forever is crazy for You.
In honor of Father’s Day, I’m celebrating my dad’s independent spirit. Until a few months before his death at 91, he never ceased seeking new adventure — and scaring his kids spitless.
Visiting my parents lapses me into Louisiana slow-mo. Lounging on their front porch, eating Mom’s peach cobbler, we watch mercury in the ancient thermometer soar. A hound dog snores in the road.
This Mayberry moment feels timeless. But it will disappear faster than my cobbler.
In a word, Dad.
My 82-year-old father, rocking away, looks harmless. But this man has given his guardian angel a permanent tic.
Dad regales me with his latest exploits. Although my parents rent Great-granddaddy’s homestead from my cousin, Dad claims responsibility for it. One morning, he scaled the heights — “No dizziness a’ tall when I take my pills” — and cleaned gutters.
When I choked and asked why he hadn’t called my cousin, he said, “Why bother her? I got time.”
However, 96-year-old Great-aunt Footsie spotted Dad on the roof. She told him he hadn’t gained a lick of sense over the years. A polite Southern boy, he agreed. Yes, ma’am, he shoulda called a young ’un to do that. No, ma’am, he wouldn’t climb up on the roof again.
Instead, Dad hauled his buzzing chainsaw up a ladder to trim trees. Suddenly, the ladder lurched, and he tumbled. Lying dazed, his life passed before him. Then, enough of that. Dad stood, revved his chain saw, and finished the job.
Now he sniffs the steamy air. “Something smells bad. Smelled it the other day, too.”
I gag. “Whew. What is it?”
“Don’t know. Thought the cats dragged something dead under the house. Then I wondered if the sewer was leaking. So I—”
He did, though deep in these pine woods, rattlesnakes consider a crawl space the ultimate in creature comfort. Still, Dad slithered through under-the-house muck himself.
No plumbing problems.
Now, he inhales again. His eyes widen. “That’s gas. Better check it out.”
Not with a lantern, I hope. Thank God, he calls the propane company, who sends an inspector. The man’s eyes bulge like a frog’s. “Ya’ll got a prob-lem.”
Years before, someone removed a gas heater from the fireplace. He kind of forgot to cap the gas line.
Escaping gas. In the fireplace, where, for three winters, Dad has built his famous infernos.
When my cousin discovers the current excitement, she calls me. “No more home maintenance, y’ hear? Tell him to take up a different hobby.”
As if Dad listens to me.
At least, he permits the repairman to fix this. And because of his alertness, we escape a trial by fire.
Dad ages me with his antics (my true biological age is 213), but he also has played the hero many times.
But will I be up for the next visit?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Does your dad age you, too?
Many pay tributes to caring but unexciting dads who worked hard, fixed things, and helped keep them out of trouble — most of the time.
My father did the basic dad drill, too. But boring?
A pastor, he refused to wear neckties. He led his congregation in “Joy to the World” … every Easter. Even my siblings and I listened intently to Dad’s sermons — because we often comprised the subject matter.
As a missionary, Dad approached challenges in ways that wouldn’t make Sunday school storybooks. Take, for example, the Mexican Chicken Wars.
Fifty years ago, our home in Linares, Mexico, featured an outhouse and nightly rat races. Though poor, my folks shared with neighbors living in shacks. Ready to open his thin wallet, Dad still drew the line at “Thou shalt not steal.”
Gilberto, the mission compound caretaker, said thieves targeted our chicken coop, an important income source for the mission. Determined to protect his feathered flock, Dad kept his ax beside his bed at night.
Those who didn’t know the Ten Commandments would learn them fast.
Soon, Dad awoke to the chickens’ squawking, grabbed his ax and headed for the henhouse. Stooping low, he spotted unknown blue-jeaned legs walking through the orange groves. He let loose his war cry, swinging the ax above his head.
The thief saw Dad — a tall, shirtless phantom with burning eyes who wielded a shining blade. The would-be robber dropped shrieking chickens and scaled the mission compound wall like a terrified spider.
Dad returned the chickens — vastly relieved the ax wasn’t meant for them — to their nests.
This crook, however, screamed, “Aaron! It’s me, Aaron!”
Gilberto had checked on the chickens’ safety, too. They were fine, but Gilberto nearly lost his head to Dad’s ax.
Throughout his pastoral career, Dad confronted numerous dangerous situations. He housed ex-gang members and ex-prisoners and provided protection for domestic violence victims whose husbands/boyfriends vowed vengeance.
That incident nearly drove his guardian angel to drinking. Still, Dad survived to finally retire at 77. He now lives in the Louisiana piney woods where he was born and raised. Occasionally the angel chews his nails when Dad, now 90, wields his ax in a forest full of rattlesnakes.
But the angel’s not bored.
Sigh. Neither am I.
Your extraordinary ordinary: What’s your favorite dad story?