Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Christmas card with Christmas tree over starry night skyToday, I’m not only wishing you all a very Merry Christmas.

I’m also wishing my dad a very Happy Birthday!

Born 80-some years ago, my grandma said he was the best Christmas present she ever received. I’d have to agree.

russ, rob, lou dressed upMy dad was born in Oklahoma, the second of five children, and the oldest boy. He is shown standing with his sisters, Roberta and Louise. Wasn’t he a cute little guy?

ila and lewis young familyHere is his family. Dad is the boy on the far left, then his younger brother John, my grandma (Ila Mae), Loletia, my grandpa (Lewis), Roberta and Louise. One thing I have always, always admired about them is that they genuinely liked and cared about each other. They were one of those rare families who actually enjoyed each other. Although Aunt Louise and Aunt Loletia are no longer with us, Daddy talks to Uncle John and Aunt Robbie almost daily. I think it is just awesome they were always (and still are) so close.

boot showingDad is a snappy dresser from way back. Actually, I think he wavered between being a cowboy or a farmer. He certainly always liked his cowboy boots, even from a young age.

biking buddies copyDad has always been a bit of a character, often either dragging his friends into the fray or following along with them. His family moved from Oklahoma to Colorado in his pre-teen years. He still speaks fondly of the friends he made in Grand Junction.

hula dancersAge has not dimmed his desire to participate in silly shenanigans.

in the brigAlthough the opportunities seem to have diminished. Dad is the handsome lad on the far left.

russ with dog and heart watchI learned a lot from my dad about relationships and how to treat people. He likes everyone and no one is a stranger. He can strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere, at any time.

teen russOne day, this handsome young man found himself moving from Colorado to Oregon where he met my mother his senior year of high school. Apparently, the girls couldn’t stop talking about the cute new boy, although Mom was the one who captured his interest.

wedding dayThey married and started a family.

russ with three kidsSix years later, they were the perfect little family with my brothers Doug and Kim, and my sister, Shelley.

russ on combineBy this time, Dad had decided he wanted not only to farm, but be his own boss. He and Mom started saving their pennies to purchase their own place, which they did in the early 1960s. They spent fifty years living on the farm.

russ and baby shannaDuring their youth, my brothers and sister were moved some dozen or so times as my dad went through his wandering gypsy stage. By the time I came along, they had been on the farm for several years and were pretty well settled into life. I think the last thing they expected as they faced their “middle age” was to welcome another baby into the family. From the beginning, though, Daddy and I were buddies.

He took me irrigating with him most every day. A lot of those trips took us past the local country store where we’d stop and he’d let me pick out something. Just one thing. Sometimes it was Lifesavers, or a Big Hunk candy bar, or an ice cream sandwich. Daddy often got Neccos and we’d share. He always reminded me not to tell mom about our little pit-stop.

Through the years there were many, many times when we’d do something and before we got back to the house he’d say, “don’t tell your mother.”

I never did. I sure didn’t want to get in trouble  – but of even more concern, I didn’t want Mom curtailing our activities.

December was one of my favorite months to spend with Dad. He infused the entire holiday season with his own special brand of magic.

We often hosted Christmas at our house because we had a big house that could hold fifty people, we had snowmobiles, a hill for sledding, and a pond for skating. It was the perfect combination for a day of holiday fun.

Dad would be so excited. Not just because it was Christmas. Not just because it was his birthday. But because he loved to have people over and Christmas was guaranteed to be full of good cheer and lots of laughs.

snow day 1

This photo, circa 1970-something, shows my Dad (standing by the snowmobile with the ball cap). I remember one year, we played outside so hard and so much, two of my cousins broke my orange plastic toboggan in half. One went careening down the hill while the other plowed off to the side.

my weddingEven at my wedding, Dad and I couldn’t seem to keep from being, well… us. Poor Captain Cavedweller knew what he was getting into, though, and married me anyway.

I can’t even imagine how challenging it would be to have a Christmas birthday like my dad. So often, his birthday got somewhat swept aside in all the flurry of Christmas celebrations, but he never complained.

You know, there are so many great things I learned from  him, including:

• Hospitality – you show up at Dad’s door, you are going to be invited inside, offered something to eat or drink and made to feel completely welcome.

• Friendliness – Dad always has a smile at the ready and a kind word – even if he’s never met you before.

• Optimism – He has always, always looked on the bright side. Something exciting and wonderful is waiting just around the corner.

• Storytelling – my dad loves to tell a story, and if he can make you laugh, even better.

• Dreaming – Daddy was a dreamer and he definitely shared that particular gene with me. And he didn’t just dream, he was  a doer who made his dreams come true. He taught me to never give up on my dreams or myself.

• Perseverance – If Dad wanted something to happen, he didn’t give up. He kept working until it did. I remember one year we  didn’t get much snow, but in anticipation of everyone coming to our house for a fun day of sledding, Dad used the loader bucket on the tractor and scooped up all the snow he could find, packing it on the sled run so we could still play. Most people wouldn’t have bothered, but not Dad.

• Happiness – Dad is one of the most genuinely happy people I know. He laughs a lot, enjoys life, and loves the people around him. Isn’t that what we all really want?

As everyone gathers today to celebrate Christmas, I’m giving a huge shout-out to my dad.

Happy, Happy Birthday, Daddy! Thank you for always being you.

Love you bunches!

Your daughter

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