Sunday, November 15, 2009

Happy Birthday!

I came across an article by a dad suggesting that the best two gifts you could give to your dad were 1) to live your own life well, and 2) to assemble a collage of pictures of the two of you together over the years.

Well, I'm doing the best I can with number one. And the truth is, I don't have that many pictures of my dad and myself together, so number two would be kind of hard to do.

Actually, I don't have many photographs of us together. But I do have pictures, lots of them. They're just in my mind, not on paper.

So here's a collage to celebrate Daddy's birthday today.

I remember Daddy climbing up the big sweetgum tree to help me down, the one time I climbed too high and couldn't figure it out on my own. He couldn't actually get me down because I was up where the branches weren't as strong. He talked me down. "Put your left foot on that branch over there....Now hold on to the branch on the right side, and let your right foot come down to that branch on the other side...." until soon I was safe again.

I remember him meeting me at the bottom of the stairs after Bible class at church, by the water fountain. And with both a smile and a little regret, I remember the time I asked him to stop calling me "Sheil-o-bean" there in front of my friends! I was five then, and that just didn't seem dignified enough to me.

I remember going to work with him, sitting in a college student desk, amazed at the carvings and drawings I saw on the desk. I doubt I understood a thing he was saying up there at the front of the room, but I thought it was neat that he was the teacher.

I remember him in the garden, often in the garden, telling me what he had planted where, and I amazed that he could remember, because they all looked so much alike when they were just little green shoots coming up.

I remember him in the front seat of the car, me in the back behind him, everyone else asleep as we drove all the way out to Gallup, New Mexico. I was astounded that he could find his way so far, having never even been there before, and never once getting lost! (I didn't understand then how the Interstate system worked.)

I remember going out with him to the Harding Farm, where he kept his beehives, and how he would get all dressed in the protective clothing and the safari-looking hat with the veil all around, and how we would watch from afar, admiring his courage as he walked right into the midst of a hive of bees, or smoked them out. He taught us to stay calm when bees were around. "If you can stay calm, they will, too, and you won't get stung." It wasn't always easy, but it was a lesson that applies to much more than bees.

I remember too many things, way too many things, to be able to write about it all here. He is one of the most intelligent, humblest, and gentlest people I have ever known. He knows the meaning of love and faithfulness as few people do. He can diagram complex sentences and used to read his Greek New Testament in church--and he can communicate just fine with the countriest people of rural Arkansas, as those of the churches where he used to preach.

He's my daddy. My sister and I asked if we would need to call him Pa when we moved from town out into the country. And when he got his doctorate, we sometimes called him Dr. Daddy. And it was strange in college to hear all my friends call him Dr. Underwood. But even when I was in his advanced grammar class, he was still Daddy to me. And always will be.

Happy Birthday, Daddy.


Lucy said...

Has he seen this, Sheila? It's terrific, and so vivid. I love the tree-climbing episode, it seems such a metaphor for loving parenting.

I think I might keep 'Sheil-o-bean' in recserve for a tease though...

Iva said...

Than you,Sheila. Made me think over the time I spend with Luka. (again!) Less laundry and cleaning...less chatting on the phone while he wants to show me his new jumps on our bed... What is he going to remember one day about his mama?!