For my dad's birthday, Uncle Bob came up to celebrate with him. Some of Bob's kids and nearly all of my dad's kids (and their spouses) went to dinner together then went back to my parents' house to listen to Uncle Bob and my dad reminisce about their growing up years.
My Aunt Penny (my dad's only living sister) and her husband Brad even surprised him by flying in for the event.
It was a very fun night, and, I think, was the very thing my dad most wanted for his 80th, but even more exciting than the birthday night itself was my dad's big birthday present. This book:
It was a big secret and completely overwhelmed my dad. My sister Shannon deserves nearly all of the credit for it. She conceived the idea of making a scrap book of sorts of his life and spent probably hundreds of hours gathering pictures, scanning them, asking my dad questions about his life, searching through papers to find incredible things to add -- such as snippets of letters from his family written years ago, etc. She had my Uncle Bob, my Aunt Penny, and several of my dad's closest pals from his growing up years send letters, and she included those along with pictures of them in the book. She then had each of his eleven kids do a few pages (though she ended up doing most of the work on them herself). It turned out so great. Most of us ended up purchasing copies for ourselves to have. It is such a great keepsake and, I think, will be a great way for my kids and grandkids to feel like they know their Grandpa Gordy well.
Here are a few of the pages:
Here are a few of the pages:
I have to show a close up of this picture of my mom and dad. I had never seen it until it showed up in this book, and I'm not sure where Shannon came across it, but I absolutely LOVE it. I asked my mom about it, and she said it was actually taken after they had been married a year or two because she remembers having dropped baby Mark (my oldest brother) off to her mom while they went on an overnight hike with my Uncle Bob and his wife Carolee. Look how darling and in love they are. It reminds me of the story I've often heard about when they were first dating and had gone on a hike together. My dad had brought along a hunting knife that he was quite fond of and had been showing off a bit -- tossing and spinning it into trees and the like when somehow, they lost it. They searched and searched but were unable to find it. He was sorry to lose it, but eventually they had to leave. However, the next morning my mom got up early and went back up alone and searched until she found it. I can just picture my very outdoorsy dad thinking, "Now THAT is some girl!" when she surprised him with it later.
Here is one of the "kid" pages. Each of us had two or three pages in the book. This one is my brother John's. I helped Shannon put a few of them together. Most of them included pictures of us when we were young, a page of pictures that included our own spouse and children, and then random little bits of things -- memories of my dad, statements from our children about my dad, etc. They are all a little different and fun to look through.
There were so many things that touched me as I read through this book and got acquainted with the young Gordon who had not yet become my dad -- not yet dreamed that he would one day have ELEVEN children running about his house.
One thing that I really liked was reading the pages Shannon put together about my dad's parents. She had found and added small excerpts from letters they had written to him while he was away in the Forest Service. She had even found and added bits from the talks they gave at his mission farewell. The only grandparent I ever knew was my maternal grandmother, but just reading a few tiny snippets of the letters from my paternal grandmother (Pearl) reduced me to tears. They were simple and sweet and somehow, for all their shortness, made me feel like I knew her better -- and made me anxious to truly get to know her someday.
Here was the snippet from her talk at his farewell:
I, instead of thinking solemn things, have been thinking little homespun thoughts, like "I hope he'll get his vitamins, and I know he'll never remember to wear a hat, and I wish I had taught him to cook something besides hamburgers."
And, from a letter she sent him while he was in the Forest Service:
It will be wonderful to have you home, darling. We're all a little lost around here without you. The place is much too quiet, and the chocolate cake stays in the pan far too long! Rickie [their dog] goes about in a dispirited sort of way, even when we're lavish with affection . . . Be sure to keep letters coming to us, honey, 'cause they're all we have of you now -- and I do miss that bone crushing embrace! . . . All my love, Mother
Could she be any more charming? It's odd to think of my grandma -- writing a letter to her 18 year old son who was off on an adventure. Her 18 year old son who, 28 years later, would become my father.
My father is all I have truly known him as. That is another thing this book has made me think about. The man he was long before he was simply "dad" to me.
My dad, if you somehow failed to notice from those book pages, was (and still is) rather shockingly handsome. He was an outdoorsman, clever, smart and talented. His parents were well known and respected in their community. They all posessed a certain sophistication. When I see these young dashing pictures of him, I wonder if it was ever hard, later -- when he had a house that was constantly being pulled apart by eleven children, when he was forever having to give up his beloved copy of the evening paper to some family his sons had somehow missed on their paper route, when the sink was always full of dirty dishes, when he drove a station wagon and wore used clothing, and every extra cent always went to repairing something -- to reconcile himself to that life. To not think dreamily back on his carefree and adventurous days as a bachelor. But, to ask him about it, you would never think so. He constantly tells us what blessings we were and are. He claims he would have had a dozen more had the Lord been willing. If he had to live life a bit more humbly than he otherwise might have, if some, at times might have looked down on him for having such a house full, he's never given us any reason to believe that it wasn't in every way worth the cost -- that we weren't in every way worth the cost. I sure love that man and feel incredibly thankful to him for letting me come and grow up as his daughter.
Happy 80th, dad!