Monday, June 22, 2009

A Mostly Happy Father's Day

As Father's Days go, it was a nice one. I received breakfast from the Woodyettes and took calls from both of my grown children later in the day. Church was fun, with the Woodyettes both participating with the Primary kids in the traditional singing of two or three Daddy's Day songs. Jelly participated because she's still got one foot in both camps. She's officially in Young Women now, but still attends Primary opening exercises for her Sunday School hour.

Jelly was also recognized by the Bishop this week for advancing from Primary into Young Women. She had that look that folks used to get when stake presidents would call folks up to speak during ward conferences years ago. Bishop would have done this last week, but her certificate from Primary wasn't ready yet, so we deferred. Plus it was Ward Conference last week, so her first Sunday in Young Women wasn't exactly normal anyway. Now we're deep in the throes of preparing for Girls Camp this week. Our baby will be leaving us for four days! Yikes!

To cap our day, we drove up to Ventura County to visit our newest nephew. He was born early last week, and this was our first opportunity to drive up and have a little snuggle time with the tot. The kid's name is longer than he is right now, but this is a tall family and he'll grow into it. Cute as the proverbial button, and already exhibiting plenty of personality at the tender age of 5 days.

There was only one tiny bit of melancholy for me on this day of remembrance. I missed my Dad.

Mrs. Woody does our ward bulletins for Sunday, and she generally uses a picture from the Church's online library for the cover, depending on the theme. For Father's Day, however, she decided (after asking, of course) to use a wonderful 4 generation photo of me with my then-baby son, my Dad, and my grandfather. (All I will say about my appearance in said photo is that I had more hair and more teeth.)

It's a wonderful shot, and shows my Dad — who was never one for outward affection — looking down with grandfatherly pride on his newest grandson. I, on the other hand, look like I'd just received 10,000 volts by dropping the toaster in the bathtub, but I hear that's normal for new fathers.

The photo reminded me that there are still plenty of times that I miss my Dad. Given the fact that he was not a people-person in the classic sense, it is his presence more than anything else that is missed. Yes, he was always good for some succinctly stated advice when called for. ("Dad, I'm going to marry Mrs. Woody." "About d*mned time.") And of course his musicianship was second to none.

In truth, one of the constants in my life as a youngster, and even later, was Dad's strength of conviction. You pretty much always knew where you stood with Dad. (Generally upwind so as not to attract too much attention to yourself.) Dad was also fairly unapologetic about who he was and why he tended to be that way. Whether kid or co-worker, Dad treated everyone very much the same way.

So what did I miss yesterday? I missed seeing Dad sitting in his accustomed spot on the couch, watching whatever show had caught his attention. I missed his wry sense of humor. I missed his occasional snarl about some idiot who should never have been made a manager at work. I missed his unsolicited comments about my latest missteps as a kid in an adult's body trying to make my way in the world. I even missed him retreating to the sanctuary of his bathroom, which we jokingly called his "library." It was the only solitude he could find in a house with five very active kids. It also prevented him from having to socialize with pesky characters like relatives, home or visiting teachers, or even the Avon lady.

It also struck me, not for the first time, that I find myself walking more and more in Dad's own shoes. I have kids at home and abroad who need my advice, and who receive the occasional snarl (lovingly offered, of course). I have a long-suffering wife who puts up with my churlishness because she knows I love her more than life itself. I have adoring daughters at home who still love to snuggle with Daddy, even though Daddy is generally about as cuddly as a wolverine.

It's not sadness that I feel. My testimony of our eternal nature is far too strong for that. I just miss having him around. As wonderful as my step-Dad is, I miss being able to call Mom and hear Dad snarling in the background. Really. I miss that. (Official Woody Step-Dad ZeeMeister® never snarls, so far as I can tell. He opines, certainly, but I've never heard him snarl.)

But there are many times, when I'm in a contemplative mood, that I can hear Dad snarling in the spirit world, telling dead ancestors that his kid needs something to do. This would be his idea of keeping his kid gainfully employed in his absence.

Then he probably locks himself away in his eternal mansion's "library" and secretly smiles at how well his kids are doing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Larger Picture

It's easy to forget those experiences that make family life the joy that it is. We get so busy with our day to day activities that we get distracted from the larger picture. We (by which I mean "I") need to step back a pace or two from time to time and scan the spiritual horizon on which my family is perched; ready to go forward, but simply waiting for Daddy to catch up so he can go with them.

There are significant things happening in our family right now. Jelly turned 12 this month, for one thing. While 12 can be a milestone in itself, the spiritual significance of this age cannot be overstated. This is a veritable rite of passage for our young lady (yes, a young lady now; not a primary kid anymore!) as she enters the Young Women program as a Beehive. My little blond-haired, blue-eyed child of promise, a Beehive. Wow. She got to ride in the front seat with Daddy tonight as she accompanied me to Chorale rehearsal. Rites of passage.

The baby, meanwhile, is no baby anymore. She, too, is advancing right along with her older sibling. While Jelly moves into the rank of Beehive froshes, Doodle takes her sister's place in the upper echelons of the Primary organization. Jelly may have done her last Primary program in Sacrament Meeting, but Doodle only has three left herself.

On the other end of the scale are my grown-up kids. My son has turned 22. Yikes. On the plus side, he appears to be calming down somewhat. He's beginning to lose a bit of that post-adolescent edge that makes some kids his age absolutely hideous to be around. The brief time I spent with him when we traveled up that way last month, though, helped me see that he really can (and likely will) do just fine. The long view definitely helps while watching my son.

My oldest daughter, meanwhile, is facing her own life challenges head on. She finds herself at one of those unenviable crossroads of life; placed there by a man she should have been able to trust, but ultimately could not. The rapidity with which she is rebuilding her life, however, astonishes and pleases me tremendously. Not only did she get her own daughter baptized last month, but she is now taking Temple Prep classes herself.

Ol' Woody cranked his Jubilee Year up a notch by celebrating 25 years of working for more or less the same company. That is to say, I have worked for 25 uninterrupted years for whatever company put their logo on the building I was working in at any given time. So, even though the company name is different from the one that hired me 25 years ago, all my benefits and pension have grandfathered in. Another 15 and I am history.

(I got the watch, by the way. Cliché it may be, but it looks nice.)

But it is my Sweetheart that reminds me just how precious my family experience truly is. She is the one constant in my life. My kids keep growing, with or without me, and watching them is the only thing that ever makes me feel "old." Not my gorgeous wife, though. If ever anyone makes me feel young at heart, Mrs. Woody can and does.

Yet she grows, too. This evening we shared a wonderful epiphany of sorts. She had received an answer on a question that was troubling her somewhat. A couple of answers, really; both coming from Conference talks of several years ago. This was not by any means a testimony-challenging question, but was of the type that had not been sufficiently resolved in her own heart so as to warrant the need of guidance and comfort from the Spirit. And it came. Talking about this question together served to further strengthen our relationship, and reminded me just how truly blessed I am. For my wife, for my kids, and for my life in general.

It's good to take the larger view of things. Very good, indeed.