Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Dad

June is a month, in my family growing up, in which every one's birthday occurred...except mine. My Dad and Gran dad's birthdays were on the same day, followed by my Mom and Grandma's 3 and 4 days later. My sister's is the week after that. Throw Father's Day in the mix and you have a month filled with celebration! You would think that after umpteen years of this, I would have remembered to call my father on his birthday! NOPE. We are all celebrating together this weekend, but I am still trying to make ammends and ease my guilt because I forgot to CALL MY FATHER ON HIS BIRTHDAY!

The following is a speech my sister and I wrote and read 13 years ago at his retirement party. I dug it up yesterday to share what an amazing man he is and to tell him that I am sorry I forgot to call him on his birthday! (I have changed the names and towns because I am weird)

"Hi...For those of you who don't know us, we are Joe and Mary's daughters...I am Jen and this is my sister Emily. When I was asked if I would like to say something tonight, I jumped at the chance, well...sort of. I hate speaking in front of people because I am not very good at it, but I did want to share some things with you about Dad, the Forest Service and its influence on our family. The Forest Service wasn't just a love of Dad's, it was of Mom's as well. She grew up in the Forest Service with her father being the Ranger on the Los Padres for years. Mom and Dad even met at a Forest Service Christmas party. As kids, Mom taught us to wave to EVERY Forest Service green didn't matter who the driver's just something that we did and still do. In fact, Mom has always been convinced that she must have waved to Dad when she was a teenager driving to Oregon every summer and he was working in Northern California. While the Forest Service was a big part of our lives, being a husband and father came first with Dad. I remember being 3 or 4 years old and running to the office next door in M. S. City to meet him after work and riding home on his shoulders. I also remember on his last day in M.S. City, the crew kidnapping him from his office, carrying him across the street and dumping him into a full watering trough. It seems that even then, he was well liked and respected. Another memory I have in M.S City is something that scarred me for life. Dad was being demoted as president of the Rotary Club and was being required to wear the Smokey Bear costume. Now, imagine this...a little girl, 3 years old, walking into her parents bedroom and running smack dab into a huge bear with her father's head sticking out the top. I was certain the this bear had eaten my dad. From that day on, both my sister and I were terrified of Smokey the Bear. For years, we would stand on the side of the road during a parade literally screaming and crying when Smokey the Bear made his appearance. Pretty embarrassing for the District Ranger to have his children afraid of Smokey.

When we moved to U.L., we lived in a house on the Ranger Station as well. Many of the memories of Dad in the Forest Service came during this time. For those of you who don't know, U.L. is a tiny town that had less than 1,000 people living in it 20 years ago and a town in which the Forest Service was not liked by much of the population. That is a fact that Emily and I were not aware of until we became adults. Any negativity that Dad encountered during the work day, was not brought home. Living on the Ranger Station and being the boss' kids could have been difficult in a town like U.L., but it wasn't. Mom and Dad made certain of that. Dad is a man who has the wonderful ability to leave work at work and become father, husband and friend at home.

Being a father was and is extremely important to Dad and often when we were growing up, we saw the protectiveness come out in him. We used to set up a lemonade stand in U.L. in front of the office, next to the parking lot. Our business was also just under Dad's office window. We thought we were so grown up and doing this all on our own, until a huge number of H's Angels roared up on their motorcycles and into the parking lot to obtain fire permits and behind us, in his window, standing guard was Dad. He did the same thing when the parking lot was full of deer hunters with their trophies strapped to the tops of their cars. Looking back on that, those two groups, year after year, must have been frightening for the parents of two small girls selling lemonade, but we made a fortune!

Living on the Ranger Station as the Ranger's kids also offered us the chance to be spoiled my numerous people. Because the crew's barracks were right behind our house, there was always someone to play tether ball with or hit tennis balls to. We were even allowed to swim in the watering troughs that weren't being used on fires. There are two specific memories that come to mind. The first is sitting on the front of my yellow green Stingray bike and George Davis pedaling around and around and around the compound with me for what seemed like hours. Another involved a forestry student named Doug Jones who was going to the County Fair one fateful night. Emily and I had each given him a whole quarter and asked him to win us a stuffed toy. What we didn't realize is that those fair games are not easy. The next morning though, a 4 foot tall stuffed St. Bernard stood at our door. I've always wondered how much of his own money he spent to win that dog for the boss' kids. The dog was christened Douglas Sebastian and it to this day, is standing in a closet at Mom and Dad's.

Another memory of the Forest Service is an event that happened without fail, every May 20. The 20Th happens to be my birthday and the day that there was always a meeting in Sacramento that Dad had to attend. Well, because it was work, he had to go, but because he was my father, he made signs on butcher paper wishing me a happy day and hung them in my room from the ceiling for me to awaken to in the morning.

As I mentioned before, the Forest Service was a passion of Mom's as well. When Dad was on a fire in U.L., Mom would pack us up with blankets and pillows and we would walk next door to the office where we would camp out on Dad's office floor for the night while Mom helped out in the dispatcher's office. And I am sure, with Dad's retirement, many a dispatcher will miss the cakes that Mom made and delivered for EVERY fire.

Memories of Dad and the Forest Service intermingle and are mostly good. M.S.City was a gorgeous and special place to be born ad live in. U.L. holds too many memories to mention and was a fun place to be a child. P. has become my home and the place I am raising my own children.

Through the years, because of the Forest Service, we have made lifelong friends. (Then I named several people) The Forest Service has been a career that Dad chose but has become an integral part of all our lives and although we could never take a summer vacation because of fire season, it was a great environment in which to grow up.

People keep asking what Dad will do in his retirement. I don't think he'll have a riding, gardening, maybe even take a vacation in the summer, but most of all, being as wonderful a grandfather as he is a father.

We love you and thank you, Dad."

Happy belated birthday and happy early Father's Day, Dad!


Home's Where My Heart Is said...

This is a great tribute to your Dad! It sounds like you had a wonderful childhood with many rich memories..thanks for sharing :)

Anonymous said...

I love this! Sounds like an amazing childhood and what a great dad!

Twisted Fencepost said...

Great tribute!
Thanks for posting it.
I'm sure your Dad has forgiven you by now. But being the kind of Dad that your tribute talks about, I'm sure there was nothing to forgive.