Today is my Dad's birthday. Seven decades and a year. There was a time when that would have seemed ancient to me, but now that I am more than half-way there it doesn't seem old at all! I've known my Dad my whole life-- he had been here quite awhile already when I arrived. My earliest memory is sitting on his lap in church. I remember playing with the turquoise tie clip he was wearing across his tie. I remember stretching my arms across his chest to see if I could touch both his arms (not quite). My mother and my big brother were there on the bench beside us and I felt safe and happy.
I was blessed to have a calm, quiet father. He's 6'5" so he can get a child's attention without shouting--but I don't remember feeling intimidated by him. His method of discipline was "The Lecture". In a calm quiet voice, he would explain what was done wrong, why it was wrong and what needed to be done right to correct it. Then he would explain what needed to be done in the future to avoid the wrong. Then, once he was warmed up, he might go into the history of this particular wrong and the whole history of the rights that would have been better. Because he was tall, my neck sometimes became fatigued as I tried to look at him as he spoke. There were times when my siblings and I were thinking, "I wish he'd just spank me and get it over with." But now that I have the perspective of time I am grateful that he took the time to teach and not just yell and spank to get his own frustrations out.
He was educated as an educator, but in order to provide for his large family, he tried several vocations. He was a policeman for awhile. His size worked in his favor and he never really had to do much with the gun or nightstick. We were in awe of the uniform. And the gun. He was a social worker for a time. He speaks fluent Navajo, so he worked on and around the reservation in southern Utah. There were mornings when I would wake up to a child I'd never met hanging out at our house. We had Navajo foster children in and out for several years. Alcoholism was the main culprit for these children losing their home and family. I learned compassion from example. He went back to school to learn the trade of heating and air conditioning. It was such a departure from what he had been doing. He worked for someone else for awhile and then we moved to Orem and he started his own business. I remember watching him in the back yard bending sheet metal to form duct work. He did repair work, so he would get called at all hours in the cold weather to go and fix broken furnaces. Our home phone was the business phone so we all had to learn to answer it properly: "Hansen's Heating and Air Conditioning". The hardest part for me as a teen-age girl was not talking on the phone for too long. This was in the days before call waiting and voice messaging and important business calls trumped important girl-talk.
After several years at that job, he went back to teaching. We moved to New Mexico where we lived between the Navajo and Zuni reservations. He taught history at the jr. high/high school that my sister and I attended. He was the quiet strength in our family and I remember being called together for family home evening and family prayer by him. We were expected to be present every evening for 'Devotional'. If we had friends over, they were invited in. We didn't have much materially, but we were richly blessed. My dad served in the Bishopric and on the High Council. He was perfect for that job as he had honed his speaking skills through years of "The Lecture" method of parenting ten children.
I was tutored through his teaching and example all of my growing up years. I saw him help those in need--even though we would have been seen as the needy. One night in Twin Falls, there was a homeless man rooting through our garbage cans in the alley behind our house. My dad invited him to sleep in our backyard. The next morning we were a little shocked to see a man with a huge fro and beard, and dressed in tattered clothes, sitting at the breakfast table. After he ate, my dad took him to the bus station and bought him a ticket home. Another time, he bailed a man out of jail and began to help him rebuild his life. This man had been raised in the church but had fallen away. He lived with his wife and children in a house that was patched up with old highway signs. They started coming to church and they were transformed. One morning, I came into the living room, and this man was sitting on our couch crying. His wife had died. The ward rallied around him and we took turns taking care of his boys. Imagine the life lessons that were instilled as we watched the gospel in action.
Well, I could go on, but it would appear that I have inherited "The Lecture" gene. I did inherit the "There's No Such Thing As Too Many Books" gene from him. Also, the "There's A Certain Way To Make Popcorn" gene. I hope I inherited the "Love Your Neighbor" gene. Some of my boys got the "Fishing Is a Noble Pursuit" gene from him. That one skipped me.
It's probably too late in the season for fishing, so maybe he will celebrate his day by reading a book about fishing. Happy Birthday!