Dad died on August 12th at age 91. That was my birthday. I wondered how difficult it would be to write an article so soon after his death, but what I learned last week needs to be shared. It’s a story about what dads struggle to tell us.
Mothers tend to take the nurturing roles and dads typically are forced to play certain roles that are not as much fun. They are the disciplinarians, the stern role models, and often do not let us know how much they truly care. At least that’s the way it seemed with dad until this week.
Part of what drives those roles with the men that grew up in dad’s era as they had to work extra hard because life was not easy. I believe that people who grew up through the Great Depression and WW II are some of the bests. They sacrificed so much. They were creative. Their efforts improved the lives of future generations.
Something that stands out is how much they naturally stayed involved in helping others. So many of the organizations that were started during their lifetime required hard work, dedication, involvement, and volunteering. They never seemed to be “too busy”.
Dad participated in many ways and did not expect any recognition. He just helped where he could. A great example of his beliefs was given during his funeral at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church when Reverend Leo Kosch made sure the back doors of the church were left open, so the outside West doors were visible. A bright light shined through the windows dad had installed. The window installation was not easy. Dad didn’t want anyone to know he had installed the windows until after he died because he did not do it for the recognition.
No one remained a stranger around dad. A great example was a gentleman I met at dad’s funeral. “Bill” explained he came to Lincoln in the ‘70s from his farm for dinner one night and was all alone. Dad saw his 25-county license plate, which is “back home” in Butler County. That was all dad needed. They talked like old friends and developed a friendship through the years.
A turning point for mom and dad was when they were sitting at dinner at a packed lounge in Lincoln one night and a couple was standing at the door waiting for a table. Of course, dad offered them a place to sit. That couple became great friends that taught them how to polka dance. Dad’s random act of kindness started a hobby that took mom and dad to hundreds of dances for over 40 years after that; most of them polka dances. They had dance friends in almost all of the surrounding communities.
Dad outlived many of his friends and commented a few months ago there were not many left to attend his funeral. The reality is he touched lots of lives. There were so many that sent cards, called, attended the funeral, and have reached out. Thank you!
I thought I knew dad well, but it wasn’t until helping mom sort through the things dad cherished did a hidden message come resonating back at me that answered personal questions. I always wondered if I stacked up to dad’s expectations. Was I good enough? Did dad appreciate my efforts? Then I found dad’s 3” thick binder that contained the history of John Henry's Plumbing, Heating, and Air.
That binder was something dad had held hundreds of times as he put it together. Dad documented every business achievement, articles since 2001, advertisements, and newspaper clippings there had been since John Henry's Plumbing, Heating, and Air began 20 years ago next month. Dad knew I would find it and understand his message that may have been difficult to say out loud. Those are the messages we get from beyond. Yes dad, I now understand. I also know the challenge will always be there to continue to get better and I will never let you down.
Since this article is supposed to be about heating and air conditioning this week, please consider doing what dad did for years in preparation for the weather Nebraska gives us. That was of course letting John Henry's Plumbing, Heating, and Air provide service maintenance twice a year on his heat pump and furnace.
All things come to pass. Dad struggled with his health these last three years and has found peace. I can envision him listening to polkas in heaven and talking to his many friends as he looks for more!