To Dad~

I know that tributes to Dads on Father’s Day will be a dime a dozen, but I would be amiss if I couldn’t take time out from the ‘busy-ness’ that is life to pen a few words about my father, Don Oberg.
Mind you, my perspective is that of the youngest of 5 children so my end of the parenting skills development was in the bonus round by that time. My 2 remaining siblings have a different take on their relationship with Dad, but they would allow me to express what I experienced without argument, because they recognize we each have a different story.
As adults, many of us look back at our upbringing as normal – because it was – ‘normal’ for us. Whether that be an absent father, an abusive father, a drunk father, a strict father, you see where I’m going here? It wasn’t until we spent time with other kids, and saw what their home life was like and were surprised at things that were said or not said. They did things differently. They were afraid of their dads or not afraid of their dads? When we compared, we noticed, for the first time in some cases, that our dads were lacking or . . . perhaps we found out they were great!
I am part of the latter.
To say my dad was your care free all around great guy would give the wrong impression. I don’t believe he learned to be care free until later in life. I was the beneficiary of some of that attitude and I will be forever grateful.
I was raised on a 200 acre farm in Minnesota. We didn’t ‘farm’ as one thinks of farming. Dad had a construction company that covered a 5 state area and that was his business. But we did have Hereford cattle, horses, dogs and cats, and even a pet fox for a brief period of time.
We raised Chinese Ring-necked pheasants for a couple seasons, releasing them into the wild once they hit adulthood.
In short, what a great experience for a child. Barns to play in, woods that saw a grand fort or two, tree houses, a creek running through our property that watered the cows (and served as a swimming hole if you didn’t mind the manure). We even had a big bell that mom would ring when it was time to come home for supper. Minnesota is full of lakes and we had a boat that we’d haul to a nearby lake for water skiing and all day fun.
Dare I say idyllic? Compared to others, yes.
The important thing is, Dad was there. He was there for supper (unless he worked out of state), he was there for church Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night prayer meeting. The knowledge of his presence made for deep sleep, complete safety, and the comfort of unconditional love. I was oblivious to any danger, fearless in my walk, bold in my attempts at anything. I felt there was nothing he could not fix, do, or face. He feared no one, except his Lord.
He was a manly man. Only six foot two, he seemed taller. When he walked into a room there was a presence that was ‘felt’ and it may have caused many a male to feel like they had just been shown a standard to which they could never measure up. (Their voices got a little higher.) You can imagine the fun I had bringing boyfriends home . . .
With an enormous physical strength that often blew the minds of those around him, he was a gentle giant. Never a hint of violence. Complete control. Never raised his voice.
He taught us how to work and work hard, without whining or complaining. This is a trait I believe Dane and I passed on to our 3 sons. Hard work has it’s own reward – cliché but true!
Because of his unwavering faith, he would preface every statement with, “If the Lord lets me live another day”, or “If the Lord tarries,” reminding all with in earshot that our every breath is in the hands of God and it is up to Him to chose when we will be leaving this earth. It was this constant mindset that made his death feel as though he just stepped into the other room and we’d be seeing him soon! I was so happy for him, knowing he had finished his work here and was with his Savior. My joy for him outweighed my sorrow for my loss and made the event bittersweet. Tears of joy. Sorrow and love. Though he has been gone 32 years, my sons still run into people who will tell them they remind them of a man they used to know, Don Oberg, and when they find out they are his grandsons, they have the thrill of hearing from others what I have told them all their lives, that he was a great man who left others in awe of his strength, his kindness, and his love for God. What a gift, what a legacy he left our boys!
I believe it was Winston Churchill who said, “We make a living by what we do. We make a life by what we give.”  Dad made a life here. He gave freely and knew that his Savior would repay. He was generous and thoughtful. He gave me the gift of a life well lived and a joyful parting – no regrets.
If the Lord lets me live another day, I’ll finish the work I have before me. If the Lord tarries, I’ll continue to (hopefully) live my life so as to leave a legacy for my grandchildren – even the ones I may never meet. But someday, I’ll be able to throw my arms around the neck of the man who gave me life and loved and supported everything I did with joy and encouragement, and I will thank him for all that he was. He was my Dad.

 

Ode to Leroy

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I got home from work today and heard thunder rolling as I walked up the steps. My first thought was, “I hope Leroy didn’t hear that.” He didn’t. It was a week ago today, this very afternoon that Leroy breathed his last. I have spent this past week in mourning, crying at the very thought of him, wanting him back. I miss him terribly, and only someone who has had a great dog can relate to this feeling of loss. 16 years is a long time – it’s the longest that any of our dogs have ever lived. It’s well over half of our youngest son’s life and almost half of our middle son’s life. The chart at the vet’s office had the equivalent in human years and, according to that, Leroy was 98.

Leroy never had anger issues, never growled at anyone, never barked incessantly against our wishes, never ate the cat food  – well – there was that ONE time. I heard a crunching sound behind me coming from where the cat food dish was sitting. Leroy came around the corner – our eyes met – and he put it in reverse so fast, spitting kernels of cat food out of his mouth with a look that said “I have no idea how this disgusting stuff got into my mouth!” How could I not laugh at him while chewing him out for that??

I believe I can count on one hand the number of times Lee did anything wrong. He was obedient, kind, sharing and compassionate. If he were human, you’d swear that he was one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. He loved. He loved unconditionally.

He almost NEVER had an accident in the house. The boy could hold his pee forever! On the very rare occasion he had to go during the night, he’d come up to our bedroom door and give a soft ‘woof’. I never told him to go away, I knew he was serious and would jump out of bed to get him out the door just in time. What a great dog!

He was smart. We would talk about him and use his code name ‘Orange’ and he figured that one out, too. He had incredible hearing and you could whisper something and it would wake him up from a sound sleep. Every year we’d have our July 4th picnic and he was the most social dog, making his way among the crowd, giving everyone a chance to pet him and looking ‘cute’ for a handout at dinner time. When it got dark, he’d get someone to let him in the house and go hide in the bowels of the basement to avoid the noise of the fireworks. Loud noises scared him.

Which brings me back to the thunder. I will always think of him when I hear thunder. I would comfort him during thunder storms, hold him, tell him it was ‘ok’ . . . the rest of  his 98 years he was comforting everyone around him, telling us it’s okay. Telling the grandchildren that he would take care of them, that it was ‘ok’. And now, when I am haunted by the sounds of his last breath, I hear him tell me “it’s ok”, and I am grateful to have known him.