Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Make Every Day Count: My Hero

I wrote this in January before I flew out to South Carolina to help my parents during my dads surgery and recovery. I told Dad all about it. However, I didnt do the final re-write until sometime in May. I intended to read it to him when I went back after his second cancer attack, or at least over the phone. Sadly, he joined Jesus much sooner than any of us expected, on June 13, 2013. I never had the chance to let him hear the tribute.

I read the tribute at his (first) memorial service on June 20. Likely I will share it at his second in Pennsylvania on July 7. I share it with those in attendance because I think it reflects the feelings of most people who have been honored to know my dad.

After I shared, we listened to a song that played in our home pretty regularly as I grew up, while Dad whistled along in the background. It really does depict his outlook on life. The song? Louis Armstrong doing, Its a Wonderful World. 

When I take a close look at tThe part of my dads life that I've known for nearly 63 years, I see a man who always made sure our family of five had food, clothing and shelter, regardless of the economy. I see a man who let God soften his heart over time to be able to express his giving nature in a multitude of ways. Always active in the church since I was a little girl, after he retired Dad became an icon of unending helpful energy,
leadership, and compassion. He made his mark in the one church our family committed to right up to the day my parents moved in 2011. They moved from the house we made home when I was four years old, before my brother and sister were born.

My parents, Richard B. Foster III and Elaine S. Brancato, married in 1949. 64 years together on May
28, 2013! Their commitment to each other through the sacrament of marriage is an example the world should learn from. They participated in Marriage Encounter back in the late 60s. I think that was the beginning of my dads active spiritual journey. Everyone he knew recognized sweet changes in him from the inside out, that continue to this day. My parents were very active with The Emmaus Walk Movement for many years. They camped for decades regularly with their Jayco Camping Club. In other words, with Christ at their center, they found things to do together that made them both happy and that involved other like minded people. And they have always had their separate interests, as well. That keeps them from spending too much time together! All these activities have helped strengthen their marriage through the ups and downs of real life.

For over 40 years Dad, known as Dick, whistled while he worked as a meat cutter. He is still quick to correct that he was not a butcher. His vocation of carving raw meat into beautiful cuts was more like art.

And an artist he is. When I was little, it was Dad who taught me how to color inside the lines. And it was Dad who taught me some secrets to sketching; lessons on how to draw trees stand out in my memory. In a different era, woodworking would have been his choice of vocations. His finish carpentry and cabinetry in our home is his delight as well as ours, for his excellence is not exceeded by many. His artistic talent is visible in flourishing vegetable and flower gardens on their park-like Pennsylvania property. He can easily be certified as a master gardener, if he ever chooses.

Unlike so many men today, Dad has never shirked his responsibility as provider and protector of his family. When times were tough, he did what it took to make life work for us. During the recession of the 1960s, he worked four jobs. True, we didnt see much of him and when we did he was tired. But we had a home, clothing, and food on the table; and we were thankful.

Music is in Dad's blood. I am so grateful to grow up listening daily to every jazz album produced because it nurtured a love of music in me, too. Often he played along on his snare drum, which he still plays at home and at church. And when he isn't drumming, his strong and clear baritone graces the hearing of all. His love of music inspired him to start a mens singing group at their church in Pennsylvania; Band of Brothers still delights that congregation.

As my parents aged along with their friends, many husbands passed on before their wives. In Pennsylvania my dad became the chaperone for many widows from church and the neighborhood. He took them to doctors appointments and to visit their friends. He sometimes picked up the ladies and delivered them, along with my mom, to a diner for lunch; then hed go back and drive them all home.

He loved being busy at their church in Pennsylvania. And when something came up to be done, if Mom heard about it first, shed pipe, Dickll do it. Dickll became a phrase used by everyone as soon as a need popped up.  Everyone was certain that, Dickll do it. And he doesnt mind. No matter what it is, he never complains about doing or helping.

Making up words or twisting words or their pronunciation is one of his favorite fun things to make people chuckle. Like elphenants for elephants. Forever hes called snow flurries, snow furrlies. And when hes improved on something, hell say its gooder. His coined expressions and convoluted words have become known as Dickll-isms by many friends.

Dads jokes, silly faces and comedic monologues like the Bob Newharts Grace L. Ferguson Storm Door and Airline Company keep us all laughing. When company is gathered, he is a lively and fun part of the group.

After my parents moved, he didn't stop giving to the church. He and Mom dove right into a new church home in Myrtle Beach. They instigated changes in the young congregation that led to a solid music ministry and a program to record weekly sermons, for which all in their new church family are grateful. He was elected an Elder of the church to be in charge of building and grounds. And wont that propertys colorful gardens glow under his caring oversight and superb green thumb?

Dad has a love affair with cycling that he shares with many. He raised well over forty thousand dollars for Multiple Sclerosis research. In twenty years he rode twenty MS150s thats 75 miles one day and 75 miles back the next. Till when? Until he was 83! Through rain, and wind, and cold, and heat he pressed on with thousands of others who shared the same heart to help those in greater need. Once my parents moved to South Carolina, he joined my sisters cause of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and at age 84, did his first Century Ride to raise money for LLS.  A century ride is a one hundred mile ride in one day.

Dad always finds a way to make each day count. And not just for himself. His talents are always used and given for a purpose bigger than him. His beautiful flowers and vegetables arent only about his love of gardening. He loves that people admire them because everyone knows that beautiful flowers make people smile. He loves that it is his cuttings in a vase in their home, not store-bought flowers. Over the years, hes shared bushels upon bushels of home grown vegetables with neighbors. So, his gardening is shared, his music is shared, and his love of cycling is shared. His carpentry is shared by woodworking projects for others, his courage is shared by climbing the church steeple to clean it when no one else would, and his energy is shared by helping the widows. He is a man who lives his faith as no gift or talent is for him alone. Each counts in his life and the lives of others.

Everyone has faults and Dad has them like the rest of us. But his scale of balance weighs tremendously lighter on the fault side, because the make it count side dips with the weight of love that gives. My dad is my hero.

Thank you, Daddy. I love you.

Richard Bennett Foster III, March 9, 1927 to June 13, 2013.
May his soul rest in peace.

To share your thoughts or comments, click on the '(numeral) comments' link below and next to "posted by Cheryl Ann Wills.' I would love to hear from you!

No comments: