Well, it is finally over! 2020 is now a date for the history books. I think the entire nation is rejoicing this New Year’s Day! It is fitting that we all raise a glass to new beginnings. I will be raising my glass in a toast to my dad, Jim Getts, who will be celebrating his 80th birthday today!
The picture above shows Dad and me when we were a LOT younger. It is July, in Indiana in the days before air conditioning. You can’t tell by the look on his face, but my dad is nursing a sprained ankle that he sustained while playing pick up basketball the day I was born. I was a fretful baby so maybe he is just smiling in relief that I was not crying at that moment.
I love this picture because, all kidding aside, it is glowing proof that I have always been the apple of my dad’s eye. He loved me when I was born, and I am fortunate enough to have his love with me still.
You may be able to guess that my dad was a dedicated athlete. Anyone who is still playing pick up hard enough to sustain an injury at age 25 is committed. He was an accomplished track and field runner, high jumper and pole vaulter, but basketball is where he shined the brightest . He was one of the stars of his high school team, and even dunked the basketball during a game, long before it became commonplace.
His high school coach lined up a scholarship for him and my dad could have easily gone on to play collegiate basketball. Academia did not suit my dad’s interests, though, and I admire him for turning it down and becoming his own man. He never stopped enjoying sports of all kinds and he encouraged my brothers and me to try out for a team during every season. I owe my varsity letter jacket and every chevron sewn upon it to his support of my own budding interest in athletics. I am able to enjoy a very active lifestyle thanks to his prodding me on to be a player instead of an observer. Thanks, Pop!
My dad worked on the railroad all while I was growing up. This meant that we enjoyed a very comfortable life in our small town. We didn’t have every single thing we wanted, but we had more than we needed. The biggest drawback to his job was that it often kept him away from home. Sometimes it would be several days before we were able to have a meal with him. My dad did not complain about how hard his job was, he just kept on. He never preached at us about the value of hard work, he showed us the way. Thanks, Pop!
My dad is an avid outdoorsman. He used to have a share in a hunting lodge and he has owned several boats and campers. We started camping every year in October when I was two, and my parents have not missed a year since.
My dad took my brothers and me fishing and showed us how to enjoy ourselves outside. We experienced firsthand the thrill of having the big one on the end of our line and the acute disappointment when it gets away. We had campfires, tramps through the woods and brisk boat rides on the Manistee River. His love for the outdoors is yet another gift he passed on to me. It has brought me much solace and rejuvenated my soul when it was weary. Thanks, Pop!
My dad has a green thumb! Much like his own father, my dad is a gifted gardener. Every summer his tomato plants reach over six feet high. He has more produce from the few plants he grows than I do from the many I sow in my backyard plot. Many years he comes out to the Mid Atlantic and helps me put my garden in, setting up my plants, giving them a good start, just like he gave me.
My dad is a man of few words. He will probably be aghast that I would use so many to describe him! I have not even begun to do him justice.
I have been blessed to have him to lean on. He has supported me in every endeavor I have ever undertaken. I have been fortunate enough to have his unconditional love, even though we have lived far apart for my entire adult life.
When I was a little girl all of my fears would vanish when Dad came into the room. He could make all of the scary monsters go away. There are some things from 2020 that have overstayed into our brand new year. The coronavirus has come knocking at the door of my childhood home. My Dad and Mom are not sick, but the virus is a real and present danger to them.
I am a little girl no longer and the Fear I have will not go away. It is hard to chase this monster away. For much of he day I can push it down, but out it comes, unbidden in moments of quiet.
Today I sit with my mixed bag of emotions. I am counting myself blessed to have been raised by a kind, gentle man. I am grateful for his sacrifices and the life lessons he has taught me. I am also afraid I may never get to sit and visit with him in person again. It is all so uncertain.
One thing I am sure about is this: I will never again take a single in person visit for granted. If we get the chance, I will relish each cup of tea, stroll around the back yard, and chat around the kitchen table. I will slow down and appreciate it, if we get the gift of time.
Happy 80th Birthday Pop. Cheers to you and all of the wonderful things you are to me. I wish you happiness and good health in 2021. I love you so much!
Praying faithfully for better days…