Dad is a mountain of a man. At 79 his grip is still firm. His hands are made from the large bones and rawhide of decades of daily hard work. His eyes pierce you as he looks through your exterior to see your soul with love beyond comprehension, as if to say, "It'll be alright. Just keep'a goin'."
Born the second youngest of four boys and four girls, Dad grew up working at the saw mill and on the farm. His own father suffered from allergies and alcoholism, so Dad spent his teen years taking care of the farm by himself. He learned quickly to rely on himself to solve the problems that come with running a farm.
As a boy he responded to the invitation of a neighbor to attend church and became a devoted servant of God, attending his meetings, reading the scriptures and serving others. He wanted to serve a mission but funds were scarce. Instead he attended Carbon College, married his high school sweetheart, LaRue McElprang, and started a family.
Dad and Mom raised eight kids on a farm just outside of Roosevelt, Utah -- Todd, me, Ruth, Melissa, Rebecca, Maria, David, and Leo. We all learned to work and shoulder responsibility. We learned to love one another and to get along (not always perfectly).
Dad raised a lot of hay. He fed some of it to his own cows and horses. He sold most of it to pay the bills. And he gave much of it away to neighbors who promised to pay one day but never could. He never bothered them about it. Eventually, when David was old enough to go to school, Mom went to work at the hospital to make up for the dwindling of the farm income. But Dad never gave up on the farm. He worked and worked and some years were good and others not so much.
As Alzheimer's began to take it's toll, Dad did the bravest and most humble thing I have ever witnessed. He agreed with Mom to sell all the equipment he had accumulated over the years to pay off the farm and house and hang up his farmer's hat. It may have been the most difficult thing I ever saw him do. He put on a brave face as friends, neighbors and relatives attended the auction to take away the instruments of his livelihood, the tools and machines that had come to symbolize and define so much of his life.
Even then for years after that, Dad would put on his hat and coat twice a day to venture out to the corrals to feed the dwindling number of horses and cows. He wore a trail through to the ground making this trip more than 700 times a year. This ritual is such a part of him, that he still puts on his hat and coat to go out. He gets as far as the garage and cannot remember what's next, eventually returning to the house, not knowing why.
Now with his memories beyond his reach, I introduce myself to him when I visit and tell him, "I'm Tyler. I'm your son," and he smiles with sweet surprise and joy, hugs me and asks, "Did I do a good job?"
Yes, Dad, you did a very good job!
Happy Father's Day!