Sunday, June 21, 2015

Ice cream, anyone?

Will with his two kiddos at a
Peoria Chiefs game
I have been around some pretty awesome dads in my life. My husband, Will, is a wonderful, caring and goofy father. He is in seminary to become a United Methodist Pastor and starts in his first assignment as pastor at a small church in a few days! His faith and his ability to explain things so that everyone, including our children, can understand help make him who he is. He’s also an amazing cook – have you had his homemade pizza??? He enjoys gardening and canning and likes to create things with his hands. He made a loft bed for our son! But as Will likes to remind me, he’s not my father. So I’d like to focus more on the men who have been fathers in my life.

My Dad and his girls
My dad, Jerry, is an amazing man of strength and faith. He lives his faith every day and has had a huge impact on my faith and my commitment to the church. He still farms and plays his trumpet regularly – two of the things I will always associate with him. He is committed to his family – his wife, daughters, grandkids, mother, siblings and aunts and uncles. He and my mom have taught me the importance of community and family. I don’t think he ever missed a game or a concert for any of us girls when we were growing up. He makes every effort to get to his grandkids’ events such as dance recitals, baptisms, ball games. He can fix almost anything. To this day, he is the one that I call if I have questions about my car, or the furnace or some plumbing question because I know that he will know the answer. I am grateful that I still get to see my dad on a regular basis and I’m even more grateful that in about 10 short days, we will live an hour closer to him and my mom.

My Grandpa with Ben 
My Grandpa Stillens with
my mom as a girl
My grandfathers were also both very hard working men who were committed to their families and their faith. Grandpa Stillens was retired from the lumberyard by the time I came along. What I remember was that he was a very hard worker even in retirement. He raised sheep and chickens and cared for beef cattle. He always had one heck of a garden – both at our house and their house. He had a great spirit and a great sense of humor. He suffered from Alzheimer’s and passed away when I was 19. My Grandpa Theobald was my dad’s business partner and lived just a couple of miles from our house – just a short bike ride away. He enjoyed bowling and horseshoes and his dog Sally. He passed away a few years ago from prostate cancer. I am blessed to have had so many years with two grandfathers in my life. They are part of the reason that I work with the geriatric population.

My father-in-law Tom
Will’s dad passed away from pancreatic cancer less than two months ago. Tom fought a very courageous battle for two years, and he didn't let it get him down until the very last week. The Sunday before he passed on Saturday, we celebrated our daughter’s 4th birthday at a local restaurant. Tom wanted to go to the party, but we insisted he stay home so it wouldn't wear him out too much. He conceded, and wanted us to bring him a piece of the birthday cookie and some ice cream from Casey’s General Store. I only knew Tom for about 13 years. From the very beginning, he welcomed me into their family with so much love. He too was committed to family, faith and his community. He was in the Lions’ Club and the local democratic committee. He served on many committees at his church, the Walk to Emmaus, and even in the prisons. He was full of it, with a story for everything. He wanted nothing more than for his children, including me, to succeed. Tom had a love for model trains and had an amazing set up in his train room of a whole set, complete with a camera on the engine so that you could see what it would look like if you were actually riding that train. The grandkids loved to play with Papa’s trains with him. Whenever we would go somewhere together, particularly shopping, my husband and his mom would walk much faster than Tom and I. This allowed me to get to stroll along more leisurely with him and enjoy that time with him.

He never did get that last bowl of Casey’s ice cream. We went to the Casey’s and they were out of ice cream that day. By the time we got to their house after the party, he was slipping into unresponsiveness. He would awake for a bit, but it was not for long. So today, on Father’s Day, I think we’ll go have some ice cream at Casey’s for Tom. If you knew Tom, would you consider doing the same? I bet he’d find the Casey’s in Heaven and join us from there.

Happy Father’s Day to these great fathers in my life. I love you all. 


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