People have often asked me why I do what I do…why I have such a passion to help families give their children an education (built on relationship) at home. The answer to that is tightly woven and wound around strands of silky threads of memory – strands so fragile, like a spider’s webbing. These memories, laced and interwoven, are the tough-as-steel-cable foundation of who I am and how I look at the world.
They are where my dad lives.
It’s amazing to me how forgiving a child can be…my dad wasn’t perfect – in fact, on his deathbed, he poured out his anguish of regrets and sorrow for the mistakes he made and the pain his decisions had brought to his children’s lives. But the mistakes my dad did not make far outweighed the ones he did. You see, I grew up knowing that my dad loved me. I knew that he accepted me. In a childhood otherwise blackened by fear, my dad was the one rock I could sit on, the one lifesaving device I could cling to, the one pair of arms where I felt completely safe, the one pair of eyes where I found unwavering acceptance. Throughout my childhood, access to formal education was spotty at best. There are a few bright spots, where someone actually took an interest in me, but for the most part, it was my dad who brought me into his world of discovery.
My dad was a tough old marine, and I was his baby girl – the youngest of his six children.
Those silky fine threads of memory hold photos of his large, sunburned, work worn fingers holding my tiny, white hands while we sat tucked in close together in his chair. My feet ended where his knees bent, my little brown Mary-Janes sticking straight out in front of me. Spread out across our laps was a huge coffee table book full of pictures of Ireland; we would read a page together, carefully studying every photograph and reading every caption – he would read one, and I would read the next. Then we would eat a jelly bean. We spent hours like this.
Eventually, I was too big to sit in the chair with him, but together is how we did as much life as we could.
Whenever he went on a trip, I went with him. We hayed fields together, milked cows together, planted gardens together, went fishing together, drank strawberry milkshakes together, and pondered life’s problems together. We delivered kittens together, helped a cow give birth to a stillborn calf together, and halter broke a colt together. We mucked stalls together, shoveled snow together, and chopped wood together.
We solved puzzles together (our biggest was a 5,000 piece depicting a sandcastle). We read stacks of books together. We studied maps together and wrote letters together. We read the Bible together. We studied algebra, geometry, and quantum physics together. We listened to George Beverly Shea together. We sang “The Battle of New Orleans” together (badly!). We took walks together. We rode horses together.
He taught me…
He taught me military history, constitutional history, ancient history, and American history. We studied animal husbandry, first aid, astronomy, simple tractor mechanics, and advanced grammar. He taught me how to shoot a gun, how to follow a sewing pattern and use a treadle sewing machine, how to butcher a chicken, how to can and freeze vegetables, how to drive a tractor, and how to build an outhouse.
Mostly, my dad taught me that I was special to him.
He modeled the love of learning, and he planted seeds of truth in my life. I still miss him so much it hurts. But he left me a legacy of relationship, of tromping through the wet grass to create my own life path (because flowers don’t grow on a beaten path), of celebrating the grace that grows and drowns out fear.