By Dean Hamilton VanDruff

My dad used many unusual expressions while raising us four boys. Amongst them were "doggonit", "dadblastit", "good gravy", and (in a resigned, sardonic tone) simply: "kids". One situation come particulary to mind.

Dad had a good and complete set of tools. Some of these he had inherited from his father. They were arranged perfectly around his workbench in the garage. Common tools were hung on the wall graphically and for quick access. Baby-food jars were screwed into the bottom of the upper cabinet and filled with various organized nuts and bolts. Then his four boys got old enough to have need of tools, and things went downhill fast. "Where is my long phillips screwdriver, doggonit!" Guilty looks all around. Seeing the acute pain of dad not being able to retrieve his tools instantly made us try hard to keep the shop properly, but we were just dumb kids and inevitably things would go missing. And since Mr. Vandruff had the best tools around, and was known to give good advice and help as well, our garage became the place to come for various neighborhood projects. This was the end of tool heaven for Jean. Three wrenches missing in a set, to be found years later in some odd place. Sockets lost, always the one he needed next. His prize tools gone to that mysterious place of the missing sock, never to be found again. He finally gave up and resolved his fate. I suspect one of the great benefits for Jean of being an "empty nester" is that he now has his tools just where he wants them, outside the reach of the slippery hands of his sons.

Not many dads will let children at their tools. But Jean seemed to think the pain and losses worth the learning experience for us. This is but one example of Jean's generosity of spirit and desire to let us learn for ourselves. He bought the best and loved quality things, but never hoarded. He always gave us a chance to fail, and never chided but always had a new idea how it could be done better if we tried again. He thus raised four entrepreneurs who don't take failure--or for that matter success--too seriously. What matters is the satisfaction of knowing you did it right.

I suppose most dads have one saying that stands out to each child. For me, this was Jean's admonition to always "Stop and think. Moments spent planning out how to do something will save untold time while doing it." My nature is to jump in and just do something, figuring it out as I go. But against this impulse, I hear my dad in my mind. So I stop and spend 5 or 45 minutes thinking it through, drawing it out, planning the order of construction, and considering what materials I will need. "A moment planning will more than pay itself off in the doing," I tell myself when I am chomping at the bit. The worst thing about this advice is when I don't take it, and find myself halfway into a project in dismal realization that I have wasted a lot of time and materials. Then good old dad's advice haunts, even at 42.

I can't imagine any sensible person not liking my dad, except perhaps someone who does not like strong opinions put forth with verve. Short of his desire to persuade on nearly everything, Jean is about as affable and nice a person as you will ever meet. He has a ready laugh and really enjoys people. And his passion for what he believes in is part of his appeal. If there is an opposite of boring, that is Jean. He is the antithesis of the couch-potato dad.

When we were kids, we used to play a trick on him. He was so enthusiastic to teach and show how... that he could be exploited. If I was to clean the pool and he was nearby, I would deliberately do it wrong and he would come over and say, "Here, it goes much better if you do it like this." He would take over and pretty much complete the job in the showing, me nodding my lazy little head and feeling very clever. It was the same for yardwork, or nearly anything. His unbounded enthusiasm to do something the best way, and his love for work in general, was easily manipulated. In retrospect, though, I wonder who was getting the best of whom. At the time it was incomprehensible to me that work could be enjoyable. Yet his example is seared into my memory. My laziness did not infect my dad one bit. But I came, over time, to have the same enjoyment of work; as long as it can be done cleverly and improved constantly. This story tells volumes about my dad. He is so full of life that he cannot be drained. If you try, you hazard getting caught up in the wonder and whirlwind that is Jean, and becoming like him.

Rom 12:21 (NIV) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Dean VanDruff

Jean Vandruff
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