By Mark VanDruff
There's something about surviving a war that sets a course for the rest of your life. That course is full of choices each war survivor makes between fear and courage, regret and thankfulness, cynicism and optimism, withdrawal and trust. Although I didn't discover my Dad was a bona fide war hero until I was in my '40s (he was very hush-hush on the subject), I should have guessed by how he wrestled into submission his core impulses and set his course for life. Wartime heroism was no fluke. It was just the beginning of life bursting with little acts of heroism that all add up to who my Dad is: my hero!
The Legacy Dad Cultivated In My Life
Many of those who saw him mowing the front lawn in a suit thought him eccentric, but from his perspective it was simply efficiency. He had a certain number of things to do in a day, some of which merited a suit - so when it came to mowing the lawn, there was no reason to waste time changing clothes when he knew perfectly well how to do it without resulting in a trip to the cleaners! This provided an extra fifteen minutes to be dedicated to other important matters, like disciplining the kids and looking for his tools.
Who ruined more of Dad's tools will long be hotly debated, and never reconciled. What started as a running contest between the boys was eclipsed as we grew older by our "friends" who began "borrowing" what were considered the best tools in the neighborhood. Although Dad always threatened not to replace the ruined or "borrowed" tools, he could no more help replenishing "our" stock of tools that he could resist the temptation to "show us how to do the job the right way"! There are Vandruff tools still being used all over Orange County, many of them nearly 40 years old.
We've finally convinced him to wear jeans, but it's probably because he can wear them the rest of the day, now that there are fewer occasions for "dressing up".
The Work Ethic
Growing up, I took advantage of one of Dad's uncontrollable urges. All I had to do was ask him to "show me the best way" to do one of my chores, and he'd finish the job for me. I suspect he played the same trick on his father. Damn if my own kids don't work the same manipulation on me! But this is one weakness I glory in, because this legacy will continue to be passed on from generation to generation. Even when taking advantage of someone for your own benefit, there is a contagious aspect of someone who truly loves doing a job well. The authenticity of fulfillment, in spite of recognition that they're being conned, over time imprints the same attribute in the witness. Dad just couldn't teach by prodding, he had to teach by leading.
A Humble Hardhead
Dutchmen have a reputation: hardheaded and tightfisted. No one would ever have known he was Dutch if the criteria were his generosity. Any propensity for miserliness has always been eclipsed by his strong commitment to generosity and hospitality. Dad gives and gives, whether rich or poor. But as to hardheadedness, Dad is Dutch through-and-through. Once he's reached a conclusion, persuading him to change positions is like trying to convince a pitbull to give the tennis ball back. But he stands apart from other hardheads because he'll admit to it (except in the heat of debate). And over time he will change (incrementally) on issues, after agonizing over every alteration of his hard-earned view. Of any of his many accomplishments, I hold him in the highest regard for overcoming those inherited instincts. At my age, I have discovered how difficult this really is.
A Pessimistic Optimist
To be around my Dad is to understand the value of pessimism. It is his way of ferreting out every possible obstacle before going into solution mode. And it is as inevitable as the sunrise that "solution mode" will come, as he commits to find a way to do what he's proven to be improbable, or even impossible. Such optimism can only be born out of a belief that all things are possible with God.
Kinetic And Active
As I age, my great hope is that somehow, someway, these particular genes made their way to me. Without Dad, we would all be that much farther behind in the many responsibilities of life. Not only his wife and friends, but each of his sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren (as well as members of his church family and neighborhood) have been the recipients of his talent and energy as he lends a hand with our homes, yards, cars, handyman tasks, troubleshooting, preparation for parties, and about a thousand other tasks that would take ten pages to list. How does he do it? I think the secret is that he eats standing up (that is, unless Mom makes him sit down, such as when there's company).
Dad of Dads
I guess I could pay no greater tribute to Dad other than to say that I'm attempting to raise my kids exactly the same way he and Mom raised me. I've read quite a few books about raising children, but I just haven't found much to motivate me to revise my parent's great recipe. Discipline with love. Boundaries with flexibility. A living example of grace, mercy, integrity, honesty, generosity, diligence, restraint, and courage. That's my Dad!
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