“My dad can do anything.” That’s how all little boys should view their daddies. Eventually, you grow up and realize quickly just how human dad really is. Well, as I approach my 32nd birthday and prepare to become a dad myself in a few weeks, I felt like a toddler again this weekend standing in awe of my daddy (see photo). I went up to “the farm” to help him begin building the cabin he’s always wanted to build on the land in Starbuck, Minnesota, where my grandpa and grandma once lived.
“My dad can do anything.” Truth be told, my dad doesn’t know everything. In fact, he admits to “figuring things out” as he goes. But don’t mistake that for just “winging it.” Dad doesn’t wing it. He is a careful planner, a problem solver, a clever engineer finding creative, efficient, and safe ways to “do things right the first time.” Dad doesn’t just “measure twice and cut once.” Try a dozen times that.
I’m a man of books and thoughts and the social sciences. My dad is a man of steel, wood, sawdust, hammers, blueprints, power tools, angles and measurements. My mind is full of visions and values, ideas and ideals. Dad’s hands are strong and calloused, and his mind calculating lumber costs and building plans.
Dad is the hardest worker I know. He sets goals, finishes what he starts, is a perfectionist with incredibly high standards. He never quits, always perseveres, somehow finds a way. These are among the greatest values and habits he’s instilled in me — for which I am very grateful.
This weekend was filled with quiet appreciation and gratitude as I watched dad begin building his cabin. For it’s much more than a cabin he’s constructing…. He’s turns 58 years today. Dad is a simple small town farm boy at heart. He has great appreciation for his Norwegian ancestors who worked hard for a living, doing what it takes to provide for one’s family, bravely coming over to America to make a better life in rural Minnesota.
The country plains of Starbuck, that swampy 80 acres south of town, is dad’s paradise. That’s dad’s place of peace and tranquility, where he connects with nature and the Creator. The morning dew and still morning breeze from his deer stand brings to that intersection between earth and heaven. God lives here, and Dad feels it in his bones.
Yes, Dad is constructing more than a cabin. Dad’s building a sanctuary for his kids. He’s building a refuge from the complexities of suburban life, a place to retreat and reconnect with the “weightier stuff” of life — the sunrise, the grazing buck, the pheasants, the storm on the horizon, the smell of country air, the beaver dams in the crick, the hum of the tractor as he mows and let’s the worries of life slip away and the joys return.
Dad’s building a legacy of hard work and determination, and leaving us a memorial. This cabin doesn’t sit on a lake, with beachfront views and promising beachside activities. Instead, it gives us kids a much better view: a window into our dad’s roots, reminding us of the place and people that made dad who he is, the fresh air that had a way of recharging his batteries, and the place that kept him rooted all his years. “You can get the boy out of the small town, but you’ll never get the small town out of the boy.” And something of that “small townness” seems to get passed on somehow to his children — even though they grew up in the ‘burbs. We all need that place of escape, that place of deeper rootedness and simplicity, the land that brings us into “God’s country.” Dad hopes we will get a taste of it in Starbuck.
So, this Father’s Day weekend I enjoyed a short time in the country working on the cabin, thankful for my dad who can build things I can only do with Legos. Even more valuable than helping dad carry 2 x 10s and sawing boards, was the opportunity to once again stand in awe at my dad who can do anything.
As I prepare to become a dad in a few weeks, I have a special appreciation for dad this year. The work of his hands is only a symbol of the more important masterpiece he’s been building these past 58 years — a happy marriage of 36 years, and loving children and grandchildren who adore him and want to grow up to be like him, and a faith in God that knows where all these blessings and gifts come from.
I’ll probably never build a house or cabin like my dad. But by God’s grace I will take some of the “tools” he’s given me and build a marriage and family just like him. That will be better by far.
Happy Father’s Day and Birthday, Dad!