A True Account

How to tell the story? Born an only child of parents who did not want children, he was leashed to a clothesline to keep him from falling in the creek when he played outside. From a very early age he was shipped off to his grandparent’s farm where he would spend his summers working, returning home for the school year.

Left largely to his own devices, he became an avid outdoorsman, skier, fly fisherman, and trumpet player. He lettered in baseball and football. He worked as a logger, an active job that kept his Type I diabetes unnoticed until he went to college.

He met and married my mother days before his twentieth birthday. Neither set of parents was thrilled.

He studied math and computers, and engineering. He was good enough to be hired on to program large military radar systems without completing his degree. He was brilliant, but never believed it.

He became a Christian and changed the course of all our lives. He gave up playing in dance bands and afterwards devoted his extraordinarily fine playing to God.

He attended Western Conservative Bible Seminary in Portland, OR, where his fourth and final child was born. Unable to support his family and finish, he returned to his previous line of work, maintaining friendships with professors which lasted throughout his life.

He became an itinerant preacher, finally realizing his dream of a full pastorate in a small country church. His brief tenure there was difficult and costly for the family, but also reaped rewards for some who sat under his teaching in their formative years.

He was a difficult man, frustrated by his work, where he was berated by a superior who would, nonetheless, present Dad’s work as his own. His longing for a full-time pastorate, together with his health problems, and the difficulties relating to others added to his frustration. Friends and family speculated that he may have had some high- functioning form of autism or adult detachment disorder, but no formal evaluation was ever made.

He could be abrupt with people who disagreed with him, made jokes in such a dry, dead-pan way that even those who knew him best would not realize he was joking.

But, for all the difficulties, I adored him. I think that’s why I could get so angry with him. When he didn’t act like the person he could be, it hurt me deeply. It wounded me when he was sharply critical of me or of others. I knew he could be better than that. He would pick up strangers on the road. He took in strangers, feeding them, giving them a place to sleep, and assisting with practical needs. He brought food to those in need, and sometimes paid tuition for other students in our private school.

After we were sent to bed, Dad, accompanied by Mom on the piano, would play his trumpet. He never attempted to play quietly, as far as I can recall. My lullabies were trumpet solos. Not just any trumpet, but Dad was one of the finest trumpet players I’ve ever heard. It was painful when his health no longer permitted him to play.

Likewise, he was an artist with a fishing pole. I loved to scramble along the riverbank following him. Words fail me. The music of the river, the wind stirring the cottonwoods, the rustle of the shrubs all faded when hearing the singing of the line, whipping in a serpentine arc before snapping forward and lightly slapping on top of the river. It was physical poetry.

Who will tell the campfire stories now? Who will tell the fate of Nate? Who will sing the silly songs? Who will blaze the trails?

Ah, Dad. This is just a small part of your story. Love you forever.

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3 thoughts on “A True Account

  1. I remember a review of a Joe Cocker album. It was said that Joe Cocker could sing the phone book and make it enthralling. The reviewer pointed out the opposite was true. Joe Cocker’s talent was wasted on inferior material. That is one of the ways I view our father’s playing. He was a world-class trumpet player whose talent was wasted on cheesy material. When he denied himself the right to play secular or classical material, he was stuck with wasting his talent on material that was beneath his talent. And he was stuck playing for people who failed to appreciate his talents. Our father could have been first chair in most symphony orchestras. He could have played in a number of different ensembles. He could have been an in-demand session player. But his commitment to his religious beliefs kept him from that path.

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    1. As there is no edit function: “When he denied himself the right to play secular or classical music, he was stuck with wasting his talent on songs written for congregational singing or to be sung by a praise band, neither of which was appropriate for his talent.

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