Today my dad turns 88. Raymond Lawson. Son. Dad. Grandpa. Great~Grandpa and husband to my mom. A lot of tags and each one is filled with such love and devotion it’s like a well that never runs dry.
I am the first of four kids, who came in stairsteps every year and a half. There are so many stories of growing up on twenty acres at the bottom of Bunk Foss Road. Our house was up a long gravel driveway , nestled in tall cedars. I remember the four of us, lined up on the davenport, in front of our big picture window, dad helping us into our socks and shoes. First he would roll up the stocking and slip it over our foot, running his hand along to make sure there weren’t any wrinkles. Then he opened the laces wide and slid our stockinged foot into the shoe, and starting at the bottom, pulled the laces tight until at the top, he took the little bunny around the tree and tied the perfect bow. “Is that too tight?” “No, Daddy, just right.”
There is a picture in my mind’s eye of the four of us, again, lined up on the davenport, this time on our knees looking out the big glass window. We were waiting for snow, dad was puttering around the yard. I see him putting out his gloved hand to catch the first flake, a grin on his face, knowing how excited we would all be. How many snowmen did he help us build? Like so many of our great times, too many to count.
My dad and I loved to explore the back roads. He knew where there might be a treasure to be found at an abandoned homestead. We’d park along the road, hike through salmon berry bushes that fought to keep us out and then come to a clearing. Sometimes remnants of a house still stood, sometimes just a pile of mossy boards and a flowering quince marked the spot. We never found a pot of gold, but we did find an old coffee pot, which my mom spray painted gold, so I think that counts.
Dad taught me to drive on those same backroads. The clutch was an interesting aspect of the ordeal! It’s a wonder we didn’t end up with permanent whiplash from the jerking, starting, stopping, killing the motor on that cherry red ’63 Impala, but we survived. He was patient, “Let out on the clutch, as you press on the gas…slowly…good…” Thanks to my dad, I am a pretty good driver, I know all the backroads and a road trip is still my favorite vacation.
I grew up, got married, and had kids of my own. So many of the lessons learned from my dad have helped me in my parenting. Loving patience, kindness and understanding are the building blocks he shared with me. His grandchildren have given me grandchildren and I was so proud when they invited him to be their guest at their elementary school’s Veteran’s Day assembly. He spoke of his days as a sergeant in the motor pool while serving in the army. He has told me about being so homesick when he did his basic training in San Luis Obispo and about building a box while stationed in Korea to send a fishing pole home for his dad. Once he missed a plane for R & R in Japan. The plane went down en route. He says, “Boy were my buddies shocked when I came back to camp. They thought I was a ghost!” How thankful am I that he missed that plane!
It’s not too surprising that one of our favorite things to do together at this stage of our lives is to take a drive. Monday morning often finds my dad, mom and me in my car, heading for the scenic route. All the way, I enjoy the stories they tell and the times they remember. So much has changed as we wind the country roads. Development has swallowed a lot of our rural lands, but there is a reverence for good times passed and remembering them together keeps them close at heart.
On our drive up the Mountain Loop, dad told of riding to the Big Four Inn with his mom and dad. He was only 6 or 7, sitting in the back seat playing an instrument he borrowed from school. He laughed when he told how his very patient dad finally said, “If you don’t stop playing that thing, I’m throwing it out the window!” That was the only time my dad went to the inn and it burned to the ground over seventy years ago, but that day, in my car, he was right there. That is how memory works, isn’t it?
Across the pastures from the farm where my dad grew up, there was a bridge across the slough. A drawbridge, he tells of the old farmers cranking the big cement block up to open the way for the snagboat to go through, keeping the channels and river clear of debris. When a new bridge was in order, the old Jackknife Bridge was taken down and floated a few miles downstream. Now it crosses a different slough, and offers hikers a way to explore preserved wetlands. One of our Monday drives found us there. How many times have we crossed this bridge, I wondered. “Oh thousands!” my dad answered. “I kissed your mom for the first time on this bridge.” he added with a smile.
Today our family will come together to celebrate this man, our patriarch, our hero. Happy Birthday, Dad! Thanks for the memories… We love you~
Peace. Love. Amen.