There was a boy . . .He was remarkable, special and fabulous in every way . . . by his own admission. That sounds like a pretty smart-alecky remark from his bratty second daughter, doesn’t it, but you know, he’d be the first to tell you that it simply never occurred to him to doubt himself. Teflon ego? Naive puppy? No, he’s just a pretty cool guy and didn’t see any need to worry about it along the way.
People liked him; he liked them back. One thing leading to another, as they always do, he grew up and became, in various turns, a college graduate, a husband, a father, a seminary graduate, university board chairman, bishop, hospital board chairman, and oh yeah, all those other things. You know: the keynote speaker and community activist constantly playing both conscience and jester to the complacent. The nutty uncle who accidentally fades his snappy burgundy deck shoes to a flashy candy-colored light purple that becomes his infamously funny family trademark and then makes them the coveted trophy passed down from one to the next of all his nieces and nephews as they graduate from high school. The pastor who tells wacky tales from the pulpit that actually explicate complex biblical concepts and help to untangle earthly Issues for everyday humans. The bishop who travels with a phalanx of fellow bishops to act as bodyguard for their danger-exiled brother Bishop of El Salvador in Guatemala and escort him safely for a visit to his people at home. The respected administrator who sees a busy hospital through the building of a whole new hospital campus. The husband who woos his ever-tolerant wife with anniversary gifts of snow tires and garden manure but always remembers a card with an actual romantic note to accompany it. The dad who sends excuse notes involving kidnap by Green Gremlins to the principal’s office after his daughter’s flu absence from school.
My father’s stated policy, from a rather early time in his life, was that Anything Worth Doing is Worth Overdoing, and if it was spoken with a jovial wink, it was and yes, still is pretty much his modus operandi, whatever the endeavor. Underachieving was never an option and half-hearted efforts the same as not trying at all. This insight of his came long before the appearance of the modern day’s sloganeering cheerleaders insistence that one Go Big or Go Home.
Dad brought along with him from his earliest years that sense of ease with himself and his place in the world and built it into an expansive view of what he could and should do and what the world could be with a little effort. As much as he indulged his playful and witty side (surely one of his most endearing qualities in his every field of action in life) he has always harbored a tender heart as well. Any practical tendencies of his that might be seen as hardheaded or stoic, serving him excellently in his many leadership roles as they did, were at their root driven by a deeper need to look out for others’ best interests and work to keep his own in check. All of this shapes a man who manages to maintain the unusual duality of a highly accomplished Type A leader and the Class Clown, a rare and gem-like formation indeed.
And today is that remarkable, special and fabulous man’s birthday.
As it happens, he’s right, you know: anything worth doing really is worth doing to the nth degree and then just a little bit more. He didn’t get to be this advanced in age and yet still a ridiculously charming kid just barely beneath the gloss of grown-up-ness without having practiced that art well and truly. Happy birthday, Dad!