2016-02-10

A Tribute

Dad died today.  Like all fathers do at some point.  It was no surprise, he was old.  He had been in pain for two years, trapped in a body that he wanted nothing more than to escape from.  This man who had been so physically active all his life just wanted to go, and he said so ---- often and emphatically.  Today he got his wish.

LeVerne Robert Wieland.  A man whose life was a story.  I wish I could tell just the ones that are most poignant, but that would take a lifetime.  Dad lived a life of poignancy.  He found those things he thought important and dove into them, often head first.  And then he kept going at them.  He studied those things, lived them, learned from the living, and applied what he learned, always remembering what it was that made it important in the first place.  The guy could always find his center.  He made sure of that when he married a lady named Charlotte who through the many years worked with him, laughed with him, sang in harmony with him in church and at home.  He found a girl that shared his center and who could pull him back to it when the work days got too long and too many strung together to count.  She is his partner still.

Dad started life on a farm in SW Wisconsin where he grew up and went to school until the 8th grade, after which he worked on the farm until he joined the army.  It was there on that farm that he learned his work ethic and developed a love of  growing things.  Dad was good with animals, but even better with plants.  A two hundred pound working man that simply loved orchids or any other flowering thing. I used to wonder why.  Years later now, having time to stop and actually look at a flower every now and again, I only now begin to understand that he was amazed by these incredible forms of life.  He saw much more than a flower I think.  He saw a miracle.

LeVerne is a man of faith more than anything else.  Faith is the core of what he was and still is.  He found that faith in the army, I am not quite sure how or why.  When he found it, it became the core of his being.  It set for him the path that took him through the rest of his life.  After leaving the Army, he went on to Seminary in Owatonna MN where he met Charlotte.  Fortunately for my brother and me, they chose to marry and dedicate themselves to family instead of becoming missionaries or whatever.  Never-the-less, Dad made sure that we as a family understood what faith is about.  It is about living what one believes.  And dad was damn good at that.

We studied!  And I don't mean sitting around re-reading passages of the bible, though there was more of that than I could sometimes stand.  We learned history, ancient as well as recent through those studies.  We learned of the Hittites, the Greeks, the Romans, the Egyptians, the Ottoman empire, ... not just the mentions of them in the bible either.  We learned of the politics of the day, the players in the establishment, the economies, the standards of living, of the lives of the common people of those times.  This was not your standard one hour Sunday School stuff.  This was study, every damn day for many years!

And we learned.  More importantly, we learned how to learn.  Dad showed us that learning was a matter of application as well as conceptualization.  My brother and I were allowed to participate in discussions of oft times wieghty subjects.  It was not that we had much to offer, it was that it was good practice for us.  This is how Dad, with Moms help, gave us the education we would eventually sustain ourselves with.  It was through his faith.  And Dad shared that faith with everyone he could.  I mis-understood that for most of his life.  For reasons of my own that don't really matter now, I thought he was trying to accomplish something by evangelizing.  It was not until recently before he died that I came to understand that it had nothing to do with accomplishing anything:  He simply cared for others and wished for them to have something that he found so fundamentally central to his own life:  Joy.

Now this sounds as if all was serious religosity and a strict lifestyle.  It was not.  To the best of my knowledge, no two boys had so much freedom, nor such great places to be free in.  We were encouraged to be outdoors, to run, to get out of the house after breakfast and be welcome back after dark.  Dad worked hard and long, but he found time to take us fishing, to teach us to plant and care for a garden.  To have pets and care for them as if they were family.  We camped, and took drives.  He took us to parks, museums and zoos.  We did not spend much time watching TV unless it was coverage of an Apollo shot to the moon or election coverage.  We did watch disney on Sunday nights, and Wild Kingdom sometimes.  But mostly we were too busy living life to be sitting around watching other peoples lives... Dad provided for that lifestyle and Mom was 100% behind him.

Laughter.  Dad's sense of humor could be infectious.  The guy had this way of twisting ideas by structuring sentenses is ways which presented an irony in the most unexpected way.  Sometimes it was just goofy and over the years, repetitive.  But he knew how to deliver, had an amazing sense of timing that could, sometimes, rival the best of commedians.  I recall a number of times when Mom and Dad laughed so hard and long that they literally cried.  I remember not having a clue about what it was they found so funny, but finding myself laughing just as hard for seeing them laugh like they did.  Dad could make people laugh, and loved doing so.

The gift of music and art.  Dad appreciated more than just flowers.  I swear one of the reasons he married Mom was that she had the perfect alto voice to match his tenor.  The two could sing harmony like few I have ever heard.  He despised rock and roll.  Simon and Garfunkle were his wild side, and he questioned even thier rather tame lyrics.  Yet he grudgingly tolerated my preference for hard, blues based rock like Led Zepplin, as long as it was shut off when he came within hearing.

My grandmother on my Moms side was an artist, and a damn good one.  She worked in oils and acrylic for the most part.  Landscapes and still lifes were her forte.  Dad could, and did, examine those paintings with appreciation and an eye for both detail and composition.  I know there was some poetry he enjoyed as well, but only because he mentioned it.  I guess there are parts of fathers that we will never really know. Perhaps that is the way it should be...

Mostly, I think, Dad saw life itself as a form of art. Maybe that is romaticizing a bit, but that is my impression on reflection.  Regardless, through his own appreciation of the arts along with Mom's, he taught us to appreciate the efforts of musicians, poets, painters and sculpturs to capture and protray ideas and impressions.

...and yet this man at his core was so complexly simple.  That sentence is an oxymoron, or at least contains one: I know.  But that is what made Dad such a cool guy.  All that complexity and knowledge and experience boiled down to a man who cared, contributed to the best of his ability, and held to his faith.

I could go on and on, but at the end of the day, he was the man we called Dad ... it is that simple.

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