On Saturday my father, Gerald Anderson, turned 94. My brother wrote a birthday email and copied all seven of us siblings and all the in-laws. He ended by listing five gifts that Dad has passed on to all of us.
1. That you know yourself to be loved by God,
2. That you have lived in that love and passed it on to others and to us,
3. That you loved your wife, our mother, and took the vow “til death us do part” and kept the vow,
4. That you love life, the little things of life, like mowing the lawn, always putting the tractor back in the shed, hosed down and ready for the next use,
5. That you look to your reward—that as God has visited you, you visit him and will visit him and all our loved ones go on before.
I Replied All and added:
6. That you were a business man with integrity. “We try to do the reasonable thing.”
7. That when I met you once as you came up the walk to the house and asked you for a quarter–with no explanation of what the money was “for”–you gave it to me.
My older sister grew the list:
8. That you taught us life’s lessons by example
9. That when we arrived at the shop, or the breakfast able or Sugarwood, your arms flew up in the air and your big smile always greeted us. You always made me feel loved and safe.
10. That you gave us a spiritual legacy we received more out of your actions then your spoken words.
11. That when you came upstairs to spank me for sassing Mrs. Lubbers….you didn’t. Grace.
12. That you left that obnoxious, undeserving waitress a tip in Nebraska…”Grace, Girls,” you said with a smile. “Grace.” I never forgot it.
My younger brother tacked on:
13. That you showed us that life can be lived content, happy and optimistic.
14. That you are not afraid to be emotional about the things that move you, whether the topic be God or this great country or our mother.
15. That you have always been humble never allowing pride to set up camp in your heart.
16. That you gave me my first job–shining your shoes on Saturday night. You left a quarter in one of the shoes.
17. That you believed me occasionally when I said “but David started it” (and of course he had)
Then my sister-in-law got in on the fun:
18. And a few things from an in-law whose been around for a whileJ
I have always felt a special place in my heart for you, Dad Anderson! Your easy smile and steady presence are what I think of. But more than that, too, your interest in and focus on people, and that is balanced with your unyielding and consistent faith.
And finally my sister, the baby of the family, appended:
19. That when I stole malted milk balls from an open bag at Sunshine and was caught by the manager you treated it as a major felony. Mom called you home from work and you took me back to Sunshine to apologize to the manager. I remember being so embarrassed and stood there staring at the fresh donuts while you talked to the manager telling him that this is not acceptable in the Anderson family and that you were so sorry for what you daughter had done. Because of that, I can’t even take an envelope from work for my personal use! Thank you.
20. That something always bothered me even after I was married so I confessed to you that when I was in high school I would take quarters off your dresser, justifying it because whenever I asked you for money you always said, “yes.” You smiled and shared your story of stealing money from your mother’s cash register at the cafe. You related to me, and I loved that.
21. That I have shared your advice to all three of my kids when they got their first jobs — 1. Always arrive early. 2. Never stand around. 3. Always do more than you’re told.
22. That I have shared with my kids your thoughts on love and trust — “My trust you earn, my love you have regardless.”
23. That every time I was disciplined by you (and to me it seemed like a lot!) I knew it pained you and you loved me. But I’ll never figure out how you always caught me!
24. That I never heard you disrespect our mother and only heard you speak of her in the highest regard.
If I could live till I’m 94 and have maybe one or two tributes like this from the people who know me best—warts and all—I think I would feel as if I had already heard those words of the Lord welcoming the newest saints into heaven: “Well done, good and faithful servant . . . enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:23).