Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My why, Why I am planning on hiking 2600+ miles - Part 2

Dad died in 1998. I had heard of tragedy prior to then, but had never really experienced personal tragedy. In theater, drama, movies, and good stories, there are two basic story lines; comedy, where the hero wins and "everyone lives happily ever after" and tragedy where the forces of antagonism win. In 1998 I felt real tragedy in real life.

My dad was one of my heros. He was misunderstood by most, an enigmatic character in a story that played out in fifty eight short years. Raised in poverty in the Central Valley of California his mom was a migrant worker who worked in tomato packing plant. His dad was an alcoholic who caused caused him so much pain that we rarely heard about him. He would show up every year or two and dad would pack the three of us kids and my mom into the car and we would go the the Chinese food resturant for dinner with grandpa. I would eat jumbo prawns and fried rice while watching the big goldfish swim around in the fish tank.

I knew my dad's parents were both Russian immigrants and that they both came to America in different ways and at different times. Grandma came with her parents and was part of a strict Christian sect called Molokans. Which apparently means "milk drinkers" in Russian. Grandpa was pretty much unknown to me, purposefully so, by my dad. He kept us three kids in the dark as to his origins or experiences as a kid. I am guessing his childhood was pretty dark as we didn't hear many stories about it, even though dad was an amazing storyteller. Dad was born and raised in San Francisco, he lived there all of his life, that is where he died.

Dad is one of my heros because in spite of the hand he was dealt, he played it well. Rather than perpetuating the "sins of his father" into his family, he always told us that Jesus was our heritage and raised a family that to this day is a pleasure to be a part of. Dad was a follower of Jesus. He wasn't much for the politics and programs of church, but his faith was deeply rooted in Christ's redeeming power to transform human lives. I believe his faith was deep because Jesus had transformed his life. Dad lived his faith without hypocrisy or fanfare. He was a real Christian in his thoughts and actions and didn't give a whit to what other people thought of him. At the same time he wasn't one of those Christians who annoyingly wear their faith on their sleeve as if they had to prove their devotion to Jesus by "winning souls" or "converting sinners".

After I was married in 1985, dad and mom would come to visit. Dad and I would get into deep and fascinating theological discussions that at times gave my mom concern that we were angry and arguing and she would come into the room and try to tone us down. She didn't realize how much fun we were both having. It is hard to find someone with whom you can disagree with agreeably and take opposing sides in a discussion without feelings being hurt or damaging the friendship. I had that with my dad and we both grew in our faith and understanding through our late night discussions.

The tragedy of 1998 is a tragedy because his story ended without many people ever getting to know his story. There are less than ten people alive today who knew him very well or who experienced any significant loss at his passing. One of the reasons for my hike is that I intend to begin blogging more so that anyone (I am thinking of Vivian and my other future grand-kids) will know me through the words I put into this journal. At the very least they will be able to judge from my words themselves as to whether their grand-dad was a man worth being a grandchild of.

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