ON THIS DAY BEFORE FATHER’S DAY, I want to pause and reflect, not on my dad, but on my husband as a father. And a son.
He’s been a dad now for 36 years with an age span of eight years between our eldest daughter and our son in a family of three children. Coming from a large farm family—as the oldest boy of nine siblings—Randy understands the joys, the inner workings, the challenges within families, within life. And while he certainly parents differently than his father, basic core values are generational.
I want to start by reflecting on an incident in Randy’s childhood in which he, undoubtedly, saved his father’s life. On that October day in 1967, Randy rode along with his dad as he chopped corn on the family farm in rural Buckman, Minnesota. Near the far end of the field, the chopper plugged and Tom hopped off the tractor to hand-feed corn into the machine. Along with the corn, his hand was pulled into the spring-loaded rollers. The blades sliced off Tom’s fingers and the rollers trapped his arm.
In that moment, when Randy’s dad screamed in excruciating pain, his 11-year-old son disengaged the power take-off, stopping the machine from causing additional injury and death. Randy then raced along a cow pasture and across swampland to a neighbor’s farm for help. That farm accident ended with the amputation of Tom’s left hand and most of his arm. But his life was spared because of his son’s quick action.
I asked Randy if his dad ever thanked him for saving his life. He never did, he acknowledged. That saddens me and now it’s too late. Tom died in 2021. Had this happened in today’s world, I expect Randy would receive public recognition for his actions. But this story has slipped, unnoticed and unrecognized, into family history.
I’m not surprised that my father-in-law never thanked his son. He was of the generation where displays of affection, of emotions, of gratitude mostly did not happen. That was my experience growing up also. Sure we knew our parents loved us. But they didn’t necessarily express that, although their actions did in their hard work of providing for us.
Randy models hard work, too. But his parenting differs from the prior generation in that his kids, our kids, hear their dad’s words of love and feel it in his hugs and more.
I carry visuals of him sprawled across the living room floor on a Sunday afternoon reading the comics to our girls. I see him, too, playing endless games of Monopoly with the kids or walking up the hill to the park with them. Swinging in the summer, sliding in the winter.
In my memory, I see him tailing kids trying to balance on a bicycle without training wheels. I see him hunched over with our eldest daughter, helping her construct an igloo from water softener salt pellets for a first grade assignment. I see him aside our son gazing at the stars. None of these interactions are particularly profound. But they are the moments which comprise life and fatherhood.
There have certainly been hard moments too—watching our 4-year-old daughter clutch her Big Bird as she walked into a hospital operating room. Or racing down the street where our 12-year-old son was being loaded into an ambulance after he was struck by a car. Randy handled both with inherent calm.
In their adulthood, Randy has continued to be there for our three grown children. We’ve moved them many times from places in Minnesota to North Dakota to Wisconsin to Indiana. (The son had to do his Boston move on his own.) Randy’s repaired cars, offered advice, always been there. He walked our daughters down the aisle. And now he’s loving on our two grandchildren, extending his fathering skills to the next generation. I love watching him in that role, rooted in his experiences as a father and, before that, as a loving son who 55 years ago saved his father’s life in a central Minnesota cornfield.
© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
wow what a thoughtful and loving tribute
Thank you, Sue. Welcome back to the comments section.
this brought me to tears, Audrey. what a lovely ode to such a lovely man and father
Ahhhh, thank you, Beth.
Beautiful! Happy Father’s Day Randy!
Thank you, Keith. I hope your Father’s Day was lovely in every way.
A beautifully written account of our wonderful brother. Happy Father’s Day to Randy!
Thank you, Vivian!
Thank you, Barb!
Happy Father’s Day to Randy!
Thank you, Valerie. I hope Gary had a wonderful celebration.
Randy sounds like a stand-up guy! I recall that you wrote that he is losing his job after 39(!!!) years because his place of work is closing. If his employer has any decency, Randy should get substantial severance pay!
Randy is wonderful in every way. Truly, I feel blessed.
You’re correct, Randy is losing his job after 39 years as an automotive machinist at NAPA in Northfield. But he is losing his job because the new owner (an out-of-state corporation) is closing the shop. I fully agree with your final statement. All I will say is that much uncertainty exists and “substantial” is not a familiar word post August 31 shop closure.
Thank you Audrey. You make it sound like I should get the father of the year award.
Thank you to your readers for the kind comments.
In my eyes, you most assuredly deserve that award. I, too, am grateful for all the kind comments made here.
Such a wonderful tribute to your Randy, a fine man humble and such a loving dad, grandpa and husband.
Thank you and thank you for appreciating Randy.
Wonderful post about a truly wonderful man!
Thank you! We are blessed, aren’t we?