Bill Belew has raised 2 bi-cultural kids, now 34 and 30. And he and his wife are now parenting a 3rd, Mia, who is 8.
The voice of experience is also the voice of wisdom.
My father raised 6 kids and it was unanimous, all 6 of us kids adored our dad – affectionately called Pop.
Our mother? Not so much. She went missing at a critical time. Redeemed herself later, but that is not what this about.
This post is about a dad who taught us/me many great lessons about life.
There is one lesson in particular that I remember.
Following is a short story I wrote about a Heart Abnormality my father had.
I come from a family of six children and though I have a family of my own, I feel as if I am still a kid. My wife reminds me of this often when she tells me not so gently at times to, “Grow up!” My own kids don’t seem to mind one way or the other. They pretty much do as I do.
Like me, my dad was not home very much either. We kids never resented this. The opposite is true. We totally appreciated him for his dedication to our family. He worked as a diesel truck mechanic at a time when there were no specialists. From the headlights of the biggest rig to the tail lights on the double long trailer it pulled, my father was able to fix anything. The key word is anything. He devoted himself to being the best. He thought of himself as a doctor of sorts. When a tractor trailer was brought in broken down, he would diagnose it, prescribe some course of action and often operate. When he was finished the machine went about its work with a complete bill of good health. Often times a driver would call my father in the wee hours of the morning. The driver’s truck was sick, couldn’t get going or was clogged up because of the cold. My father would roll out of bed and head off to make a house call. Soon the driver was back in step with a convoy delivering his goods cross town or cross country.
At times my father could be found lying down on the job. He would be under a tractor or trailer on a wheelie. A wheelie looks like a skateboard with four wheels but is wide enough for a man to lie on. My father wasn’t loafing; he was there to make repairs. There was no jack big enough to pick up the whole rig and the only alternative was to crawl, or in this case slide under. Like Michelangelo, my father reached up and went to work on the underbelly of those monsters. At times his muscular arms dropped from exhaustion. He’d raise them up to work again. And again. And again. Until they hit the floor hard enough to be heard. A wrench often clanged. Pop would swear if he dropped the tool and it hit him in the face or on the head. But then his huge chest would heave and a deep breath followed and he reached up yet again to pull, push, press or twist a wrench, crescent or monkey. He kept at it until the work was done and done right, the first time.
When I heard a clang or an “Ah, S*&T!” I squatted down and peeked under the truck, careful not to touch the greasy floor.
“Pop! You alright? Why don’t you take a break?”
“Can’t, Willy. “
Whatever explanation came next, it almost always began or ended with Lennie, Chrissy, Della, Jerry, Bill or Pam, one of us kids. One of the kids invariably needed him that evening, that day or the upcoming weekend and he was determined to finish his work so he could devote whatever little time he had remaining to his children.
This time it was, “Gotta get this done today so we can pack up the camper and head across state for the ski competition. Jerry and Della are counting on me.” He rarely let any of us down. And, when he did, we never held it against him.
Just out of the Navy and before I returned to Japan to work and start my own family, my wife and I lived with him for about a month while waiting for visas and passports and such to return to Japan. What a great opportunity, I thought, to pick at his wisdom – wisdom gained from being pulled out of school during the depression years to work, to help his own father provide for my pop’s younger brother and sister – wisdom that comes through life, not through books. There was one thing in particular I wanted to know.
“Pop, how is that you could love us six kids all the same?”
“I mean each time one of us six kids came into the family, didn’t you have to divide your heart up so that you could love each of us equally?”
He grinned widely, showing off his fake choppers, “Nah, Willy. It doesn’t work that way. Each time one of you kids was born, my heart grew one size.”
My heart began to grow.
* * *
Like my dad, I too now have a heart abnormality. This critical organ has grown not only twice its original size but to four times the original. I have a heart that started out the size that God gave me. It grew another size, that of a dedicated classical pianist; and then grew yet again another size, the size of a national champion swimmer; then it grew one more size, the size of a princess.
I have another father, a heavenly one. I can’t comprehend how big that Father’s heart must be.