My Dad

My Dad

Today is my Dad’s 70th birthday, and he’s awesome. He can build or fix anything under the sun. He’s got kickass stories of his youth in the 1950s of the crazy crap he and his brothers pulled in small town North Dakota. His humor is dry but his temper is level. And his patience for me was infinite.

But he didn’t work 9 to 5. He hasn’t traveled the world. We didn’t toss the baseball around before dinner every night. He didn’t teach me how to shave. He didn’t buy me my first car or drop me off at college. We didn’t fish together, hunt together, camp together, or do most things that fathers and sons typically do. But despite all the things my Dad and I didn’t do, he has been the most influential person of my life.

Age 8:

  • Dad put me on my first tractor, steering through the family potato field with him bouncing along behind, trying desperately to guide the one-horse plow that was chained to the bumper.
  • Dad put me on my first riding lawn mower. Minutes later I slipped off the brake pedal, ran over my own foot, and cut completely through my work boot, shaving a small sliver of skin from the big toe of my right foot. He never panicked, but calmly told me to go in the house and change boots. (Then mom found out and hit the roof.)

Age 10:

  • Dad put me on my fist three-wheeler. I was giving my sister a ride and promptly ran straight through the garden and over the tomatoes. He calmly told me I was done riding for the day and to get off the three-wheeler. (Then mom found out and hit the roof.)

Age 11:

  • Folks get divorced. Dad drives mom and the three youngest kids to Washington State. I never hear him complain or argue or get upset. Mom is just plain mean through the entire evolution.

Age 14:

  • Dad shows up on our doorstep in Washington, takes my sister and I back to North Dakota for the summer. I miss Boy Scout Camp. I am extremely butt-hurt, to the point of tears, but oddly harbor no hard feelings.
  • Back on the three-wheeler again, I ride off the road and dislocate both hips. I thrash on the ground for a bit and pop them back into place. Dad knows nothing of this, but simply asks me what took so long to get home when I come limping back. I lie.

Age 16:

  • Dad shows up on our doorstep in Washington, this time to move be back to North Dakota after I spend some time behind bars. He says two words to me, “I’m disappointed'” and drops the subject of my criminal past.
  • He lets me drive in Montana despite the poor weather, and I damn near wreck the 1988 Oldsmobile Delta 98 when I swerve to miss a tumbleweed. “Well, as least we know the roads aren’t icy,” is all he says and I keep driving. (Mom would have hit the roof had she found out.)
  • Dad hands me the keys to the pickup, points me to a stubble field (a harvested wheat field), and says “Practice.”
  • That winter I get in a snowboard accident in the rocky hills near our farm. The muscles surrounding my right elbow are torn from the bone. With no insurance, Dad takes me to the doctor and I get x-rays and a sling. I can’t straighten my arm for four months.

Age 17:

  • I dislocate my right hip in a football game. Dad takes me to the chiropractor who says I should never play football again. One week later I suit up and Dad supports the decision.

Age 18:

  • Dad’s 18th birthday/graduation present to me is a No Fear t-shirt that reads “If you’re not living on the edge, then you’re taking up too much space.” Dad says it’s because I always say “Come on Dad, you gotta live on the edge!”
  • That fall, I announce I’m going to college. I can see the hurt in his eyes not because I’m going, but because I’m leaving.

Age 21…

  • I announce my plans to join the Marine Corps. Dad is supportive as always, but not in a cheesy, obligatory way.
  • I call Dad from a rooftop satellite phone in Fallujah, Iraq. Midway through the conversation, bombs explode and I have to go. Dad tells me to let him know how things turn out.

As I sit here and list all the ways Dad as affected my life, I realize he was as untraditional a dad as dad’s can be. Yet somehow I learned that humility, a hard day’s work, and perseverance are foundations of an honest life. I have his eyes, his hands, and his love for tinkering, his sense of humor, but thankfully not his tan.

Happy 70th Birthday Dad!


16 Responses to “My Dad”

  1. Dov says:

    Happy birthday.

  2. Adrienne says:

    Your dad kicks ass!

  3. Klimas says:

    Happy birthday Mr Kohler. Glasses around the world are raised today in your honor sir!

  4. Vern Dog says:

    The simplicity that Jim lives by is direct. If it has feathers like a duck, swims like a duck, quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, it’s supper.

  5. Quenby says:

    Jayme those are great memories of your dad.
    I believe that he is blessed to have heard you share them with friends, family, and him on such a great day.
    Those little moments we all carry of our parents, have helped those of us who are not fortunate to continue to make memories still have our loved parent near us.
    Happy Birthday Mr. Kohler.

  6. Ed says:

    It sounds like you appreciate the father you have. We never realize the indeligle marks people leave on us until often much later in life.

  7. Ana says:

    It’s been a while since I’ve read one of your stories. Must say, this was a great one. I know I’m late but Happy Birthday to your dad. You’re a lucky guy for having him.

  8. AJ says:

    Happy belated Birthday Jim!

    Jayme, Dale tells me you are headed back this way for a few days in August, hope to see you.

  9. Travis,Steph &John says:

    Have a happy birthday jim

  10. Jayme says:

    Thanks to all for the comments. As a token of longevity, I’ve decided to get Dad a bundle of green bananas. Hopefully he’ll be alive long enough to eat them!

  11. Ken and Mary says:

    May you celebrate many more Birthdays. Always carry your true necessities in life (Charmin, Folgers, and those dam old cigarettes)!!! You have truly been a blessing for our family and saying Thank you for all you have done and do is mearly inadequate.

  12. missy says:

    Jaym, wish I could have experienced that with him. God knows, good memories of our parents take us a long way, and the bad ones curse us our entire adulthood….

    • Jayme says:

      Considering the seven of us kids span three decades, we’re lucky we even know each other.

      I was lucky to have good times with Pa. And I won’t hold against the siblings who had it the other way.

      So it goes…

  13. Alicia says:

    Happy Birthday to your dad! And Happy Father’s Day to him… It seems that in a huge way, because of him, you have become the awesome man that I know! So here’s to both of you! For him, many more years to impart wisdom, and for you, many more years to enjoy him!


  14. Laurie LCMNSMOM says:

    Well, I’m not surprised about your writings. You, again brought tears to my eyes! God Bless you and your Dad….. for mine is gone since I was 25 but he was the Apple of my eyes! Always and forever with me, even though he is gone to the heavens! Enjoy each and every moment together and thank you again for the fun times in Boot Camp!

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The author.Born in the year of the Dragon, the author grudgingly accepts the fact he has too many interests and not enough time. A cyclist as long as he can remember, an avid yet inconsistent writer since age eleven, and a U.S. Marine since age twenty-one, the author also adds peak bagging, diving, snowboarding, and computers to his list of interests. Incidentally, he is aware of his inability to make a living from any but the Corps. The author accepts this as fact and remains optimistic. Feel free to drop him a line.

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