My Dad is a special guy. Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes with him knows this. He is about as friendly as they come. No one is a stranger. He knows the story of every waiter at any restaurant he has ever been to, and probably knows someone from their hometown as well. The smaller the town, the higher the likelihood this is the case because it seems he knows every family who has ever raised cattle in the country...or has at least heard of them. I can't tell you the number of times I've found myself shrinking down in my seat at the table as I watch these conversations take place. And then my mom is quick to remind me that I do the same thing. Dang it.
Well, today is "Big" Steve's birthday. And although no longer an original gift, this blog post is my preset to him. I've decided to take a trip down memory lane and regale him with stories of the good times we have had together. My memory is about as good as his memory is bad, and so my hope is that these stories will sound vaguely familiar and bring a smile to his face, and a knowing smile to the rest of the readers who are blessed to know my pops.
My earliest and most consistent memory of my dad would have to be how he would coax all of us out of bed on Sunday morning to go to church. By the time he woke us up at 7:30, he would have been up for a couple hours doing "chores" AKA feeding cattle. He would come home smelling of the farm, but I didn't mind because he also brought with him the smell of fresh donuts from Mr. Donut. My eagerness to get out of bed varied depending on if the donuts had sprinkles or not, but this tactic was guaranteed to do the trick.
There were other memorable times of cows and my dad arriving home bearing gifts as well. Several times a year he would go to cattle shows and sales in exotic places like Reno, Nevada and North Platte, Nebraska. But he managed to bring these faraway places home to us in the form of gifts. I recall him arriving home and rushing him at the door to give him kisses... and ask if he brought us anything. We would eagerly watch as he unpacked his bag and revealed our gifts of... hotel shampoo and shower caps! We couldn't have been more excited...literally. But there would always be a skirmish for who got the powdered mouth wash from the Executive Inn in Louisville, Kentucky.
And while I'm thinking about cows, some of my favorite summertime memories were going to "check" cows. I'm sure I asked dad what we were "checking" them for and I'm pretty sure his response was something about we were checking to see what cows were "in heat". I'm sure there were follow up questions and explanations. Regardless, talking about such things and having cow semen roll around in a tank of liquid nitrogen in the back of my dad's truck was a normal part of life. In fact, I didn't realize how ABnormal it really was until one particularly awkward dinner conversation with a guy I was dating, my parents and their best friends in the Angus breeding business. I'll let my dad tell that story to you in person, if he hasn't told you already. But I digress. Checking cows. We would drive out to the field and dad would have a notepad to take down the numbers of the cows (identified by the tags in their ears). Sometimes it was a family affair and other times I would go alone, which meant I didn't have to compete with Zack for getting to drive the truck through the fields. I was on dad's lap as there was no way my feet would touch the pedals, no matter how much I tried to convince them they could and I could drive by myself. And if the chance to drive wasn't incentive enough to tag along, there was always the hope of stopping at the Dairy Barn for a rainbow slushy on the way home.
And then, there was the era when my dad was the Bradley "Superfan." This era covered most of my growing up life. I realized somewhere in middle school that if I wanted to have a closer relationship with my dad and brothers, it would be best for me to like sports. College basketball was the place to start. More specifically, cheering for the Bradley Braves. Well, really I think I began by cheering for the Bradley Brave cheerleaders. For years we had two season tickets to the basketball games and I had tough competition to secure my seat. Eventually Dad caved and got an extra two tickets. But now we had 4 tickets and we had a family of 5. But mom became the one who, so sacrificially, gave up her seat. (That's sarcasm, people.) I loved the games. Everything about them. The shiny court, the ball boys, the scoreboard, Dave Snell's "Kaboom" tally board, the nachos, Rox Bucklin on the organ, the band, the cheerleaders, the people-watching, oh yeah... And the game itself. But I loved going with my dad and I have great memories of how his face would light up when his Braves, and his best friend, Mo, were on a hot streak. Those were the days!!
And when I said my dad was a Bradley Superfan, I wasn't kidding. There were few games that were too far for him to travel to. One particularly memorable roadtrip was to watch the Braves play Auburn in Mobile, Alabama. I pulled in the driveway, arriving home after completing my first semester at Taylor, got out of my car and hopped into my dad's car for a roadtrip to the Southland. We drove through the night and made a stop in Boaz, Alabama. Here, I had the enligtening experience of seeing the inner workings of a chicken plant. We saw it all... chickens sqwaking in cages to being wrapped in plastic. (As a sidenote, I still eat chicken, but not the nuggets.) We kept heading south to watch Bradley put up a valient effort against Auburn. It's possible it was a heartbreaker and it's possible that we decided to forgo staying the night in Mobile and drove home that night. It's also becoming clear where I get my love for driving from...
...And my style of road-trippin'. I didn't know this style was unusual until Spring Break 2000 to Breckinridge with the Academic Sabbatical Committee: college friends Missy, Mindi and Steph. I thought a 15 minute stop every 300 miles was being generous! When they thought I was crazy I explained how Weaver Family roadtrips were conducted. We would drive...no...scratch that...Dad would drive until mealtime. He would drop us off at one side of McDonald's so we could all go to the bathroom. He would drive through the drive-thru and order our food, and we would meet him on the other side, just as he was picking up our food. It sure made sense to me! Apparently this is not the norm. But pops, I appreciate that sometimes you just want to get where you are going!
And where I seemed to be going was Colorado. And now I realize that my dad can only blame himself for this move. He took our family (minus Luke) on our first ski vacation to Winter Park, Colorado in 1987. I vividly recall sliding back and forth in the backseat with Zack as we drove the switchbacks up the mountain. The excitement of being on my first adventure to the mountains and realizing how close we seemed to be to the edge of a cliff was almost too much for a 6-year-old to handle. Over the years we visited Vail, Steamboat and Keystone for a family ski vacation. But it was the summer after sixth grade when we visited our pastor and my parents' mentor Ira Galloway and his wife Sally in Pagosa Springs, Colorado that I knew this was where I wanted to live. My dad took me out horse back riding and we talked about what I wanted to do be when I grow up. I think teacher was one of my options, even then. It's funny to think how things have unfolded since then. And although I've beat out my dad my 8 years in the Rocky Mountains, it's a place I know is almost as dear to him as it is to me.
And now, the occasion of my Dad's birthday reminds me that it's just a few short days before our family gathers together in Flordia for Thanksgiving. I'm pretty sure this week has become the week I look forward to most in the year... and a week I will dearly miss soon! It's a much needed break from the long haul that is the fall of the schoolyear. Our family is really good at sitting on the beach but my dad and I have our special spot in the sand, toes in the water, books in hand. And the most important decision that is made each day is where we will eat. Although the decisions are pretty much made for us as we always go to the same places every year, it's just a matter of which place on what day...and if we will go to Crab and Fin on Saint Armand's Circle for just lunch, or lunch AND dinner. These Thanksgiving week feasts are something I look forward to all year... until I regret stuffing myself at about 2 am. But ten hours later that is a distant memory. My dad loves to share good food with his family. And then remind us of it a month later when he gets the credit card bill...
But my dad really is a thoughtful guy. One of the most thoughtful things he's done I am reminded of everyday. When I was born, he gave my mom a ring that was really for her to wear until he gave it to me on my sixteenth birthday. This ring reminds me that his love for me is great and unconditional, and started before I was even born...just like our Father's love is for us.
To use his own words, my dad is a "piece of work." He is a work that only The Lord could make and continues to make. My dad is continiously seeking wisdom and his generosity abounds. And many have been blessed because of his willingness to be used by The Lord.
I love you Pops! Thanks for loving me the way you do!