Early Wednesday morning, Homer Paulson--my dad, my hero, my encourager, my laughing buddy, my Mr. Fixit, and my model for faith and conservative living--died at the age of 93.
Dad didn't take a lot of time to tell us how to live. Instead he lived, and let us watch him do it. He seized life and let people know he was enjoying the ride whether he was working, playing cards, engaging in one of his many hobbies, traveling the world, watching sports, or making a difference for his faith or family. And through it all, he had fun. It's hard to remember a time he didn't have a smile on his face and a spark in his eyes.
Growing up during the Great Depression, he had more than his share of hardships, but he and his family were never victims. Dad always played with the hand he was dealt, and by making the best of what he faced, developed a rock-solid optimism that never left him. If something broke, he'd fix it before he'd buy a replacement. No loans; you save until you can afford to buy it. Working as a child wasn't abuse; it was a privilege to learn the importance of hard work and to contribute to the success of his family's farm.
During the depression, whole families who had lost their homes were living in the Paulson homestead. The Christmas dad most remembered was the one where his father took money set aside for gifts to help a poor family that needed it more. To dad, charity wasn't the government's job; it was our job to help.
At Kirkland High School, he was on every sports team, but confessed that they had so few boys in the school that everyone had to play every sport just to field teams. He challenged us to participate in sports to learn about teamwork and how winning and losing was part of life.
To dad, faith was more than going to church. He headed building and stewardship drives, served as church treasurer, and loved making a difference. When the newspaper noted that the education building dad helped support at Los Altos Lutheran looked a lot like an ark, he laughed, "They're worried that we Lutherans know something the others don't!"
Long before civil rights were politically correct, he showed by his actions that every man is a child of God and worthy of respect. To dad, titles, race, degrees, and riches didn't earn respect; how you treated the least of these mattered more.
He treasured the freedoms and opportunities we have as Americans. He voted his conservative principles in every election and volunteered in his local church and community.
He lived life with passion. He enjoyed every hobby or craft he took on. From coin collecting to tile art, from silver jewelry to collecting Heisey cruets--there was no half-way commitment. To dad, every day was a gift; he opened it looking for the present it could become.
When mom became pregnant with Patty at 42, they embraced the surprise. God had given our family a gift. When they asked if dad was her grandfather, he just smiled, then dyed his hair, and went on living young at heart.
Cousins would call him "Uncle HoHo." Because of dad, we laughed everywhere we went as a family. He showed us how to take our faith, family, and work seriously, but ourselves lightly.
In short, he lived the principles that made America great—treasure your family, work hard, spend wisely and save for the future, take responsibility for yourself, provide charity to those in need, respect your elders, don’t covet what others have, earn your own way, and believe in God’s providence and grace.
I once played for dad Dan Fogelberg's song, "Leader of the Band." The words still touch me every time I hear them:
The leader of the band is tired
And his eyes are growing old...
My life has been a poor attempt
To imitate the man
I'm just a living legacy
To the leader of the band.
When he listened to the song, he just said, "I don't play in any band!" I was in tears, and he was laughing. As usual with dad, laughter won the moment.
He's gone now, but there's no man I've ever respected more. I just hope to be half the man--half the father, believer, and citizen--dad was. For those who say that fathers aren't necessary, they never knew my dad. I already miss him. I'm grateful for his love, his discipline, and his wisdom. And I will leap for joy when I join him again in paradise.
May we never forget that fathers matter, and may we never stop letting them know that they do.