Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day Bonus Feature -- Guest Blog: Marlene Austin

In honor of Father's Day, I thought we'd treat you to an extra blog this week. (You know, read six, get one free. What other blog offers that deal, hmmm?) Besides, soon-to-be-published author Marlene Austin sent me this post last week and it was just too good not to share. Marlene's first book, Grave Secrets, will be released July 1, but she's promised to blog about that later. In the meantime, Happy Father's Day, all!

MY ORDINARY FATHER


By Marlene Austin

I thoroughly enjoyed Jennie Hanson’s memoirs of her father, and like everyone else, I’m sure, it brought back memories of my own. Thank you Jennie, for reminding me and thank you, Kerry, for letting me share them.

My father was a man of silent (and not so silent, at times) courage. He was the common man, the ordinary, typical father in an uncommon, anything but typical way. He worked for his living. He was a physical laborer, but he worked with vitality and a heartfelt intensity that is seldom seen now days. He was a dairy farmer most of his life with cows to feed and milk every morning and night. Vacations were short and far between, and even at that, he worked full time at a nearby lumber yard to support his family and send five children on missions and all seven of us to college. Farming was his joy and I will always remember walking through the barn on cold nights to see the cows tethered in their places, contentedly chewing their hay as the wind whipped snow outside. He could never stand to see an animal or a human being suffer.

He was not a large man never weighing more than 140 pounds, but he was never afraid to try tasks that many heftier men might avoid. Still, he jokingly said, “I’m not afraid of work. I can lay down beside it and sleep anytime!” He had a great sense of humor.

As well he should have. He was the oldest son in a household of ten sisters and four brothers, three of whom died as children. He often sung “Love at Home” when there were disagreements in the household. (See, I said he had courage!) He was born in an isolated town in northeastern Utah and loved to tell of his first experience on a train and of asking his mother to put more “beans” on his first cob of corn. He helped his father dig on the Burley, Idaho canal. As a young man he wanted to go on a mission, but his father objected. He waited patiently until the time was right then spent six months on a mission in New England.

He was old fashioned, respected his own father nearly to the point of worship, and took over much of the responsibility of the family farm and finances when his father died of cancer. He never finished high school but he was as knowledgeable as anyone I know and had a lot more wisdom than several of the Harvard professors I did secretarial work for. He kept meticulous records of his finances and proudly showed them to me the summer before he died.

He married when he was thirty. I was the next to youngest child, born when he was forty-eight. But of course I don’t remember that. He left us over ten years ago at the age of ninety-five, but he left with the garden dug and ready to be planted in the spring.

Family reunions have been all about memories for our family and it has been very interesting for me to listen to the evolution of our relationships. It became evident early on that my father was a different father to me than to my oldest brother…and my oldest sister…and the rest. We each have different memories and different takes on those memories. Where one sibling might see him as a constant, comforting father, another might see him as a stern, preaching figure. Where one might remember working hand in hand with him in the fields, another might grimace at the thoughts of his teasing reprimands as he tried to hurry us through our tasks. Some are totally confident in his love while others still shy away from his guilt-producing poetry.

I have often wonder who he really was, my sensitive father who pained at his children’s sorrows and fretted at their weaknesses. What would he have been like if he’d been born twenty years later as the last, rather than nearly the first child in his family? How would he have reacted to the modern lifestyles of today if he had been born at another time and a different place? How would I react to him if I’d been there with him to see and understand his world.

The last time I talked to my father was just before he was moved to a nursing home. His mind, increasingly frail over the past months, had produced an unreal world for him as he explained to me that he was being taken to fight in Kuwait for reasons that he didn’t understand. Knowing that I could not clarify his thoughts, I told him a truth that he could understand: that I knew whatever battle he was sent to fight he would stand for right and good. He had done that all of his life. That was his way.

He gave me a lot of memories, a lot of teachings, and a remarkable example of strength, wisdom and loyalty.

Looking back now, I’m grateful for one of the lessons he didn’t know he was teaching me: there are no “common” people and there are no ordinary fathers. We, like him, are all uniquely wonderful.


5 Comments:

At 6/17/2007 11:25 PM, Anonymous Jennie Hansen said...

Marlene, I loved your memories of your father. I think he and my father would have had a great deal in common. I also agree with your observation that in a large family with a wide difference in ages, each child's perspective is different. My oldest brother was eighteen when my youngest one was born; I was right in the middle of the eight of us kids. When we talk about shared memories of events or our parents, especially Dad, our views differ according to our ages at the time the event occurred.
Good blog. I look forward to reading your book.

 
At 6/17/2007 11:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your memories with us! What a lovely tribute to your dad for Father's Day --and what a great lesson = we are all unique!

I look forward to reading your book too, especially after getting a feel for your style! Easy to read, clear and honest!

 
At 6/18/2007 11:01 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Marlene, thanks for sharing this great and insightful tribute to your father. Thanks for blogging with us!

 
At 6/18/2007 11:05 PM, Blogger Josi said...

Beautiful tribute--what northeastern town was he from? Last year I went with Carole Thayne to Grouse Creek--the most North easterly Utah town I know.

Good luck with the book!

 
At 6/21/2007 1:59 AM, Anonymous Marlene said...

Maybe I'll actually get this on this time! My dad was born in Upton, and I hope Grouse Creek has more trees than Upton. Its pretty bleak.

My competitive juices are running stronger than my creative ones are at this point. The Whitney awards sound great. Do you think anyone would wonder if a book got nominated before it got released?

 

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