This photo of my father speaks volumes to me. I love reading and contemplating history. The best kind is the history that has shaped your own life. My father is still with us in 2016, passing his 94th birthday!
In the midst of the “roaring twenties” my grandparents had the family put on their Sunday-best clothes and document themselves at a photographer’s studio. Dad knew the Great Depression of the thirties. There’s a story of my grandfather going to market with piglets and coming home later with more than he took as someone else had slipped their own that they didn’t have the means to feed in with the Dettweiler stock. The Christmas gift one of those lean years, shared among his sisters was a simple enamel or steel comb for their hair. Dad was finished his schooling at the Riverbank school, just down the road from home, in 1936. The future, from that point was working on the farm. My Mennonite heritage, through my father, is evangelical Christian. His father’s barn impelled passers-by with the words of John the Baptist from Mark 1:15, “Repent, and believe the Gospel”.
In 1942, my dad was sent, along with other conscientious objectors to alternative service which began, for him, at the Montreal River camp in Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Superior. An autograph book my father kept from those times makes me think that my father experienced an extended bit of camp-comradery as his co-workers there in the 6 or 8 months he spent there shared on those pages scripture verses or perhaps a witty poem. His alternative service then continued near home as he worked for the local dairy right through the very end of the war in 1946.
After the war, life continued on the farm. Dad travelled several times during those years between the war and the meeting-my-mom and marriage in 1952 to Alberta, at harvest-time to work on harvesting the grain. In winter, when farm work was less intense he attended this Bible School held at First Mennonite in Kitchener. The photo below is only half of a huge panorama shot of the students involved with him in learning from the Bible in January of 1948. My dad is in the top row the second from the right hand side of the photo.
From all this history of dad, I learn that I didn’t invent life out of nothing (ex nihilo?) I just continued it. Like I would walk behind my dad as he tilled the soil of the garden in spring with the roto-tiller, I followed in the way that he had established. If I like to dress well, I continue the lines established by father’s very non-plain ties. I eat simple food and enjoy it; I love adventure that takes me from home and I love returning. I can make my own way through life and I’ve been informed by God’s word.
Thanks, Dad for all of this.