Rock Creek Free Press

NH Common Sense




Remembering Father
Fitting Memorial for Independence Day 2011
by Pete Hendrickson

Dear Friends, A few of you know that Peter's dad has been battling Alzheimer's for many years. The disease took him early Wednesday, June 29. When Peter immediately applied for a furlough, his counselor said to just have his brother fax the documents he'd need to process it and he'd probably get a week to be with family.

The request was denied, as Peter was never informed the BoP had placed a "security enhancement" in his file before he even reported last June 29. We didn't know it was there to challenge, though we will try now. In any case, Peter ended up writing this very powerful tribute to his father. Our daughter, Katie, represented Peter and delivered the eulogy. I'd like to share it with you. For those who know him personally, you'll see immediately how Peter became the man he is. Those who've never met Peter will nonetheless gain some insight into this man.

Doreen Hendrickson

One thing that naturally comes to mind when thinking about my father is how much he did in his busy, remarkable, treasured time on this earth, and with all of us. The man accomplished so much. He built, he created, he served, he gave... much. Very, very much.

But I'm not going to try to discuss or describe what concrete things my father accomplished in his long, exceptional life. Someone else will have already done so, or someone will do so after my words are spoken.

More importantly, while accomplishment is valuable, and worthy of respect and appreciation, I don't believe it is the measure of the man. Nor was it the measure my father applied.

Dad did not track his performance. He kept no scorecard.

On hearing his own biography, he would be more amazed than anyone else. Dad just did what he believed he should, the best way he knew how, and did not spend time gazing on the results. He understood that the real measure of the man is in HOW he accomplishes what he does, and how he strives to accomplish even what he does not.

The real measure of a man is how he takes on the world; how he acknowledges and addresses his responsibilities as a husband, father, brother, son. As a neighbor and as a citizen. It is by this true measure of a man that my dad frankly stood above everyone else I know. And that this IS the true measure, and what matters most, is the most important lesson he taught me.

And thank goodness!

Like most everyone else, I will never match Dad's record of what he got done. But I can hope, in the end, to have done a creditable job in addressing my duties and responsibilities, because I was shown how by the best model that anyone could have. Dad put his heart into whatever he did, and he put his care into whatever he did. He brought to every task the patience and attention it needed to be done right, and he never shirked a task that needed that patience and attention.

This was true in the little things—building something, or fixing something; the easy, routine things. But it was also true of the hard and not-routine things, like being a truly responsible father, who took personal responsibility for the people his kids grew into; or volunteering in church and school and the Boy Scouts and the neighborhood; or public efforts for the Easter Seals program, and his long and loving work for the benefit of his comrades in the 8th Armored organization.

Many of these tasks didn't come easy to Dad, a man who didn't have the ego of a natural leader, nor the natural gifts that some have for public performance. But he stepped up to them nonetheless, simply because he felt that they needed to be done, and he was a man, and therefore he should do what he can do. Then he DID what he could do, with all his heart and all his care, and the painstaking, methodical patience of a real man.

This was the example he gave, and the lessons he taught me: Acknowledge what needs to be done, even if it's hard. Do all things, the easy ones and the hard ones, with care, and patience, and all the effort needed to do them right. Put your heart into your work, and your pride on the line. Dad knew that legitimate pride is in a job well done, or an effort well made, not because it produces a momument to the doer, but because doing something well—especially when it comes hard—is a test and a measure of character.

Dad taught me to do what is right, even when no one can make me, or even know that I didn't. I can't say I have always risen to that gold standard; doubtless Dad himself did not. Perfection in that regard is an accomplishment that is rare indeed, and even if Dad had achieved it, he would deny it, out of sheer humility. But being a man who acknowledged, took seriously and thought deeply about his moral obligations, Dad probably faced more moral challenges than most men, and while he did not speak of such personal things to me, those of us who had the blessing of living with this man saw him rise to all challenges, one after another.

I never in my life saw my father lay back, or quit, or despair, or stop working to make everything to which he could put his hand better, even when facing adversity. At all times, his sense of duty and his thoroughly-cultivated habits of good character guided his hand, his mind and his spirit.

In thinking about my dad now, and the lessons he taught, words of George Washington to the Continental Army in the dark winter at Valley Forge come to my mind. Perhaps this is only because both thoughts make me shiver. Or perhaps it is because although Dad won many victories, he doubtless didn't win them all, and yet he met the righteous standard as Washington put it to his men in urging them to carry on, when he said, "We cannot ensure our victory. But we can ensure that we DESERVE victory."

My dad deserved them all.

Because of the terrible nature of the affliction that took him from us, he has in many ways been gone for a long time, and I have long missed him. I miss him more now. But what he gave me will be with me forever, and with all of us who have been so blessed as to have had him in our lives.

2011 July 04
Copyright Pete Hendrickson, posted via The Coffee Coaster™
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