This week was my Dad’s birthday. He would have been 99 on July 28. I hope you’ll humor me while I take a moment to remember him. My dad was Harold Koestel. He transitioned in 2003, but I continue to feel his presence in my life daily.
As adults, especially parents, we sometimes forget how much just living our lives influences our children. I often tell clients they have to be what they want their children to be, because they are watching every move!
My dad was a shy, gentle man who grew up speaking German in his home. When he went to school he had to speak only English. He had difficulty pronouncing some words (even as an adult), and he took this as an indication that he was not intelligent. This was by no means true. My dad was also a hard-working, successful farmer. He had a rough life in a lot of ways, and he didn’t always think enough of himself, but he taught me so much.
I learned to be giving. My mom was a teacher, so when I was home sick, even though he probably didn’t have the time, he would come in and fix my lunch – milk toast, just like I liked it. He was kind and gentle, and he never complained.
I learned to be compassionate. When I was a teen I drove my car into the ditch. Dad hopped on the tractor and pulled it out, saying, “No problem. Everybody makes a mistake now and then.” And I saw him nurture, love and care for his parents, mother-in-law and my mom until they each went on before him. I also saw him do for and give to other farmers and families in our neighborhood when they were down on their luck.
I learned determination from him. You decide what you want and then you do whatever it takes to get it. If you REALLY want it, you look at what you’re willing to do and what you’re not willing to do. (And there had better not be anything on the “not willing” side).
I learned how strong the love of a parent can be. After my brother and sister went to college, I was the lone helper for fall harvest. When my truck caught on fire in the field, I was paralyzed with fear. My dad jumped off the combine and ran across the field to pull me out of the truck to safety. Although it wasn’t as dramatic as it might sound here, I could tell he was scared too, but I also knew he would have risked his own life to get me out.
I learned to look for the funny side of life. He couldn’t wait to tell a dirty joke – and then he would giggle so hard he almost cried. He laughed so much that he had a hard time finishing the joke! He always looked at the humorous side of things. (My kids have never let me hear the end of it when I get so tickled I start to cry).
I learned how important it is to choose a profession for which I have a passion. As I look back, Dad was very passionate about his way of life. He had a deep respect for animals and for working with the earth. He loved being out in the elements, regardless of the weather. He worked hard, but it was a labor of love. I feel the same about my work. I have to watch myself to avoid compassion fatigue and to keep balance in my life. There is always something else to learn that might help someone. It never feels like work.
Dad didn’t go to church often, but he was still one of the kindest, most spiritual people I ever met. I think he felt closer to his God when he was communing with nature. While this was never a topic of conversation between us, I have always felt very connected spiritually, and this bonded us without the need to express it verbally. In fact, knowing what I know now about the Universe, I believe he was very uncomfortable as a human. I have been told by those whose sensitivity is more developed than mine that he exudes a very gentle, loving spiritual energy even now.
My dad wasn’t perfect. He was a simple man – he didn’t like a lot of fuss. He didn’t join a lot of organizations or have public accomplishments that can be listed, but he made the world a little better one kind deed at a time. If I can have half the integrity I saw in him, I’ll be doing good!