Happy Father's Day

Father's Day Tribute

U.P. Tech Support.
Pops can fix just about anything I can wreck!

My father is a multi-talented individual. He is loyal, fair, and has a bit of mischief in store camouflaged by his calm, poker-face demeanor. I'll save his roast for another day though. He has taught me a lot. My dad knows about everything from finance, to cars, to computers, even politics. I thought all Dads knew these things as if it were a downloadable Dad Ap. It's not. My Dad is just special and I got really lucky to have him. He even taught me how to reformat the hard drive of my computer. O.k. I couldn't do it again but that's because I wasn't paying close enough attention. That's not his fault. My dad is so great you can call him in the U.P. when you are in San Diego with a blown transmission and he'll know what to do. He knows just what to do when the doors to your post college apartment freeze shut and you can't figure out how to get in. After 12 hours of night shift sleeping in the snowbank seems like a good idea.

It is fair to say my father can be credited for my athletic interests. Having two older brothers he encouraged me to give it my all and try to keep up with those bigger and stronger, older and wiser.

He fostered my abilities and delusions when I was in love with skiing and gymnastics. I wanted ski down a black diamond so bad. My brothers went down black diamonds. It would have been a slow painful 1/2 hour decent with me in the flying wedge. Smart enough to know I couldn't be reasoned with, he traversed across the bottom of three black diamonds with me. Then he told me I skied three of them. He'd even get me a pin. Who could argue with that?

I was convinced I had a shot a becoming the next Mary Lou Retton. My dad preferred Raisin Bran or Total but tolerated Wheaties just so I could have a glimpse of Mary Lou on the box before I headed off to school to practice my tumbling.....I mean learn arithmetic. My parents knew otherwise, I wouldn't be a Mary Lou. It didn't stop my dad from building me my very own balance beam. It was the bomb. My mom didn't want it in the house and to this day I don't understand why. My dad covered it with AstroTurf. He let me jack it up on whatever I could find in his garage. It was a couple of feet off the ground. After a few rains, the four inch wide balance beam became 5.5 inches, allowing me a little more wiggle room. Pops and I both new this but it was our little secret. I know now you are thinking I had no limits. My dad must have never said no to me. You are wrong. No matter how many times I asked to use his scaffolding for uneven parallel bars and his saw horses for a vault he said no. Limits, I tell you.

One thing my dad really wanted for me was to learn to swim well. After a couple summers of swimming lessons in the city pool I was still floundering with strokes. I loved the lake. Doing handstands, jumping off rocks, paddling rafts around... but swimming in that chlorinated pool with lane lines was a bore, and I just didn't get it. I only went without complaint because in the last 5 minutes of class we got to jump off the diving board. My dad really wanted me to learn to swim proficiently. My brothers were in junior lifesaving at this point and antsy to be finished with swimming lessons. The woody wagon didn't make trips to town for one kid, it was the three of us or bust. My dad conceded and made a deal if I could pass advanced beginners (determined by me swimming a 25 of any stroke and treading water for 5 minutes) we could all be finished with swimming lessons. I passed, I think my dad would have liked to see me progress further but it wasn't happening. I maybe one of the slowest swimmers in San Diego. but I think my dad would be quite proud that I can swim all the way from La Jolla Cove to La Jolla Shores and back, without hitching a ride from a dolphin or seal.

He didn't really care what the end results were so long as you gave 110%, played fairly, and remained humble. In fact, he'd rather see you finish last in the fast heat than first in the slow heat. That would be me ....100 and 300 hundred hurdles, last in the fast heat time and time again. High school track didn't go so well for me. When there are 52 people total in your class, you will run varsity as a 4'11 freshman. You might even enter the high jump. It stood to reason if I could do a standing back flip I would fair well at high jump. The problem was the one foot take off vs the two foot back flip. I nailed that bar countless times. I cringed when I had a happy accident and cleared it, knowing that the bar was going up. My dad, always positive and diplomatic, didn't criticize me or the coaches, he just suggested maybe I try long jump and maybe something longer than the 300 hurdles. He always thought I would be better suited for the 1/2 mile. I wanted to be a cool sprinter then so I didn't really listen just yet. Eventually I must have got the message as I definitely am endurance driven now.

I've probably blogged this before but it's important enough to blog again because it's something that has for sure shaped my life. Summers in Northern Michigan were all about playing ball. (We didn't have soccer where I grew up). Once the snow melted we played neighborhood softball from sun rise to sunset as long. We played with the boys. The best two players were captains and picked teams, we were self governed. Few rules existed except a ground in the woods was ruled a double and a fly ball in the woods a homer. Simple. A couple nights a week, the neighborhood kids went into town to play organized summer softball. It was the first year I was old enough to play on the league. I was super excited. I couldn't wait for my turn to practice batting. That was after all the rewards for fielding all those grounders right? I took to home plate with my pint sized t-ball bat in hand. I positioned myself in the stance my father had taught me the coach commented "A lefty and you're short, perfect. If you just scrunch down a bit you'll get walked every time." I was instructed never to swing, to scrunch whenever it was my turn to bat. This was a little disappointing to me as I could get a base hit in a neighborhood game. What was the point going to town if I wasn't allowed to swing at the ball? I mentioned this plan to my Dad. He wasn't impressed with the concept. I might not be small and hard to pitch to forever. Then what? It didn't seem like a great long term solution. He told me to stand up tall and take a swing at it. My goal should be to hit the ball and run as fast as I could. I'll never forget hearing his voice as I was batter up. Yelling for me to take a swing at it. He'd rather me strike out than get on base via the gravy train. My life likely would have gone much differently if we encouraged me to take the walk.

Thanks Pops for all you have done and for always putting family first. We are lucky to have you as a Dad and we love you.

By the way when I come visit I think I need some help reformatting my computer and some investment advice, and some car advice and we'll need to take over the garage as we are bringing are bikes. Can we borrow some tools;)


tim said...

that was a nice tribute to your dad. he is a wonderful guy and I am lucky to be a part of your family!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much, Jenn. It's been so much fun to watch you grow into a very talented and beautiful young lady. Your appetite for competition has always been your driving force and you never gave up even when the deck was stacked against you. There were times when you were the smallest ball player out there but it was never an excuse you needed to. It didn't matter that the player blocking 2nd base was twice your size because your tactic was to go right through them. And it never mattered that you would surely get a black eye out of the deal. It was competition and you were going to give it your best shot. Mom and I are proud of you and all your accomplishments and we welcome you and Tim looking forward to many years of enjoying life together. Thnnks again.



Anonymous said...

I share your sentiments and am glad I was adopted into this family. Sparky

Jennifer Yake Neuschwander said...

Aww, thanks pops. I forgot to mention the part about how you wouldn't let me have a trampoline or a horse. Geesh.

Cindy said...

Dad and I echo your sentiments on Jenn's dad. We're proud to be part of the extended Yake family too!