Saturday, December 15, 2007

I Miss Bill!

I saw this bumber sticker on the back of some person's car at the gym. I couldn't help but agree....

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Catch and Release

When it came to entertainment, Dad had several favorite sports. I think one of his all time favorites would definitely be catch and release boyfriend fishing. As soon as Alicia and I were old enough to date, Dad became obsessed with setting us up. This obsession became more and more intense as we both got older. I remember going on a bike ride with dad as the "rescue driver" (meaning he went ahead of us in the truck and scoped out the route). He would circle back to us every five minutes or so to let me know that he had found the perfect guy for me...holding a construction sign on the side of the road a few miles up...or out baling hay at a farm nearby. He was shameless, he would stop anyone he saw, ask if they were single and if they served a mission (these seemed to be the only real selection criteria from what I saw) and then let them know he had a single daughter who was apparently desperate. I would then have to ride past and pretend not to notice the goofy looking guy in the hay field giving me the eye.

This passion was not confined to road trips. Heaven forbid you try and go to a restaurant with the man. I can't even begin to count how many waiters and bus boys I have been pawned off on during the course of a meal. "Hey, you seem like a nice guy. Did you serve a mission? Why don't you take my daughter out sometime?...Yeah that one right there trying to crawl under the table". One of my favorite memories was right after Dad had his second stroke. He was in the ICU at the University of Utah hospital for a week or so and just happened to have a young, male nurse for his entire stay. I guess I should have been grateful that Dad was feeling himself again when he started subtly and not so subtly suggesting that his nurse should really hook up with his pretty daughter. Matters only became worse when his mother came into town. Now both my Oma and my dad were pretty much deaf but didn't seem to realize that no one else in the room was. In front of both me and the poor nurse, they would start to talk about what a cute couple we would make. Then they would comment on how he was not a member of the church but maybe he could convert. Are you kidding me? We're both sitting right here!

But as much fun as catching boyfriends was, dad's real passion was all about the release. It took me years to bring home a boy that I was actually interested in dating, not because I was embarrased by my family, but more because I was afraid dad would run him off. Dad was shameless when it came to the overprotective father act. He lived for it. As soon as I showed up at home with any boy (regardless of whether or not we were actually dating) dad would bust out the shot gun...or the switch blade...or a pistol with a highly acurate laser scope...or a grenade (a grenade? Who even owns a grenade for pete's sake?) and start to explain exactly what would happen to the aforementioned gentleman should he decide to lay his hands on me, get me home late or in any way come even close to making me cry.

Dad would put signs on the door stating "Potential boyfriend endurance trials, get to the car before the buckshot and you can go out with her". He would make boys leave $50 deposits that they might get back at the end of the night if I made it home on time and in one piece. He would send small children out to hang on my legs, call me mommy and ask if the new boy was going to be their new daddy (he also made all of us do this to my aunts when we were younger so I guess that one was just karma). After his stroke he even learned how to cock a shotgun with one hand just so he could still meet my dates at the door and say "run boy".

But despite all the embarrassment, I guess I'm actually really grateful that he ran off all of the jerks for me. Aaron was the first guy I think I ever brought home that dad actually didn't threaten and later told me I was crazy if I didn't hold on to this one...and that if I didn't take him, he would. I'm so grateful that dad got to know my husband before he died and that he loved me enough to care about who I spent my life with.

Friday, December 7, 2007

I'll get you last my pretty! (evil cackle)

This is the epidomy of my dad and my relationship! He tricks me, I trick him back, he one ups me, I spit in his food, he pours water on me while I'm sleeping, I take advantage of my fashion consultant role in the house and tell him that he should wear one of mom's heart shirts to work and it looks good (and he did), he sells my cheerleading bumpkins to the neighbor boys......and so on.....

Some of my favorite memories of my father have to do with pranks. Afterall, I am way too much like him in this aspect. This is why we butted heads for so many years, but I think we really began to understand each other after a while.

I remember running for my life around the house one day because my dad was going to give me a swirly in the toilet. Now let me clarify what my dad's swirlies are like. They're not the "un oh look you're hanging upside down over the toilet and I'm going to flush!".......oh no! He would actually insert our heads inside the toilet bowl and let our hair swirl around as he flushed it! Are you kidding me! I was willing to run out of the house naked if I had to, to get away from his swirly wrath! So, I am running and I come to a fork in the hallway, I see our huge black dog blocking my escape route, so at the last minute I opt for the left hand turn into the kitchen and.......BAM! I run write into the corner of the wall! Oh the pain! My head immediately began to bleed and for those of you who don't know me that well, pain is not my game. It took 5 nurses or so to hold me down just to give me a tetnis shot, let alone try to stitch me up. I wouldn't allow that needle to get that close to my face, so a scar remains on my right brow in memory of the swirly chases that brought so much joy to our family!

My dad became so predictable in his latter years, but for a while there when we were growing up, he really got us good! Okay, lets be honest, that man may have been slightly predictable, but he continued to shock us until his dying day. Well, I remember how much he loved to "test" out the fire alarm(smoke detector) at our house. He would set it off early in the morning, I'm talking 5-6AM (which doesn't exist in my conscious world) and he would run through the house screaming "Fire, Fire!! Everyone out of the house!" All four kids and his unsuspecting wife would all wake up in a panic and jet for the front door. He would follow behind us and at the last minute, he would smile and slam the door in our faces and lock us out! Now remember that we were all in our pajamas, or my mother in her underwear!It would take a few exorcist voice yells from mom to get him to finally unlock the door again. Whew, how traumatic fire drills are for us now. :)

I would always dread, and I mean dread my dad coming to pick me up from school in elementary, jr. high, and especially high school. He would make a point to make it the most embarassing experience of my life. Every single time, without fail, he would park our beat up minivan in the most obvious spot right in front of the doors. He would get out of the car and when he saw us he would wave his arms frantically and act "handicapped," yelling our names and making a scene. After he made sure that he had everyone's attention, he would then hustle to hop in the van before we got there, chuckling to himself. Oh, and here is the kicker! He would start to pull away and make us chase the van. As soon as we would sprint to catch up, he would slow down and let us get almost to the door handle and then he would speed up again, roaring in laughter. Everyone around us would always be quite humored by this occasion. My friends always said they wished their parents were as funny and goofy and my dad. "Um, no you don't!" I would say. But I really seem to agree now looking back. Humor was the best medicine for any circumstance. Thank you dad for teaching me that.

So, 3 weeks before I was scheduled to leave on my mission to the Canary Islands and while Michelle and Taylor were already in the mission field, my dad decides to steal all the glory by having a huge stroke. This was the first stroke that paralyzed his left side. It was extremely difficult to watch as his ability to walk, write, eat and work were taken away from him, after he had worked so hard to gain it back after the tumor (including obtaining his bachelors degree in Engineering!) I questioned whether it was right to still go on my mission now that my family had so many burdens in front of them. I spent every single day up at the hospital with him after that stroke. It was a time I will never forget because I really got to spend time talking to my dad and getting to know him. We grew very close to one another and shared many laughs. I continued my prank-pulling to ease the severity of the challenges he faced. My favorite thing was to feed him. I would get the fork so close to his mouth and then.....oh, pull it away! I would give him a sip of his sacred coca cola and right when he could taste its heavenly glory, I would.....oh, pull it away! hahahahah Payback is so so sweet. We would take strolls in the wheelchair through the hospital. Since, he only had one functioning arm now, he could only go in circles without me. So I would push him into some old unsuspecting patient's room and leave him there. He would panic as the old person would look at him with confusion. Instead of awkwardly staring at the person, he would strike up some off-colored conversation with them until I returned to rescue him. Cute dad.

While in the hospital, he expressed his concern that I still needed to go on my mission. He said that I could be of no greater help than to share the gospel with those that needed it. That was my dad's #1 goal in life, to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others because it had made such a difference in his own life. I knew he was right, so as difficult as it was, I took that leap of faith and left to Spain, not knowing if my father would be around when I got home. One of the first letters I got from him in the Spain MTC was this one:
What an example of humility. He was learning to write his alphabet again at age 45. He wanted to encourage me to work hard and so he let me know that he was "getting better every day" with this small gesture. I hold this piece of paper close to my heart because it represents so much of who my father was. His character lives on in each of his children. He has been my hero since I was a little girl and I will continue to honor him for the rest of my life......including the practical jokes! waa hahahahaha!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bill Gone Merchandising

written by my Mom

"... Dad is doing better. But I am still nervous about leaving him at home, what with all the falling and everything. Last Wednesday I took him to work with me. I left him in the parking lot of K-mart while I was inside working. He fell asleep and was awakened by the sirens of an ambulance. He saw it pull up in front of the store and for some reason thought they were there for him so he got out of the car an started waving for them. Luckily after a few steps he realized he was alright and hurried and hid back in the car. I think he has become like an ambulance zombie or something.
Then this older gentlemen got out of his car next to ours and bent over next to a Ford Pick-up truck and started vomiting. Bill rolled down his window and yelled, "Yeah, Ford's do the same thing to me!!" The poor old man, who was choking stared cracking up he was laughing so hard. His wife on the other hand became very irate and told Bill he was going to kill her husband and to be quiet.
Later that day in another parking lot he saw a woman get out of her car with a baby carrier. She went around to her trunk and opened it. Bill panicked and thought she was going to put the baby in the trunk. He yelled at her not to put her baby in the trunk. Needless to say the woman became very irate and called him some very choice names. I think I have found a solution to all our money problems. I'm going to take Bill to work every day with me and then we are going to write a book called "Life in the Parking Lot." Guaranteed a best-seller. What do you think? I thought leaving him home on Thursday would be a better idea since he got in so much trouble the day before. Bad idea!..."

She then goes on to tell the story already written down under the practical jokes section about Dad's greatest prank when he emailed Mom's friends from her account telling them he had died.

How Mom and Dad fell in Love

in his own words; the most amazing love story ever...
"Hey ya Sister Sparks and Elder Sparks,
Howz my Batisn, butt bustin, early risin, long prayin daughter and son? A little bit scary when you start getting short. I know, I was once thee myself. I had a stupid sister missionary, not Sister Tanner, that started throwing parties for me the last couple weeks of my mission.

A long time ago, I can still remember when I flew home with the famous Sister Tanner. I was excited that she was in our group coming home together. We were allowed to go to the Swiss Temple for a day before coming home. We had 5 missionaries in our group. 3 Elders and 2 Sisters. When we were in a session together in the Swiss Temple, I saw an American returned missionary friend that had been a good friend to missionaries. As the pray circle began to form, I whispered in his ear that Sister Tanner really liked him. That was all it took. He was a good looking son of a gun. I though t it was a match made in heaven. The trans Atlantic fight was long. We all had to take turns talking to chatty Sister Tanner. All she could talk about was Kerry Wright, Ron Wright's brother. The girl that had been waiting for me had just sent a sterling silver bracelet that said "All my love." Sister Tanner kept telling me "metal demands metal" and that I was dead meat. That brakes went out on the plane in Boston. And we had to wait an additional 6 hour while they fixed the plane. They would not let us off the plane because of customs. Needless to say, by this time I had heard Sister Tanner's life story many times. By the time we got to Chicago we had been awake a very long time. We all had to run like crazy to catch the last planes out to different locations. We quickly exchanged addresses, bid a hasty farewell and that was that. When I got to LAX it fogged in and we had to fly to Edwards Air Force Base and take a bus to LAX. The bus got a flat tire on the way to LAX. It was 4 AM when I finally saw my family. I got home, slept for 2 hours and got up and went to church. I was wasted, which wasn't the look I was going for, my ward had seen me wasted before. They asked me to give the opening prayer and I did it in German accidentally. I immediately entered the meat market as a newly returned RM. As you well know, chicks dig me. There was Leslie, Lori, Lynn and Linda.
Two months after I came home, one day after work my mom said that Sister Tanner had called ans was coming to sunny Cal. I thought she had a lot of gall to come and visit me with her new husband. I called her back and much to my surprise she wasn't married yet. She was coming to Cal with some girl friends and wanted to cash in a coupon I gave her to go surfing and deep sea fishing on my dad's boat.
2 weeks later, Mom, Trudi, Janet Van der Graf (Bacon's mom) were in sunny Cal. I picked them all up from the Disneyland hotel, and we headed down to the ocean. When we got out of the marina, they all stripped down into their bathing suits. These were fine women. I glanced briefly at your Mom and was overcome with guilt because that was Sister Tanner I was looking at. And holy moly I didn't have any idea that Sister Tanner looked that good in a bathing suit. I took them out into the harbor to look at some of the huge boats like the Queen Mary. Suddenly all of Mom's friends wanted to go lay on the beach. I thought, "fur rude!" It's very difficult to get an ocean boat to the beach. I navigated that boat up to rocky break water and the 3 of them jumped out leaving me alone with Sister Tanner in a swim suit. I anchored off shore and talked for a long time about how much we missed the mission field and President Busche. She told me how things had not worked out with Kerry and I told her how Leslie was cold hamburger. A couple of hours later we picked up the girls from the beach and headed over to my favorite surfing spot. I anchored the boat and jumped into the water with my surfboard hoping for the chance to show off my surfing skills. I paddled out into the lineup (surfer lingo for who's up next.) As I was waiting for the next set of waves to come in, I noticed that the anchor had broken loose. I started listening to the surfers around me talking about a boat load of bitchin' babes that were in trouble. I casually paddled over, jumped in the boat, and rode into surfer folklore as the surfer that saved a boat load of beautiful women that dragged him off and later ravaged him.
Ain't folklore's great? After I took the boatload of hot chicks back to the Disneyland hotel, I invited them to a multi stake dance that night. They accepted and I picked them up that night. Your mom looked soooo good. But I was still calling her Sister Tanner. I barely had a chance to dance with her. During the night, I needed to go outside and get a breath of fresh air. I got outside feeling just a little frustrated that I would never have a shot at a girl as beautiful as Sister Tanner. She could have any guy she wanted. As I was standing there lost in frustration, Sister Tanner, who had already been outside, walked up to me and said hi. During the car ride home, I took a chance and told her that if she lived closer, I would love to date her. She responded "That would be nice." But my gut told me I wouldn't see her again. I dropped them off at the hotel and said goodbye for what I thought would be the last time.
One month later, one of the American soldiers that I baptized invited me up for his wedding in the Salt Lake Temple so I called Sister Tanner and asked if I could come visit, good thing for me, she agreed.
So I went to the marriage in the morning, stopped by the mother of one of my companions in the afternoon and asked her for information on a good place to eat. I showed up at Grandpa's house in the evening. I guess I was early because Mom was just betting back from jogging to JoAn's house. I had borrowed my sister Helen's little Karman Ghia. You sit really low in this car and since I already sit close to the ground, she hoped that I would just disappear. No way, not after a 600 mile trip. I came back later and she was all spiffed up. It was then that I met Grandma for the first time. She was cool, but cordial. I took Sister Tanner to an upscale restaurant in Salt Lake City. It was called Victoria Station. It was over dinner that she told me that one time on a date, she dropped a whole salad in her lap. On the way home we listened to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's song "Our House." We talked about what we wanted in a family some day. We both wanted 12 kids, but having you 4 wised us up a little. Just before we got back to Roy, I opened the glove box and gave her a single red rose. By this point, your Mom had me thoroughly whooped... I was head over heals in love with her. We had the one date and I headed back home the next day. All I could think of from that moment on was your Mom. I didn't think I even had a chance. I thought she was just being nice to me because we were fellow missionaries from the same mission. After I returned home, I continued dating a girl name Lynn Tennis. I liker her because she was the only girl I knew that enjoyed studying the Dead Sea Scrolls with me. One day when I came home from work, Helen came up to me and said Bill, please don't do it! I said "Do what??" She then said Lynn had asked her to be a bridesmaid in her wedding to me. This surprised me a little since I had not asked her to marry me. It was then that my sister Helen did the best thing that she has ever done for me. ...TO BE CONTINUED..."

That's all Dad ever got to. It took him a whole day to type it with one hand (one finger really.) Dad loved Mom so much. He always told us how lucky a guy he was and how she could have had any guy she wanted.

The rest of the story to come later...

Brother Down! and other temple favorites.

One of my dad's favorite things of all time was the temple. Arguably the thing that made him happier than anything else in this life was when he was able to go to the temple with all of his children. He circled all of his children in a big hug in the celestial room and said that there was no greater accomplishment than that in his life. He would have been so happy to see Alicia go on to marry Ryan and David go on to marry Britta Bergstrom, but he will soon enough.

Now Dad was always interesting to go to the temple with. Here's one of my favorite stories as told by my mom when Davide first went through to take out his endowments.

"... The only thing David had to say for sure about the temple is that Dad isn't allowed in there anymore. I don't know if you can blame the stroke or not but since then he has become very careless about where he chooses to pass gas and he certainly doesn't try to keep them quiet anymore. Any time he strains trying to stand up or something out they rip. He ripped two or three more really loud ones in the temple and even David was so ashamed. Grandpa poked him in the ribs with his elbow in disapproval. Poor Dad. But I agree with David. He probably needs to be banned from the temple.
Let me tell you what happened last Friday. Michelle and I and your Dad decided to go do a session in the temple. Well, it takes Dad a really long time to get dressed and up to the chapel and he has a hard time walking all the snow and ice. So we dropped him off at the door of the temple and Michelle said, "Okay Dad, we're giving you a head start, let's see if you can get up to the chapel before us." Bad, bad thing to say to him. Se w park the car, go in the temple, get dressed and head on up to the chapel. We still wait another 15-20 minutes for Dad. Eventually he comes hobbling in with his "I did a bad thing" face. He sits down between the 2 of us and mumbles, "Competition isn't a good thing in the temple" Then he proceeds to tell us the whole sad story. As he was in his booth in the locker room trying to change, he was hurrying and lost his balance and fell down. He only had his white shirt and garment bottoms on. As he fell he slid along the wall and it pulled his bottoms down below his butt. He then fell on the door on his bad arm. He is on the floor and can't get up! There is a temple worker outside his door who sees that he has fallen and starts yelling, yes yelling, no quiet temple voice here, as loud as he can "BROTHER DOWN, BROTHER DOWN!!!!!" He probably yelled hit 9 times! Pretty soon Dad looks out from underneath the booth and there are about 14 feet standing there. Every temple worker from a 5 mile radius had come running! They couldn't get in to help him because he was laying against the door blocking it from opening. So they are just shoving on the door as hard as they can trying to get in to help him but they are only hitting him hard on the head each time they try to push the door open! Itwas pretty comical. Poor Dad. He is so humble and has such a great send of humor that he can laugh suchthings off.
He eventually makes it upstairs and he heads into the session. He has to ask the temple workers for help during the session because he can't put his temple clothes on by himself without his left arm. So an older gentleman sits down next to him and helps him throughout the session with his clothes. Pretty soon Dad is looking over at Michelle and I and pulling funny faces and nodding toward the man next to him. I couldn't figure out what he was trying to say. After the session he told us that L. Tom Perry, the apostle, was the gentleman siting next to him, helping him! It was pretty neat. He came and found Dad afterward in the locker room and talked to him. Dad was able to ask him it was alright for him to go up to the prayer circle without being able to do all the things with his left arm. It is something that Dad has felt really bad about. Bro. Perry said of course it was okay so tonight he went up with Michelle while I was with David. It was great. "

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

the trouble with clothes.

Dad certainly had problems with clothing. He once came home from the bowling alley with the bowling shoes still on! He claimed they were just so comfortable he hadn't noticed until he went to take them off that night!
He was heading to the temple once and had his shirt and tie on, he'd shaved, put on his black socks leg brace and church shoes, he'd gathered his temple bag and recommend and made his way to the front door when luckily somebody (probly Mom) stopped him and asked if he was missing anything.... LIKE PANTS! Seriously!
Another time he was complaining about difficulty getting his pants off going to the bathroom only to realize he had two belts on. How do you even do that?
He loved to wear the same three or four sweaters over and over with that dirty old Browning hat which was half sun-bleached and half preserved from sitting on his dashboard. I once gifted him a huge University of Utah sweatshirt despite his hatred for the U because I knew he'd wear it anyway! Sure enough he wore it til his dying day.
The old man has showed up to with one church shoe and one sneaker, different colored socks and possibly worse of all.... the dreaded pickle pants.

But my favorite dad story having to do with clothing is how he'd always wander around with just his garments on even when strangers or visitors were home. Mom writes this one to us when we were on our missions:
" Well I best be going. What's that you say? Just one crazy dad story? Okay, if you insist. I have time for just one crazy dad story. I swear your father is getting loonier by the minute. The other night he came walking out in his garments. Surprise, surprise huh. Not like that is something he did before.... huh? Anyway, he is still strutting around in his underwear but does it all the time in front of Michelle and her friends. So long story short I looked down at him and though Hmmmm something doesn't look right. Actually his garments seemed a little more sheer than usual and then I realized that he had his garments on backwards. I said "Dear, why are your garments on backwards??" He looked down and with a surprised look said "No wonder I have had a such a hard time going to the bathroom all day! I could never find the opening!" Let me tell you, never a dull moment!"

pants you like a turtle!

more famous words were never said! Here's the story as told by Mom:

"He is still as entertaining as ever. The other night he and David were going at each other as usual. (just teasing each other nothing serious) David made some idle threat to Dad and Dad came back with "Oh yeah?, well I'll pants you like a turtle!!"We had to pick Deedle up off the floor he was laughing so hard. It totally disarmed him! It has become our new favorite saying around here."

practical jokes

Possible Dad's favorite thing ever would be practical jokes. He lived to trick people. Take this letter I got for example. It caused all sorts trouble when I responded to it believing his lie!

"Hello Elder Sparks,
I miss you face. They are still trying to kill me here. Almost daily. I fthey would leave me alone I'd probably get it done myself. Ha Ha! We loved you letter. Aint you glad you did this? You did it all on your own. HOT GOSSIP!! I caught Michelle making out with Paul Perkins! YUK! Ugly red headed grand babies! ..."

It seriously took weeks for people to realize it was one of dad's pranks.
My favorite prank he ever pulled though was when he was really sick and had been in the hospital. He had just gotten back and Mom's friends and family hadn't heard exactly what happened, only something about Bill needing to go to the hospital and it being serious. He saw all their questions and concerns in Mom's email. So what does he do? Put their hearts at ease and let them know he was gonna be OK?
no no no, not my dad. He instead replies to EVERYONE who already were fearing the worst "Please send flowers! This has all happened so fast!"
Everyone was convinced the old man had actually died! One person called and when Dad answered she thought that it was my mom's parents there consoling her so she immediately hung up and freaked out even more!

Dad was a jokester alright. He often ended his letters to me with "The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated"

Dave Libhard shared this hilarious story with me on my mission:
"Your dad has stories like this one... He was the best missionary I ever taught. And I taught missionaries for 8 years while I was in Provo. I probably taught more missionaries than anyone else in the history of the church (Pride goeth before the fall, so I'll stop here but you get the idea) I really don't know how he did it. Seems like ever time he wrote to me he was putting on the whites to go get somebody wet-- and that was Southern Germany, land of the hard hearts. I don't think Bill ever understood that German-speaking missionaries were "special"-- they were to go knock on doors and plant seeds, but not baptize. As usual, your pa did things his way-- he just loved everyone and then baptized their heinies. What a dude... He was incredible. At one point I thought he was copying names off the headstones of dead folk in the cemeteries so he could claim he had baptized them and then they died. He's not above that kind of thing you know. And the mission pres loved him... "Elder Sparks this; Elder Sparks that" He was the kind of missionary you got tired of hearing about. The mission president's Liebling... can you guess what that means??? ...
... Bill is always playing pranks on me. Is this another one of his pranks (refering to Alicia being in such a cushy mission). Are you like a cheerleader for real missionaries? One time... and this must have lasted about a year... I would get messages on my answering machine from "Special Agent Halversen" Get this: I'd come home from work, and I'd play my messages and I'd hear something like this: "Yes Mr. Libbert [he'd purposely mispronounce my name], this is Special Agent Halversen. We need to talk. I'll be in touch. " Click. That went on for a year!! Special Agents work for the CIA! I was dying a slow death. Who was this Halversen guy? His tone was serious as death. I got really excited because I though maybe the CIA needed my help withsomething, or that maybe I could get a job as an undercover agent or something.
But ... hehehe.. I got him back. Big time. He'll never mess with me again. I'll let him explain how I dissed him "

AND we all wonder WHERE we get our practical jokes from? The master that's where.

the desert (part 1)

Dad had an abnormal obsession with the desert. Something about the dry vast nothingness of Utah's west desert called to the old man. He always answered the call!
Mom writes about one such near death experience in this excerpt:

"It has been an interesting week. So Dad had another great adventure in the dessert and of course, "almost died.": I don't know what we are going to do with him. He is so grounded from ever going to the desert again. I was a little upset with him because he took off Friday morning instead of going to the temple with me. He didn't tell me he was going . It was our mission reunion that evening and I guess he decided he didn't feel comfortable going limping in there with gimpy leg and non functional arm. He didn't want all the attention. Boy did his plan backfire. I go to the reunion and cry in front of everyone because I am worried about him and snot sure where he is or what he is doing. Now all the missionaries are worried abut him an Pres. Busche has already called him twice to talk to him and plans on taking us out to dinner and a long chat as soon as he gets back from Germany in a month. So much for not wanting anyone's attention.
So where's your crazy father you ask? yup he headed back out to the desert. His favorite run away place. But he drove too close to the lake edge and sunk up to his axles in mud. He tried digging himself out with his one arm and his collapsible shovel but that was about as effective as swatting at flies with a toothpick.
Then he gets the brilliant idea to call for help but since his phone had no reception where he was he decided he needed to tr and hike to a nearby hill to see if he could call anyone. He hiked for about a mile and a half (no easy task especially for him on very uneven ground) and just ended up getting himself good and lost. It got dark and he couldn't even find his way back to the truck. By divine intervention I'm sure he decided to try and dial 911 even without reception. Miraculously the operator answered and he was able to quickly tell her his predicament before his battery on the phone died. The Sheriff's came looking for him. They found his truck rather quickly but then it took another couple of hours for them to find him in the middle of nowhere with no light or way to signal them. They were the same cops that had helped him when he had the encounter with the bums and they remembered him. They were kind enough to all pitch in and dig him out. I'm sure we are going to get a huge bill from "Search and Rescue." He finally arrived home at 2:00 AM. I was worried sick and to make it worse... (I won't add this part) ... Old Deedle was putting in some of his super prayers and was about to head out to the desert on inspiration alone to find him. I guess if anyone could have done it, Davie could have. He sure has a lot of faith.
Well, I gave your father a good tongue lashing and told him he was grounded from the desert for a long time and could never go out there again alone. He readily agreed an d was so happy to be home. It really wore him out. His legs just aren't that strong and he was so tired he could barely walk in to the house. I think next year he will just face the music and go to the reunion. Even Pres. Busche told him he would have been much better off coming to the reunion. "

Damn that sister Tanner!

yet another classic letter from the old man.
In your letter about the circus, i.e. your branch, it took me back to Nurnberg, Germany. The oldest branch in Germany. An evil spirit hung over that city since the WWII Nazi war crimes. Elder Busche wanted to put an end to the bad spirit in the branch. He told the AP's that he wanted to send all of his "big guns", i.e. his very best missionaries to the city. Your Mom and I were considered the best of the best. We arrived in Nurnberg on the same day only a few hours apart. Satan was there waiting for us. He had many servants in this city. You could feel his evil right away.
When Mom arrived, her MTC teacher was there waiting for her with his mother. He had the hots for your Mama. He was a strange little German man that professed his love for Sister Tanner. Damn those Sister missionaries!! Always causing trouble.
I arrived a few hours later. My new comp, the illustrious Elder Bair, an Idaho spud farmer known throughout the mission as a great missionary and a great baptizer. I was excited to work with him.
When I met him at the train station the first words out of his mouth were "Did you hear? Sister Tanner is in the city with us!" He told me with slobber dripping down his chin. He went gaga immediately over that Damn Sister Tanner. He had to be transferred immediately. I hated Sister missionaries.
On Sunday I met the members. What a Zoo, we had an investigator with us and we had to sit on either side of him to protect him from the crazy members who would walk up to our investigator and proclaim that they would burn in hell if they did not accept the gospel right away.
Next, Sister Tanner's District Leader comes to me and says "I'm too love struck to do any missionary work. God told me to marry Sister Tanner!" Damn that Sister Tanner!
Another Sunday or two came and went, Sister Tanner came to us and told us that the 1st counselor in the District Presidency was hitting on her. Damn that Sister Tanner! She left the city overnight on a rail train.
They excommunicated over 400 members, including the whole District Presidency, that cleaned up that town. My comp and I were acting District Presidents.
Sister Tanner flew home with us. The brakes went out on the plane in Boston, Damn that Sister Tanner! What I'm trying to tell you is if you haven't guessed it already.
BEWARE OF THE SISTER MISSIONARY!! They are stealthy and come in all sizes. Mostly XXX size.
Mom and I can relate to you in what is going on in you zoo. Although I've never had a member bite me! Work hard Elder your time is short and it is a once in a lifetime chance to do this work. We miss you love and love you lots, our prayers are with you.
Love, Billy Willy Dinky"

Dad's famous skateboard generosity

this letter on my mission shows how loving Dad was. He immediately acted on righteous impulses (and a few not so righteous) to show kindness to others. Here it is...

OOPS! Elder Sparks,
I'm writing to apologize. You'll learn what for as the story goes on. I was on my way home, I was at the top of Country Oaks. I noticed 3 kids in the road. I briefly considered greasing all 3 of them, until I noticed that one of them was the youngest Packer kid. Two of the kids had skate boards and the third didn't. He was just running behind the other two kids and pretending to have a board, poor little guy was doing his best to keep up on his make believe board.
Out of curiosity I pulled over and talked to the Packer kid. I asked him who the goofy looking kid was and why he didn't have a skate board? The packer kid answered, his daddy is real sick and they don't have any money. They goofy looking kid slowly wandered over to my truck and looked up at me with big sad puppy dog eyes. I don't know what happened next, but I found myself racing down the road as fast as I could. I felt like I had been propelled back in time to a time when I was sick, barely alive and no money, worrying where I would get money for birthday and Christmas presents. As the garage door opened I spied an old skateboard hanging on the wall.
I'm so sorry Taylor, I picked it up and sped back up the street. I pulled over to the goofy looking kid who had just finished pretending a curb grind complete with a gnarly wipe out. He wandered over to the truck looking guilty like he was going to get chewed out for skateboarding at Albertsons. I handed him the skateboard and his eyes lit up. He looked at me queasidly, I told him about a famous boarder named Taylor David Sparks who was on a mission in Argentina and he would want you to have this, I continued on that this board had super natural powers and he would soon be the best boarder in Utah. I saw glee and delight in his eyes as he slowly reached up and took the board from my hands. He then said thanks Brother Sparks and please thank Elder Sparks for me. I t was the best thing I've done in a long time. I owe you a new board when you get home Taylor.

another funny letter

Another of my favorites...

"Dear Elders and Elerettes,
Taylor, did yo get beaten up again this week?
Michelle, how about those mud slides?
Ali, how's the tan coming along?
Taylor, I got a letter from Andy this week. He was verbally abusive as usual and expressed his undying love for you. He will be a good missionary. By now you have met intellectuals that just want to argue with you, Andy will give those types a run for their money.
As you know, your big sister will be home soon, she gets all your old stuff. Time goes by so fast when you are serving the Lord, Although there are sometimes days and weeks that last forever. We have all experienced those times. Be valiant young ones. These times make the good times even sweeter. It is always so much fun for us to tell people that you 3 are all out at the same time, by the time I add th stroke story, they are crying and reaching for their wallets. I could do this professionally if you guys would agree to stay out longer.
Mom is kicking me out of the house and rushing me back to work. I can't use my fingers well enough yet to button my pants. I don't think that's going to go over well at work when I ask co-workers to button me up. Maybe I'll stay with panhanding the old people in the ward... By the way I have developed relationships in the ward with the older folks. Old folks have had strokes and they like to share stories with me. I has given me empathy for senior members of the ward. I have been mouth kissed by several of them. It's not bad until they start usingthetongue. Generally it's not too bad, but old people have a tendency to use too much slobber. You get used to it.
Michelle, Mark Iverson asked for your address Sunday. I gave it to him, I like him, he doesn't use too much slobber, but you would know this already Miss Hot lips. We haven't seen much of letterJ since "the potential boyfriend endurance trial" when I met him at the front door with a shotgun and told him his first test was to make it back to his car before the buckshot. Strangest thing, he hasn't come back.
We look forward to enjoying your wonderful spirits. Work hard and keep all of the rules and BAPTIZE!

funny letters

Here's a good example of the funny letters dad would send us during our mission.

"Missionaries, one and all,
And yes you're all getting a copy of this. It's not cheating it's called compensating. It's a new word I've learned in rehab.
Mow-mow, Black Cat, Shabby Tabby or what ever you want to call her, Has had another name. We now call her PePe le Piu or Sadam "the cat" Hussein because of her flagrant use of toxic weapons. She was outside on the deck doing her usual let me in dance, when suddenly we heard some awful sounds. We (your mom and I) looked out to see our cat being attacked by another cat. Then we observed the most hideous thing we have ever seen. Our cat lost control of her bowels and started flinging poop, aka: fecal matter, everywhere. I don't know if she had sh#% scared out of her, or if that was some kind of defense tactic, but it worked. The other cat took off never to be seen again. Maybe I'll try that next time the JW's come by. It will be a long time before we can use that deck again.
I don't know if you've heard but America is getting ready to go to War again! We have a president that is a God fearing man. Unlike the las dirt bag Democratic President we had. That comment was for any 5 foot nothin Democrat Brazilian sister missionaries that might read this. Pray for him that he makes the right decisions and doesn't put our soldiers in harm's way. ...
...Rehab is going well for me. I was disappointed to learn that mental abilities have also been effected by the stroke. It probably happened to me because I acted like a retard in public for all of those years. What goes around, comes around. Am I keeping this scattered enough for you Michelle. What you aren't seeing is the hours that go into writing it. You see, I type a little, walk away, come back and start typing again of whatever comes to mind.
How are the beaches Alicia? How is your tan coming? How did you pull off such a cushy mission? Does devil boy write? Mom and I went to the temple. Grant sat next to me and helped me dress. We're going out now. I think he really likes me!!
Eric looked so different in the temple.
Until next time.
I love you all so much,

mission WORK

another letter from Dad that inspired me on my mission.

"Elder Taylor,
Word has gotten back to me about your evil plots against me, well my pretty, I'll take care of you when you get home. We'll see who puts who in a home. (Note: considering how things actually happened... That joke will just never be as funny ever again) A little bit of local news for you. The state of Utah in conjunction with the church have built delousing and deworming station for all south American missionaries at the SLC airport. DDT, you gotta luv it baby. So if you're really attached to any of your little friends, ie; Buster the Body Crab, Etc. Leave em in Argentina.
I love the Savior, and the incredible gift that he has given us. I often think of my missionaries trying to share that message with a world that isn't very interested in what you have to share, or are so confused and blinded by the doctrine of men. You must spend most of your time looking for the truly elect of God. I know that feeling when you find them, and the sadness that you feel when they don't accept the gospel. I had many experiences as a missionary when I was the second or third missionary to teach family and have them finally accept the gospel. We taught a man in Stutgart Germany that had been an investigator for 30 years. He even had a son on a mission. We were the millionth missionaries to approach, so you never ever know. Never, never give up. From your letters home it's easy to tell what kind of missionary you are! We are so proud of you.
In closing, just a note, I'm getting better every day. I'm out of the wheel chair and dancing in public places declaring to the world that I'm the proud father of Elder Taylor Sparks

positive attitude

Dad was a constant example for me on my mission. After he had his stroke and lost the use of his left hand (he's left handed) he wrote me the following letter:
"Dear Sisters Sparks, Elder Sparks (Note: Alicia, Michelle and me, Taylor, were all currently serving a mission)
You've seen my blazing 2 finger typing skills, now it's reduced by 50%. I have to pick up 1 more finger on my right hand then look out Mama. Things are fine at home now. I'm out of the hospital. You fart one time in public and they run you out of the place. I'm very optimistic about gaining back the use of my left hand. Most of the left leg has come back already. I have looked for a reason for this happening right now. I think I have found one. I have learned again how much your Mom loves me. She came up to the hospital every day and climbed on the bed cuddled with me. It made me realize how much she cared for me. This is all for today since it has taken me an hour type.
Love Dad
Life is great. "

As far as being faithful to God even in the face of extreme trials Dad would even give Job a run for his money.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


As long as I can remember my dad has LOVED to go out for breakfast. When I was a kid he used to come into my room at like 4am to see if I wanted to go to breakfast with him. It was always a special treat to go to breakfast with dad. He would alternate between the four kids so that we all got a turn. When we got into our teenage years dad continued to come wake us up at all hours of the morning looking for a breakfast buddy. It became somewhat less cute to have him wake us up at 4am though and you could usually hear him going from room to room trying to coerce someone into getting up.

Finder of Great Things

As long as I can remember my dad has been unable to pass up "freeway finds". A freeway find is usually something that has fallen off of someone's moving truck, been thrown out of someones window or otherwise left for dead on the side of the road. One day many years ago my dad had a dream that there was a bag in the middle of the road. In the dream he passed up the bag and then the next car behind him stopped only to find that the bag was full of money. From that time on my dad NEVER passed up a freeway treasure. I remember numerous embarassments during my early years when my dad would suddenly pull over to the side of the road and jump out of the car to retrieve a "great find". I can't tell you how many broken lawn chairs, life jackets, barbeques and once even a fax machine (which we do actually his credit) my dad has rescued from abandonment. Many called him a "highway whore" but he always claimed that he was "a finder of great things". One man's trash...


Anyone who knows Dad knows that he lived for his family. His favorite topic of conversation was his kids. He couldn't be more proud of us. He also adored my mom and lived to make her smile.
Few people in the world make me feel as loved.


The first item on Dad's favorite things list has got to be coke. Now I recognize that we all have our little addictions, but my dad's relationship to coke borders more on obsession. When my dad became confused, one of the few reoccuring coherant themes has been "I want a coke". He got so desperate in the hospital when he couldn't eat or drink that we actually took the sponge we were using to wet his mouth and dipped it in a coke. "That's the good stuff" he says "Now let me have the whole cup".
Several months ago my dad had a dream in which he went to heaven and discovered that there was no coke. He was extremely distraught by this idea. The next day at church my dad lost the ability to speak and had to be rushed to the hospital. On the way to the hospital he started to point to a gas station, indicating that my mom should pull over. My mom, worried that my dad was going to be sick, pulled the car into the gas station, at which point my dad went inside and got a coke. Who stops on the way to the emergency room to get a coke? I guess he didn't want to risk dying without one last fix.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Gone From My Sight

"I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says: 'There, she is gone!'

'Gone Where?'

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and she is just as able to bear he load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says: 'There, she is gone!' there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout: 'Here she comes!'

And that is dying."

-Henry Van Dyke