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!