From Jeanne Arellan: Painting of Mother and Profile of Father

“I’ll start Creations off with a painting I did last year of my mother, created from a photo I took of her when I was in college and she was around the age I am now, and a profile of my father, written about 15 years after his death. I really honor and miss them both.”

Mom & Winky

My Father, My Light

In the eulogies at his funeral service, a word consistently used was “integrity.”  Stories were told about his hard work and generosity of spirit. But they only touched the surface of this quiet man, my father.

Ira Kiefer Gruver Jr. began losing his blond hair when he started having children. From the time I could remember, his shiny pate was always scarred from the sharp edges he encountered in his construction business.  His 16-hour work days left him so tired he rarely spoke to his three daughters except to yell at us if we were being lazy, thoughtless, or loud.

But even then, more than 50 years ago, I knew my father loved me. For when he had a few hours to spare on a Sunday, he built me a sandbox. Later it was a tree house in a grand old maple with a ladder nailed to the massive trunk and a railing around the platform, cradling me safely within the leafy branches. Once, when I sprained my foot during phys-ed, he carried me in his arms from my high school, to the car, to the doctor. I was five-foot-six, he was only five-foot-seven, but his strength ran deep through his sturdy body as well as his character.

My father was a legend for his unwavering commitment to do the job right. I remember once that despite his exhaustion and the late hour—it was around 7:30 p.m.—he drove to a customer’s house an hour away to complete some touch-up work. When the woman opened the door to his knock, she slammed it in his face without a word. He had forgotten to tell her he was coming.

Dad was a skilled builder but a poor businessman, and money was often scarce. He parked his worries on Friday evenings, though, because that’s when he and my mother played cards with friends. Mom would make all manner of refreshments for the occasion, and they would laugh and play into the night. Dad had a cornball sense of humor and his no-nonsense blue eyes would twinkle and the lines in his face deepen when telling a silly joke. Sometimes he would relax by playing the harmonica, which drove us crazy even though he wasn’t so bad at it.

When I married and had my first son, I was amazed at how much my father enjoyed playing with him. Dad was retired, his daughters were grown and safe, his beloved wife was at his side.  His nature was set free and though he didn’t express it in words, his love shone forth and my lucky son spent hours in his arms and later on the back of his tractor, mowing the expansive lawn as well as a three-year-old could.

Dad developed lymphoma when he was 67.  Within four months of diagnosis, my father, who could have given birth to the expression “He was never sick a day in his life,” died from what we believe was chemotherapy poisoning.

As I drove toward the mountains to his funeral, the sky was black with clouds, yet the most amazing rays of sunlight broke through, illuminating the landscape. Such a fitting tribute it was to my father, whose goodness always shone through the darkest days.