Sunday, May 17, 2009

Happy Birthday Dad

I have been trying to write this blog and the universe is either saying don't do it or I am simply having trouble. Several months ago my "e"key fell off and I have been struggling to hit the right spot in the vacant key spot to iterate an "e". E is the most common letter in writing so you can gauge my level of frustration. So today because I am out of home most of this week and next week I surrendered my computer to the geek squad to repair the errant key. I tried to log-in on my work computer and ran into the google/blogspot morass of wonder. So after a good bit of time I am on! Thank you!

Last year at this time my Dad escaped from the hospital after wrestling with his a-fib issues. We all held our breath and wanted his health to return. Things didn't improve much and he was scheduled for a trip to the Cleveland Clinic to have the medical cognoscenti scrutinized and analyze and strategize. In the middle of all of this was the Henry vacation. Twenty plus years of family ecstasy in a gorgeous location. Needless to say we were on pins and needles over whether Dad was going to make it. We needn't have worried because he made it in typical FC Henry style. All of the medical trials and tribulations were a non-issue for the week - he was here to have fun and be with the people he loves and those who love him back to the nth degree. He reigned over the week, helping with the cooking, hanging out and giving advice and comfort to the enemy (men's side of the table) in the nightly game of slip a**. We went to a beach bums ballgame, savored meals, cornhole cocktail hour and the general joy of four generations playing, laughing and celebrating. It was awesome. Spending this time with Mom and Dad and the rest of the family is a soulful time for me. I connect. I breathe in these people of my blood and choice who are dear beyond measure. This time always helps me get my groove back. I love watching Mom and Dad's reactions to this time. Mom exults in being in the middle of all of this and her laughter and sidling up to be with someone working in the kitchen or gathering laundry to add to a load speaks her love of being in the middle of all the brouhaha and chaos. Dad loves this as well but he seems more to soak it all in and you can see the happiness on his face as he reflects on his and mom's success in creating a strong supportive family. He is far more introspective about all of this but his eyes shine in delight when Gabe strolls over to him to show him a treasure from the yard or look up at him with a big grin. Dad looks at each of us and considers the person and enjoys their happiness reflected through the filter of their personality and it generates many a chuckle for him.

It's always been my goal to be like my Dad. Like Mom, he was one of my first role models. I saw his high standards and desire to do the right thing. His compassion for others and respect for his patients were characteristics I treasured. Not always his politics but you can't have everything. I most wanted to create in me and my own family the sense of being protected and cared for and being a beacon for the future. I don't know that I'll ever be able to recreate the incredible sense of being safe I felt with him though I've tried and tried.

I love the sense of adventure and fun in him. When we were little he would speed up on hills so we would temporarily leave the gravity behind and our stomachs would roll with fun. It was so exciting. Again Daddy do it again we would cry and he would find another hill. He and Aunt Lil taught us to water ski and when skiing on his own he literally walked on water - ask Uncle Ralph the Tennessee cannonball. He took us snow skiing. We went out with him to gig frogs at night and he found an opportunity to show us frogs mating. We also went canoeing with the Polks to catch snapping turtle for dinner. A grand adventure was learning to drive. He had me drive the family from Toledo to Monroeville to practice. My sisters were in the back seat screaming about their impending death. That was crazy! He took us for airplane rides when he became licensed to fly. We would fly together over the city and fly past our house. On one occasion we looked up to see someone parachuting in front of us. A quick turn of the wheel saved his life and ours.

At one point he decided he would read a classic to us and we gathered together to read Treasure Island. I don't know if we finished but I do remember his voice reading the story of adventure with pirates. He loved history and arranged historical vacations that celebrated American history and allowed us to see our country. We canoed and were taught to fish and even had opportunities to learn to shoot a rifle. The last time Dad canoed he was paired with me. Within 100 feet of the place we put in I managed to get us stuck on a log and ended up tipping us in the water. Dad was so not happy and his grim smile to my apology let me know being wet from a canoe snafu was not in his list of favorite things to do. He took us on some wonderful fishing adventures. One was at a club in Canada he belonged to - Wabe. It was such fun. We had to fly in on a float plane. We fished and laughed and spent a night at Benoit. That cabin had no electricity. We slept in sleeping bags on cots and listened for bear. No bear just the scratching of mice through the night. I didn't know who taught him to fish and asked him. He shared that he wanted to learn so he did and he became an accomplished sport fisherman who fished in some exciting and exotic places. Dad taught his grandchildren fishing and shooting. His two great grandsons have fishing poles sized to them to begin their fishing skills taught by Bobo. He hated golf and had some choice opinions of golfers but for some reason decided to take up golf in retirement and did pretty well. So much like Dad, he shot a hole in one on the Veronica Valley golf course near Leland, MI. Walk on water, hole in one - you get the picture.

Dad loves to laugh. He has some great stories from his life and experiences. When he gets tickled he chuckles and chuckles. He has a circle of friends who are like him larger than life and the source of some great fun and laughter. He laughs over their misadventures and delights in the fun he shared with them over the years. We vacationed in Hawks Michigan on Lake Nettie for a number of years. One summer Dad and Uncle Ralph rented a catamaran for us and a little sailfish. In true Dad style he and Uncle Ralph decided to take the cat out to see if it could be upended and how hard he would have to work to make it happen. In other words were the kids at risk or was the cat safe. Dad and Uncle Ralph took the family dogs out for the sail. Cricket Jones and Mandy Henry were willing sailors and quite at ease. Finally Dad and Uncle Ralph managed to tip the cat. They moved the dogs to the side of the pontoons that were in the air. Seeing this, the kids fired up the outboard and raced to rescue - of course - the dogs. Dad and Uncle Ralph were a little challenged by our priorities but saw the humor in the situation. Dads are invincible, dogs are not. When we visited Mom and Dad in Florida Dad found a video that tickled him endlessly. A bull wandered into an English grocery store and terrorized a shopper. Dad laughed endlessly as he described the image of the man being chased by the bull through the aisles of the store. He would laugh again just thinking about the video.

This post hasn't really documented Dad's professional career, his financial wisdom or his medical accomplishments. It is more some recollections of one special Dad who created a legacy of love and family that he inoculated in his family and the generations. He is modest and doesn't want to be in the spotlight but he takes pride in his accomplishments nonetheless. It's his birthday on the 18th of May. It's a day for celebration, joy and remembrance that I'll honor to the end of my life. My Dad has shared much wisdom with me through the years. I think we could write a book with Dad's pearls. My favorite is this. You will never see a greater return on investment than the effort and love you invest in your family. I believe it from my own life and know this to be true for me and my family. Thank you Dad for being you! Happy Birthday!

Dad grills a superb anything. One of our favorite meals is a 2 1/2 inch thick porterhouse steak grilled and served with a compound butter.

Heat the grill to high and then regulate the flame to about 350 degrees. Season the steak with Montreal seasoning on both sides. Put the huge hulking 2 1/2 inch wonder on the grill. Do not fuss with it but watch it. Let the steak roast for about 20 minutes and then turn it. Continue to cook until a thermometer reads about 135-140 degrees. Remove the steak from the grill to a platter and tent with foil. Let the steak rest for 15 minutes then bone and slice. When everyone comes to vacation we grill 3 of these for our family. Sometimes there is some left over. We slice it thinly for steak salad the next day.

Paprika Parmesan Butter

4 ounces softened butter
1 clove of garlic minced
3/4 tsp. paprika
1 T. chopped parsley
3/4 C grated parmesan cheese (fresh please)

Mix thoroughly. On a sheet of waxed paper shape the butter into a log. Roll the waxed paper around the log and roll until evenly shaped. Chill.

Serve a slice of the compound butter with the warm steak. It oozes over the top and is quite delightful.

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