Tribute to a Grand Father

Ann and I attended five Family Life marriage conferences early in our marriage. Those weekend getaways helped to lay a solid foundation for our marriage.

At one of those conferences, the speaker encouraged us to write a tribute to our dads, regardless of whether they were good or bad dads. I took the application to heart, but decided I would write one for my grandpa first, since he was my positive father figure. That letter is reproduced below.

I always intended to write one for Dad, but never got around to it before he died in November 2001.


December 25, 1992

Dear Grandpa,

My present to you this Christmas is this letter of appreciation, thanking you for special memories and for your influence in my life.

Although common place a hundred years ago, few in my generation have memories of their grandfather like I do. I consider it a blessing from God to have grown up within a few hundred yards of you. Thank you for these and many other memories:

  • Racing “short distances” across the yard.
  • Watching election returns late into the night in 1968.
  • “Sneaking” up to the lower pond and shooting ducks, which turned out to be decoys.
  • Seeing you cry as you read sympathy cards after Grandma’s death.
  • Building tight fences on the land you once farmed.
  • Riding the elevator, eating hot dogs and running on the football field of old Cyclone stadium.
  • Receiving marital advice in the shop a few days before my wedding.
  • Countering pressure to drink with a $2000 “excuse.”
  • Being encouraged to be kinder to mom as we talked by an apple tree.
  • Shivering with fear as we watched thunderstorms from your back porch.
  • Getting pop out of the garage to make Root Beer floats.

One of the hotly debated topics in this election year was family values, which can be defined as “The family is the place where values are taught.”  You have been like a father to me and have influenced me more than any other man.  Thank you for teaching me these values:

  • Honesty: Your father strived to be honest in his business dealings and he passed this value on to you.  Through your example, I have learned the merit of being honest and am laboring to teach this to my children.
  • Humility: You do not call attention to yourself or make others feel inferior, even though you have numerous achievements to your credit.  I hope to demonstrate this quality throughout my life.
  • Honey-eating: As a young boy I discovered that the tastiest way to eat bread was to spread on honey one bite at a time.  Ann buys honey in gallon jugs and I continue to eat biscuits in your tasty manner.
  • Humor: I remember listening to your stories while enjoying roast beef and Mountain Dew at Nellie’s. I admire your ability to make people laugh without tearing them down.
  • Hard work: One of the greatest compliments a person can give me is to say that I am hard working. If more Americans had grandfathers who taught them the value of hard work, our country would be significantly stronger.

I hope that I earn the honor of overhearing someone say, “There goes honest, humble, honey-eating, humorous, hard working Howard.  He is just like his grandfather.”  Thank you for making these memories and entrusting me with these values.  I love and appreciate you.

Your grandson,


The Greatest Compliment

For a good part of my life, I’ve always believed that “He is a hard worker” was a great compliment. It is. Hard work is at the core of my soul.

However, my son Paul sent me an email this afternoon that was better by factor of ten- thousand.

In 1985, when Ann and I were engaged, we attended a Family Life Conference ( in Minneapolis to begin building a foundation for our marriage. On the way home–all the way home–for five hours I wept as I described the men’s session led by Robert Lewis (

He had men call out one word to describe their dad. Man after man said things like, “Angry, violent, drunk, absent, distant, dishonest, unfaithful…” Overwhelmingly negative. There were very, very few positive comments. This was a room full of several hundred grown men–all broken by their fathers. Lewis then challenged us to break the chain of weak, absent and angry fathers and leave a positive legacy with our children. To love our children as a representative of our Heavenly Father.

As I described the session to Ann on the way home, I wept because of my own pain. My dad was absent. He was dishonest. He was unfaithful. He later became an alcoholic. As a young man in central Iowa, I was always embarrassed when someone said they knew my dad. I feared that my dad might have conned them out of a significant sum of money.

I wept for five hours because I had been broken at the core of my being.

I wept because I didn’t want to be like my dad. I wanted to be a good dad, to spend time with my children, to teach them values and to love them like my Father in heaven loved me.

Now twenty-seven years later, my son Paul sent me an email. He had just read a blog post ( this afternoon about the negative impact dads can have on their children and how that can distort one’s image of our heavenly Father. This distortion often prevents men and women from trusting in the True Father.

I wept this afternoon because he thanked me for being “such a great picture of our heavenly Father.” Paul certainly knows that I’m not anything close to a perfect dad. Yet, in the big picture over the last twenty-five years, I’ve been able to love him as God’s representative.

I weep as I pen this blog now, because I had broken the chain of weak and absent dads. I weep because Paul paid me the greatest compliment that I can receive this side of heaven.

I have been more like my Father than my dad.