This post originally appeared on my “What Is a Dad” blog.
Today I shared three meals with my dad. That’s pretty crazy.
In the morning, I rode with Pastor Steve to the Blockhouse in Dayton (one of only four restaurants) for the men’s Bible study group. It was great to sit at the end of the table and talk to my dad about more things– my extended family, life experiences, etc. It’s just comfortable talking to him. And I’m soaking in every word he says.
Then he ended up swinging by Pastor Steve’s home so that we could reconnect with Mary Kate. It was a treat to show him our wedding album, forgetting that these were the first pictures of my brother, my mom, and my grandpa that he has seen in a long time. I loved the simplicity of hearing him tell my beautiful wife, “You looked so happy.”
MK had a light breakfast (unlike us), so I decided it would be great for her to get her pregnant food on at the Blockhouse (yes, twice in the same day). There we talked more about my dad’s life, travels, and ups and downs. OK, awesome fact of the day. I thought that my dad was a roadie for the ELO. In fact, he was a manager of a band of Christians from Oregon called Rhinestone Cross. Boom, son! That’s epic. He also worked with a group called Tinto Blanco (White Paint). But the epicness is in the fact that he ended up selling all his equipment to an up and coming new band called Stryper. Yes, that would be the totally original Christian 80’s hair band. Music Melvin knew what was going on.
At the Blockhouse you could actually sign the wall. I wrote “Paul & Mary Kate & Evie Mannino: Melvin’s Family, 6/25/11.” I put it eye-level on the way to the bathroom, so he could see it whenever he went there for awesome breakfast food.
Then we went to the outside of the old Baptist Church of Dayton building. MK took some great pictures while my dad told me all about how he got the bell out of the belfry, his aunt broke her hip in front of the church, and how he got baptized there in 1984. Apparently, they had no hot water in the church; and Melvin George Huettl had to suck it up and get an ice-cold baptism in an Oregon winter.
Then we went over to my dad’s house. There we met Karen, who happens to be my half-sister. My dad had previously been married. I am going to be meeting my half-brother tomorrow. Karen has overcome a lot in her life. She is now 47 and has recovered from a life of drugs and homelessness. She was baptized a year or so ago, and she seems to be making wise choices in her life. God believes in comebacks. It was cool to be able to watch her baptism on video. Also, while we were over there, my nephew (Brian’s son) Kennith came over. I met him briefly, but he’ll be at the BBQ that my half-brother Brian is throwing us at their home tomorrow afternoon.
Then we rested for a little bit and had dinner at Pastor Steve’s home with my dad. We talked about church life, missions, and heaven. It was great. Pastor Steve gave me a small piece of pottery from his recent mission trip to Morocco. My first keepsake from this trip.
We had a sweet time after dinner talking about our journey in trying to have kids and how Evie is a miracle. God is good. Oh…and I felt her kick for the first time. :-)
It was great to end our evening with hugging good-byes and know that tomorrow we’ve got another full day in front of us. Again, God is good.
This post originally appeared on my “What Is a Dad” blog.
Friday was a crazy day. I almost felt like I had somehow stumbled into a piece of fiction. I had always assumed that I would probably never be able to meet my biological father. Growing up in New York and North Carolina, Oregon seems so far away. And I didn’t really know how he would feel about the subject, so I just thought (for so many years) that thoughts of meeting him were a passing fancy.
And then somehow I found myself getting up Friday morning at 4:45 AM to drive all day up I-5 with my pregnant wife to meet him.
Crossing the Oregon border quickened my heart rate. Seeing a sign for Salem got it going even faster. Oh, and when I was finally driving through Salem and crossing the Marion Street Bridge I was definitely getting excited.
Then I drove 20 miles up 221-N to tiny little Dayton, OR, driving past vineyards, green fields, and getting stuck behind farm equipment (of course I’d have to wait longer). We got to the little four-way intersection that was the entry into Dayton and took a left into a picture out of an old-school America (maybe something like “Hoosiers” or even “Pleasantville”). Small little storefronts with a public park to the right. THE grade school. THE fire station. THE Mexican restaurant (felt like Fresno).
Then we take our final right. I’m looking for the church, and MK says, “I see a Bronco on the left.” And there it was– my dad’s car.
I pulled into the parking lot, and was blinded by the sun. I see a few figures coming my way. And there he is.
He is kind looking. He is taller. He’s not as skinny as I thought he’d be, and he’s a lot older. He walks right up and hugs me and says, “Yeah, there’s a Huettl.” I don’t even know what to say. I want to just break down and cry, but I think that’s for later. At this point, I was feeling things out.
My dad has grey hair and a bushy mustache. He wore a denim long-sleeved shirt over an orange t-shirt. He wore blue jeans that had seen better days and work boots. He was rocking a trucker hat. He had the friendliness of Gepetto from Pinocchio, and the warmness (and worn-ness) of Walter Mathau.
And he’s my dad. And I met him. He’s got a pit bull / Rottweiler mix called “Fiona.” He kind of looks all over the place while people are talking to him. MK says he has my eyes. We only got to talk for a little while at the church that he helped build. It wasn’t long enough before we were whisked away for dinner at the home of our hosts (Pastor Steve and his wife).
Tomorrow morning we’re having breakfast with a men’s Bible study. I’m pumped. I can’t wait to talk more tomorrow. Already I have questions. But really, I’m just so excited. After the Bible study, we’ve got all day to talk. This is a day that’s been twenty-nine years in the making.
Thank you, Jesus.