By Susan Barrett-Hensel; Janet Barrett-Pallett; Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter; and Katherine Barrett-De Boer
My dad, Merle Barrett, turns 80 years old today! Thankfully, he still is a youthful, healthy, strong and hard-working man.
Ten years ago, when he celebrated his 70th birthday, my three sisters and I reflected on our memories with him. As we’re all grown and married and some of us now have our own children (and grandchildren), we not only cherish the many memories, but also aspire to integrate Dad’s influence into our own behaviors—his thoughtfulness, patience, tolerance, responsible attitude, good nature and wisdom.
The following musings and memories about our father were written by Susan Barrett Hensel, Janet Barrett Pallett, Jacqui Barrett Poindexter and Katherine Barrett De Boer.
- Swimming in the ‘backyard pool’ in our underpants.
- Dad helping the little neighbor girl with her leg brace so she could swim, too.
- Going to Western Auto to look at tires.
- Sinclair gas station.
- Washing the car in the driveway … getting our own rag.
- Engraved bracelets and clover pendant.
- Getting the camera ready Christmas morning … home movies and popcorn.
- Practicing pitching.
- Playing a little catch after dinner.
- “Where are you going, Dad?” “To the Moon.”
- “Oh when the saints …” being whistled.
- Branson trips … cabins … swimming.
- Learning to drive the mower … the tractor … then the car.
- Green Falcon Station Wagon … need I say more? Glad to have it, Dad!
- Packing up to go to SMSU.
- Marriage … You’re still our daughter and this will always be your home.
- He took care of the ‘manly’ things, such as changing/checking the oil in my car without even telling me or looking for any praise.
- Shoveling the snow in the driveway all by himself late at night or early the next or both, if the wind blew it back over in the middle of the night, and he’d come in with icicles dangling from his mustache.
- Putting in a big garden each year.
- Dad always carefully changed into his old work clothes before getting dirty.
- He was careful to give us girls the privacy we needed in ‘our’ hallway by just avoiding it altogether, and he was very tolerant of our often neurotic behavior as we obsessed over our appearance.
- He would always tease us when our boyfriends were on the way to the door and threaten to make them put their hand on the Bible.
- On Sunday morning when we were little, he polished our Sunday shoes for us.
- He always appreciated our homemade baked goods.
- In retirement, he enjoys making his own baked goods.
- I like that he collects little toys, not because of their great value or age, but because he likes them. It allows us to see the kid in him.
- I liked lying down on the couch next to him, and he would often put his big, rough, warm hand across my eyes, and it was very comforting.
- I like that he is thoughtful and not overly quick to offer his opinion. He will consider all sides of what is being said.
- I like that he enjoys professional sports and can carry on an informed conversation about them.
- It demonstrated a love and respect for Mom when he helped her clean the kitchen after a long day.
- I smile when I think of the chalkboard under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning.
- The birthday spankings he delivered each year always brought a good laugh and welcome attention.
- We were taught the value of a dollar from Dad, especially when he tore the paper napkins in half when setting the table for a meal that wasn’t very messy.
- Playing catch with the softball.
- Being resourceful/creative with items around the house, turning junk into treasure, expressing himself creatively.
- Humbly and willingly cleaning the church for years.
- Standing on Dad’s steel-toed shoes and ‘walking’ with him, after he came home from work.
- His steel lunch pail, filled with Mom’s leftover steak sandwiches and homemade chocolate chip cookies.
- 747 jet planes and 1st class trips to Europe (because of Dad’s years of service at TWA).
- Playing catch in the backyard—then going to my softball games together.
- Rubbing my back as I lay in his lap in the brown plaid recliner.
- Eating Dad’s homemade vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup.
- How Mom always said my ears are shaped like Dad’s—made me feel special.
- Meticulously wrapping thick tape around the tops of our snow boots so the snow wouldn’t seep in when we played outside.
- Building an igloo in the front yard, patiently, one snow block at a time.
- Munching single- and double-dip ice cream cones or malts right before bedtime.
- Never raising his voice–quietly expecting the best from us; when he was upset with us, his disappointed words hurt far worse than any angry barbs he could have flung.
- Always fixing things and solving problems. “Would you untangle my necklace, Dad?”
- Simply assuring, “Tomorrow is a new day; after a good night’s sleep, you’ll feel better.” He was always right.
- Packing and moving me from apartment to apartment in my 20s, telling me I really needed to get rid of some stuff.
- Escorting me down the aisle to get married.
- Providing solace when I divorced and solutions to starting my new life and home.
- Fixing dryer tubes and shower heads, hanging pictures, solving car problems … quietly assuring me I am not alone.
- Warmly accepting my new husband and treating him like family.
- Still being there; providing a quiet calm, despite life’s storms.
I admire how you are:
I am thankful you taught me to:
Put family first