August 14, 2010

an open letter to my canadian relations

My parents and my son are up in Canada celebrating the 60th anniversary of when my dad's family immigrated from the Netherlands to Canada after WWII.  My school starts up on Monday so I wasn't able to go.  As such, I was left in charge of my dad's lawn care business while he was gone.  Translation?  I had the pleasure of mowing 57 yards in 4 days in heat indices hovering around 110 degrees.  Sounds fun, right?  Maybe it was heat induced dementia brought on by severe dehydration, but I had a bit of a vision of what it means to be my father.  So I'm writing an open letter to those participants in the Great White North entitled:

"Papa: The Man, The Myth, The Legend"

To the Canadian Clan,
     Greetings from down yonder in Texas.  There walks among you one who is a bit of a traitor.  He's renounced his Canadian ways and become an American.  Worse, he's a Texan much like that former president who so endeared himself to the rest of the world.  I could say a lot of wonderful platitudes about his Texan ways like how he loves brisket, how he built his house with his own two hands, how he's beyond a devoted husband/father/grandfather, how he chokes up at the song "I'm proud to be an American".  But that wouldn't mean anything to y'all.  You see, I'm down here substituting as El Patron (that's Spanish for 'the boss') keeping his lawn care business running in his absence.  And I am both dumbfounded and humbled by his customers.  Why, you may ask?  Well, let's be honest.  His job is essentially that of a glorified janitor for people's lawns.  I'm not trying to be demeaning but my point is this.  How many in society know the janitor?  How many of you know, I mean really know the janitor at your place of employment?  I'll go one step further.  How many of you know about the janitor's family
      Perhaps his customers can say it better than I can.  The 72-year old Hindu who in his soft British accent stated, "Your father is sooooo nice" and then went on to enquire about how my brother's battle with cancer is going.  The 40-something Hispanic woman with whom I traded stories about watching a loved one go through chemotherapy.  The 80-something little old lady who remarked, "I can't tell you how nice it is to have a good honest Christian man."  Or, the retired Aggie (don't ask, you wouldn't understand what an Aggie is) who said "How's your dad doing?  We've talked a lot about your brother and he's on our prayer list when I go to bible study every Saturday."  Or, the bank teller who responded when I cracked a small joke at my father's expense, "I'm not going to let you get away with that.  Ain't right since he's not here to defend himself.  I'm going to defend him.  He's a good guy."
      After walking many miles in my father's shoes, both figuratively and literally, I had an epiphany.  Here is a man that touches and deeply impacts every single person with which he comes into contact.  Despite retiring from the ministry, he's still inspiring compassion in the random people he meets.  How many of us can say that?  So I encourage y'all to get to know that strange American in your midst.  Don't be shy.  As he's both a redneck as well as an educated man, he can converse on nearly any level from mechanics to philosophy.  Ask him a question about air conditioners, or what's Texas like, or plants, or Calvin's theory of double predestination.  Based on the numerous customers of his that I just dealt with, I guarantee you won't be disappointed at getting to know him.



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Linda VanSligtenhorst said...

Thanks for the lovely tribute to your father, Isaac. We had a great time at the reunion and everything you said about your father is so true! Your mother is also the dearest, most loving lady. Your son, Llew, stayed with us for the weekend and also Josh, Anna & the kids. We had a great time getting to know them all. Our church service today was a wonderful display of God's faithfulness through the generations of Van Sligtenhorsts! We laughed and cried together and prayed for Josh's complete healing. Thanks for sending your son as your representative :) Our daughter reads your blog faithfully as she wrote her MCAT's 29 days ago and is awaiting the results. Your mom took LOTS of pictures, so I'm sure you'll hear all about it when they get home. Hopefully we will be able to meet again someday.
Linda (and Fred)

Isaac said...

Ah, the good ol' MCAT. I was so glad I was fortunate enough to only have to take that thing once. It was a bugger of a test.

If your daughter ever has any questions about any aspect of med school, don't hesitate to shoot me an email.

Steve Parker, M.D. said...

I was talking to someone from the South recently who thought "redneck" was derogatory. I disagree. [Maybe it is derogatory if you're from the North and talking to a non-Southerner.] Your dad also sounds like "a good ol' boy," and I mean that in the best possible way.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes those of us in the great white north refer to ourselves as "rednecks" too. We loved having your mom and dad here and Josh's family and your son of course. I enjoy getting to know both you and your brother through your blogs
Debby Van Sligtenhorst Zevenbergen

Aldena (Van Sligtenhorst) Gerber said...

Hi Isaac...we had a great weekend visiting with family. Sorry you could not be there. It was so good to see your parents, Josh, Anna and their kids as well as your son. We had a very special service on Sunday with laughter and tears. we had a very special prayer time for Josh (and others in need) as well as an offering that we took up and give to Josh. We all felt his struggle and wanted to share in some tangible way. All in all it was a wonderful and emotional weekend for me.
I hope to visit the great state of Texas some day. Your Mom and Dad are very special people and I have always enjoyed them even though it has been a long time since I last saw them. Good luck on your second term..

Isaac said...

Y'all are welcome down here anytime, well except maybe around finals as I've been told I can get a bit cantankerous then.

Abe said...

Gee, after that what can I say. Great story tellers some times make up stuff. Isaac is a good story teller. [I'm practicing walking on water. Can't seem to get the hang of it.] Love you too, Isaac. Dad