Monday, October 8, 2012

Dad is a Pioneer

Last week was a very special week for my family. My Dad was honored by the National Dairy Shrine as a dairy industry Pioneer.

The National Dairy Shrine is a sort of hall of fame for the dairy industry. The organization honors leaders and dairy producers who have done exemplary work in the dairy industry, and also gives away thousands of dollars in scholarships to college students interested in the dairy industry. Dad was president in 1988, and was always very supportive of the organization.

At the Shrine's annual banquet last week, Don, Dave and Mary were there, along with Dave's wife Cynthia and Mary's son Micah. My wife Kelly and kids Maggie and Jack were there too to share in the honor. The only family member not there was Tom. Our cousin Bob came up from Rockford.

During the ceremony, a member of the Dairy Shrine board went through the five Pioneer designees. He read Dad's bio (find a release from the Shrine here) then I got to say a few words. I introduced my family, then said that it was an honor for us because, for one, Dad turned 90 in August. Plus, because he has Alzheimers, he doesn't remember anything about what he accomplished in his career. But this award helps us know that the dairy industry has not forgotten, and that means a lot to us.

I also said that if Dad were there to accept the award himself, he no doubt would have deflected the accolades and instead thanked all of the people that he worked with through his career, and especially his family. He never accepted all of the credit himself, for anything.

My Dad was a true pioneer, even back to his days on the farm. I remember reading in his book how he built farrowing crates in the early 50's from a plan he got from ISU Extension. It had to be one of the first built in western Iowa. When Dad built a parlor in 1965, it was the first double-herringbone in Iowa. At the Brown Swiss Cattle Breeders Association, he developed the Association's marketing arm, and started a program for identifying grade animals that was adopted across the dairy industry. He exported thousands of animals around the world in the 80's, when agriculture income was suffering and dairy producers needed all of the income they could get. In the early 90's he was the first CEO of the U.S. Livestock Genetics Export Council.

As much as he was an industry pioneer, he was a great husband and father. It was great to remember him in that way last week.

Dad couldn't make it to the banquet - he stayed at the nursing home. Mom and Mary visited him on Wednesday, and when Mom told him that he was getting an award, Dad said "I am?" It was bittersweet that he was surprised at such an honor, and we certainly wish that he could have been there in person. But it was a great night nonetheless.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Can you answer the ice cream, please?

Up to now I've posted all sad, depressing material. With this post I've decided to add one of the more lighter moments that Mom experienced as part of Dad's Alzheimers.

A couple of years ago, when Mom and Dad were still living in their home, Mom called me one evening and was laughing on the phone, saying "I've just got to tell someone what happened to us today."

Apparently Mom and Dad's phone died, so they went to Shopko to get a new one. After picking one out and returning home, Mom put it on the counter and got Dad his usual snack - a bowl of ice cream. With Dad satisfied for the time being, Mom went into the bathroom. When she came back out, the phone was nowhere to be found.

She looked high and low. All over the kitchen. In the bathroom. Back to look in the car. Again around the kitchen. She even looked to see if she already plugged it in but somehow forgot. But no luck. Frustrated, she put Dad back into the car (ice cream consumed) and went back to Shopko, where she purchased the phone again. This time she came home and before doing anything else, plugged it in.

That night they went about their business, ate supper, watched some TV, played a hand of double solitaire (Dad could still see well enough). When they were done, they decided to have another snack - a bowl of ice cream.

And when she opened the freezer, there was the phone sitting right next to the ice cream. Of course Dad, when asked, had no idea how it got there. Mom could only surmise that when Dad put away the ice cream from his afternoon snack, he probably thought the phone box was ice cream, too, and put that in the freezer as well. At least he was thorough.

So even through sad days we have to laugh at those little things.

By the way, Mom said the people at Shopko had quiet a laugh when she brought back the other, somewhat chilled, phone.