Happy 80th Birthday Dad – Celebrating friendship, fatherhood and family

From pine lined point of ol’ Camp Neyati and back to Beaver Bay, I glide through a silver blue lake, stroke after stroke, while you sit on an wrought iron chair under the elms on shore, watching to assure my safety.  If I were in danger of drowning, you could never reach me, but I am confident knowing you are there ever watchful, a benevolent eye, just as you have watched over me for the past 54 years.

During my journey filled with adversity, you offer encouraging words from the background to keep me steady.  You admire my courage fighting in the face of pain, commending the discipline that drives me to swim in an icy lake on a rainy day.  You marvel that I traveled half way across the world in pursuit of a dream to play basketball and now in adulthood wonder how I can endure another teaching day with my health limitations.  For me it doesn’t seem that extraordinary; after all, I am my father’s daughter.

If I was able to pioneer a career unheard of for women, move abroad and rewrite my script after my dream collapsed, it is because of you.  I inherited the McKinzie iron will, a drive to pursue lofty ideals in spite of obstacles.

Though you still worry about your adult children and grandchildren, the tables have turned; now dozens of eyes watch over you.  After your heart incident 25 years ago, I postponed my trip back to France to stay by your side. I witnessed how you changed your habits to accommodate a condition that altered your life, but never slowed you down.  This year I supported you long distance as you recovered from 4 different surgeries.  You still attained your goals: to stand up as your eldest granddaughter walked to take her Hippocratic Oath and to sit down at a middle granddaughter’s high school graduation party. Now a day never passes where I am not grateful that you are still with us to cheer us on.

Jim McKinzie (80th birthday) with Lenore and kids

Jim McKinzie (80th birthday) with Lenore and kids

Bad arteries, good heart.  The best. It touched the lives of all whose paths you crossed. From Dekalb High classmates to Northern Illinois University teammates to Sterling High School colleagues to the Mighty Warriors and the Golden Girls, for decades, you were the marker to which so many students and fellow teachers measured their worth. Your words still inspire many athletes; your letters became treasured keepsakes.

Your generous heart helped finance college education, provide pocket change and gas money for grandkids. You helped perfect jump shots, spiral passes and line drives. Your patient heart read Good Night Moon to a demanding grandchild and balanced a checkbook for an even more demanding father.  Your intuitive heart painted canvases, counseled female athletes, and recognized a child’s distress in the sound of a voice during a long distance phone call. Though you set extremely high standards for yourself, your accepting heart was the first to welcome a foreigner into the family, to treat people of all walks of life as equal, and to understand others who are different.

As the son of Coach Mac, integrity was deeply ingrained. As McKinzie kids we had to tow the line. But by emulating our father, the man who walked the talk too, you inspired each of us to stand taller.

We come from good blood. The life lessons passed on from your father, “Coach Mac” McKinzie trickled down to you and then onto each of us in our helping professions.

At halftime of the 1986 Super Bowl the United States President announced, “Whatever I am today, Coach Mac had an awful lot to do with it.”

I will never be as famous as Ronald “Dutch” Reagan, but I echo his words, “Whatever I am today, my own Papa Mac had an awful lot to do with.”

Now just as you stare at the Summit Lake water front and track my stroke, I in turn peek out the cabin window you to make sure you don’t stumble when your wander off in the woods. We watch over one another in a special father/daughter bond built from hours of sharing meals, shooting hoops, swapping stories, taking trips, and spending time together marking the milestones.  Like 80th birthdays!

Congratulations Dad and an extra special shout out to all the athletes, colleagues, family, friends and former teammates, who reminded us all in memorabilia and words, how lucky we are that you have touched our lives.

 

Posted in inspiration, social view.

37 Comments

  1. Oh, Pat! How beautiful! You have such a special gift (many, actually!) So glad you are here to celebrate your Dad’s 80th with your family. I love how you paint pictures with words. I can just envision that lake scene you described with you and your wonderful Dad. May he enjoy many more years of good health and happy memories.

    Debbie Glafka Cushman

  2. Happy Birthday, Jim!! Many wishes for good health and opportunities to enjoy family celebrations!!

  3. Pat — This is absolutely spot on. It’s one of the best you’ve ever written. Knowing the family makes is all the more special. As I told Sue and your Father earlier this month, I am so proud to have been a part of the McKinzie memories. This family, even remembering Grandma Betty, has made such an impact on so many lives, including my own family. Thanks for sharing; your words are so special and I look forward to them each week. Pleasant visits, safe trips and good life to you all.

  4. Beautifully written; a lovely summary of your feelings for a great man. In a huge coincidence, my father turns 80 tomorrow, Aug. 22! One more thing we have in common!

    Hope you are well.

    • Thanks Judy! Happy Birthday to your dad. Yes it never ceases to amaze me how much we have in common. Almost feel like I know you even though we never met and only know each other through words. I have been hiding our in the Northwoods (sans internet) all summer & looking forward to reconnect through your blog.

  5. So good to see the whole family together. Your parents look great. Glad you dad recovered after from all his health trouble. It is hard to see our parents get older and suffer declining health. But I know you are one to enjoy each moment we have with them.

  6. Sis, this is the 4th time I have read your beautiful piece and it still brings tears to my eyes. It captures the essence of Dad perfectly. We were so blessed to all be together to celebrate his 80th and with the help of so many others, to honor Dad in such a special way. May we keep passing on the incredible gifts Dad has shared with all of us by continuing to “pay it forward”.

  7. I, too, had to clear the tears from my eyes as I read and re-read this special tribute to your father, a great man, that I and my daughters have had the privilege to know. I knew this piece was coming and I was just waiting for it since I knew you all would be celebrating soon. It was even better than I had anticipated. We should all have such skill as you do, Pat, with words for the times in our lives when we would like to write a tribute to those we love and honor. Instead, all I can do is reach out across the miles and give you, your father and your wonderful family a cyber-hug at this special time.

  8. Pat
    Your article brought tears to my eyes as I thought about all the times I thought of your dad as my 2nd “Dad”. I think I spent enough time at your house growing up to be considered part of the family! Then of course there were all the hours on the basketball court where he was always ready with encouragement after I was discouraged. I was never a star, but he made me feel like an important part of the team nonetheless. Although I never got a message sent for the party (poor excuse, but I was getting ready to go on a trip abroad) I have thought about Jim and your family as you celebrate this milestone. I hope to deliver greetings in person when I return to Sterling for our class reunion. Anyway, I love reading all of your pieces, but especially the ones about family! 🙂

  9. What a lovely tribute to your dad, and to the entire McKinzie family. What a priviledge it is to read your wonderful essays!

    • Thanks Patty…was just walking with Karen this am & saying how much I appreciate the Carlson support of my writing. Good luck getting back to grind of the academic year. Take good care of our dear Hannah!

  10. You are a beautiful writer…but it is easier to write something about Jim. LOL

  11. Great piece Patty and you know how I feel about your Dad. What a great man. I didn’ know about your “limitations” but I hope and pray that you are well in your life. Love you.

    Greg

  12. Great piece Patty and you know how I feel about your Dad. What a great man. I didn’ know about your “limitations” but I hope and pray that you are well in your life. Love you.

    Greg

  13. I lost my precious father 3 years ago. The family experienced drama and estrangement during his last hours. Thank God that Dad was unaware, at least in his earthly form. It’s been one thing after another, but I can’t shake the feeling that Dad, in his new incarnation, is watching us, that he isn’t shaken by all of our trauma, but rather is cheering quietly from the sidelines, knowing we’ll be okay. I draw strength from that. Best wishes to YOUR precious father, Pat.

  14. I lost my precious father 3 years ago. The family experienced drama and estrangement during his last hours. Thank God that Dad was unaware, at least in his earthly form. It’s been one thing after another, but I can’t shake the feeling that Dad, in his new incarnation, is watching us, that he isn’t shaken by all of our trauma, but rather is cheering quietly from the sidelines, knowing we’ll be okay. I draw strength from that. Best wishes to YOUR precious father, Pat.

  15. Pat,
    What a stunning tribute to your precious father. How nice that you can write this while he is still on this earth with you. I feel like I have met him in the flesh through your lovely words and his picture. Your father-daughter bond shines through. And your story reminds me so much of the relationship I had with my own precious father whom I had the privilege of paying tribute to when he was with me on this earth as well as when he entered into his heavenly reward. Now I have a special angel to watch over me. Keep enjoying every precious moment and thank you for sharing such an exquisite story 🙂 Blessings and Hugs across the miles, Kathy

  16. Pat,
    I read the tribute to your dad, our friend, to Grant. We were both in tears. You put it so well!!
    Your folks are so special to us, and now, you are too.
    Jeanette and Grant

    • Thanks Jeannette and I hope you both know too how special you are to my folks and family. It is so nice to have such good people to share our beloved Northwoods with. Enjoy autumn’s splendor for me.

  17. Pat,
    I read the tribute to your dad, our friend, to Grant. We were both in tears. You put it so well!!
    Your folks are so special to us, and now, you are too.
    Jeanette and Grant

    • Thanks Jeannette and I hope you both know too how special you are to my folks and family. It is so nice to have such good people to share our beloved Northwoods with. Enjoy autumn’s splendor for me.

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