My dad, Jake Friesen, is turning 90 this coming week and I wanted to give tribute to him on this amazing milestone.
I like to tease him with a story from my childhood, on the occasion of his 35th birthday. He was quite morose that day, unusual for him, but being a reflective sort, he said quite sadly he had now lived half his life, given the scripture said three score and ten. (70). It’s funny what you remember.
He took up skiing in the next decade of his life and loved it. His ministry as a pastor was people focused, he was a true shepherd. He loved people and sharing his life with them, whether that be tennis, skiing, leading a Bible study or small group, or a meal lovingly cooked by my mom. He was not a cook, but often helped with dishes afterwards! These days, with mom in heaven, he has learned to cook his daily porridge and talking about counting, he likes to add up to four varieties of fruit to his breakfast cereal. He told me this week he had run out of cherries, his favourite, and has plans to visit us this summer to pick more.
By the time he was 70, which was celebrated in a big way on our local ski hill, he was planning on reaching 100. Most of his life my dad has kept a diary and he now looks back on his life and memories, reading his diary daily. He often shares those memories with us.
We are grateful to have our dad with us. He nearly died in 2011, getting a serious infection post surgery and spending time in ICU. It was a long convalescence. And we are truly amazed at his zest for life, even with physical challenges. He bikes daily when weather permits, walks, and still plays tennis. When he moved to the Fraser Valley, he brought his table tennis with him and it sits in the recreation area of the independent living apartment where he resides. Not many can beat him at that game!
Dad has been quarantined twice in this Pandemic, staying in his apartment alone for the fourteen days at a time. We were concerned because he is so active. But dad faced these times with purpose and creativity. We asked him, how are you filling your days?
Well, he had a list. He’s been making lists all of his life, and now was no exception. He had 27 things on his list that particular day and set out to do them. Of course we love to tease him, for probably lunch was on that list, and supper. Two more things to check off. But he also had people to call, research to do on family history, sorting old family slides, a diary to enter, and books to read. Although I didn’t ask him, there will also be time for prayer.
We have truly been inspired by his positive attitude in these challenging times. And it has had me thinking . . . What is on my list? There are always people to call, emails to write, books to read, projects to tackle. Life can be meaningful and full, even in times of uncertainty and isolation.
So we will be celebrating his birthday this week. On-line for now, each of his children lighting a birthday candle as we gather on Zoom. We look forward to the days of seeing him again in person and giving him a hug. Happy Birthday, dad, we love you!
Dad, at 90. Photo by my sister, Cathy Hardy