I was born on a temperate 68o day in San Francisco at 1:31 in the afternoon, August 10, 1957. I was Saturday’s child, the sixth of eight. I was born at the height of the Baby Boom.
That week people were listening to Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear by Elvis Presley and Love Letters In The Sandby Pat Boone. I was born at the fringe of the hippie movement and the heyday of rock and roll, at a time when psychedelic drugs and free love broke out. It was the era of Civil Rights, the beginning of the modern feminist movement, the height of the cold war, and the time of the Vietnam conflict. Evolutionary education was in the classroom and prayer and Bible reading were on their way out.
It was into the world of bomb shelters, long hair, and anti-war protests that I was born. Did my parents ever look into my cute little brown baby eyes and ask, “What will this little boy become?” I am sure they must have. Every parent does. I also wonder if they ever asked the question, “Considering the terrible condition the world is in, how are we ever going to raise this child right?”
They did their best. One of my early memories goes back to the day when all of us boys got in deep trouble. Dad led all of us into one of the bedrooms that had a set of bunk beds on one wall. I don’t remember what we did wrong, but I do remember that Dad sat on a chair in the middle of the room while we lined up on the edge of the bottom bunk. I slunk behind everyone. He said, “OK, who’s first.” Since there were no volunteers, he started with the oldest and gave him a swat with the paddle. Then it was Daniel’s turn. With fear in my eyes I wedged myself into the corner between the mattress and the wall. As each brother received his licking I squirmed further back behind that mattress. After Daniel, it was Douglas’ turn. Finally when Donald was being spanked, I fell behind the bed and onto the floor into the perfect hiding place! When it was my turn Dad looked around the room and asked in his course voice, “Where’s Dennis!” But I was safely hidden away under the bed… until a weeping Donald looked up from dad’s lap and pouted, “He’s under the bed!” I never forgave him for that!
Then there was the day I came home from school at 9 years old, to find my dad in a hospital bed in our living room. He had brain cancer. They brought him home from the hospital because there was no hope for a cure. He came home to die. He couldn’t focus, couldn’t speak well, and didn’t seem to remember things well. When I was ushered into the room, mom said, “Look Robert, it’s your son Dennis.” She had to physically turn his head so he could look at me. His mouth was open slightly and he had the look of a man who wasn’t all there… and yet his eyes lit up momentarily when he saw me. Then his eyes rolled back in his head. He couldn’t focus. That’s the last memory I have of him. It wasn’t long and Robert Kreiss died of a brain tumor. That left us in mourning and it left us without a dad.
There is probably no one more iconic or admired than dad. For some inborn reason, the heart of every boy or girl wants to admire dad. My memories of my childhood grow dimmer every day, but I do have an enduring love and admiration for my father.
He was a solemn and quiet man. He loved the Lord. To me he was larger than life. I looked up to him. He was one of those quiet giants that you are drawn to imitate. Even now I can picture dad in his prime. I can picture his modest grin with lips upturned only the slightest bit. I remember the Sunday afternoons we played “Indian ball,” or “three flies up” together. I remember the day when we were in the basement watching baseball on TV and mom came roaring down to break it all up. I remember sitting with him in church. I remember that he modeled the way of honesty and godliness.
Even now, writing about it brings tears to my eyes. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because he’s my dad, and I’m walking in his footsteps. We are walking in the footsteps of Giants. My dad was one of those giants!
Dennis Kreiss is Pastor of Pine Grove Community Church in Roseburg, Oregon. He is the author of nearly a dozen books including one on the family; “God Strong Families,” http://amzn.to/2krj1uk and his latest “Survival Guide; Living Boldly in Trying Times.” http://survivalguide.me. You can follow me on twitter at: @dennisak