When I was little, my father was larger than life. He did the obvious of working hard and providing for our needs, but it was the other things I noticed. Youth is like that. Nothing could equal the thrill I got from riding on his shoulders, or the feeling of flying when he pushed me in the tree swing. I loved carrying his lunch pail and was proud when I could stretch my legs to match his stride. When I got too big to ride on his shoulders, he made things fun in other ways. He fixed the lights at the local swimming pool so we could swim all summer for free. He made sure we always had ice cream. Every night, we could have as big a bowl as we wanted because there was always more.
Then there was the summer I turned thirteen when I was at camp on a week long canoe trip. One night we ended up camping unscheduled in a farmer's field because of a sudden thunderstorm. We got permission from his sons to camp in their field, but not from their father because he wasn't home. As we were pitching our tents, the dad showed up and was quite upset about our trespassing. After a bit of explanation and negotiation, he said we could stay the night. However, it was obvious that he wasn't happy about it.
After things had calmed down a bit, I mentioned that my family used to live in the area. He asked a couple of questions and soon realized who my father was. His face lit up because my father used to be his fishing buddy. He said that Red (my father's nickname) was a fine man. The farmer said no more, but soon his sons showed up. They carried our water, gathered our firewood, and did anything else they could think of to help. So even though he wasn't there, my father was still making things right. He turned what could have been a tense, difficult night into a good one.