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Love can teach you so much, especially when it’s as well reciprocated as it has always been with my Dad. I have always written about my hero worship of him, how I followed him around and watched him draw and paint and sing and play fast pitch soft ball and be a role model for my brothers, my sister and me.

Daddy turned eighty one years old the other day, on Ground Hogs Day actually, and he saw his shadow, a very long shadow indeed, and we, his children, walk in his shadow.

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I remember when I was learning multiplication in school. One day when we were out for a ride in Daddy’s black 48 Chevy, Daddy taught me my nines times tables just by explaining the patterns the digits made if you started from either end and added or took away from the ones or tens places and switched the digits.

For example……

1 × 9 = 09 -Daddy said, do the switcheroo. take one away from the ones place and put it in the tens place. Then we’ll have the answer to 2×9.

2 × 9 = 18 -He said, try it on this one too. Take one from the 8 and you will have 7. Add that one to the 1 in the tens place and you will have 2. Hence, 27. It works all the way down to 90.

3 × 9 = 27

4 × 9 = 36

5 × 9 = 45

6 × 9 = 54

7 × 9 = 63

8 × 9 = 72

9 × 9 = 81

10 × 9 = 90

He explained all of this to me while he was driving the car around town.

It’s not that my parents were the pushy kind of parents who insisted on their kids making straight A’s and stomped down to the principal’s office at the first hint of a B+. Not at all. Sometimes our lives were so busy and interesting that our doing our homework was the last thing on our parent’s minds but our conversations with our parents were always interesting, engaging and naturally educational. When Daddy taught me that interesting trick with the nines table it opened my eyes to patterns in numbers and made math much more interesting to me, which was something, unfortunately, none of my elementary teachers did.

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Daddy has always been an excellent artist. I find that I am just a pale immitation when I compare myself to him.

Watching Daddy’s kindness to people who were down and out was not an unusual occurrence to my brothers, my sister and I when we were growing up. Both of our parents were of one mind when it came to taking care of our neighbors, our friends and family who were in need. Daddy has a deep faith in God which should come as no surprise. I remember some calm words of faith that he offered me when I was leaving home for the first time to go to college. He didn’t have to tell me to be careful either. All he said was, “All my ships are leaving the harbor.”

When you watch your own father pray it makes it easier to believe.

Here’s to many more Ground Hogs Day Shadow Making Birthdays for my Dad. The love will just keep on multiplying.