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A Father's Day Tribute

June 15, 2018
My dad is 92 this year. He is the last remaining member of the seven sons and two daughters of Fred and Martha Bitikofer. (A tenth child died as an infant).

Dad spent most of his life living in the same Kansas farmhouse in which he was born. He farmed about 400 acres of wheat and grain sorghum, soybeans and alfalfa. He maintained a small herd of beef cattle. In earlier years, there were also milk cows, pigs, sheep and chickens.

Dad also held down a full-time factory job 16 miles from the farm. He was the hardest worker I have ever known. Still, he found time to serve his church, to sing in a men's chorus, to be on a school board, on a water district board and volunteer to help neighbors or to help with clean-up after a storm.

He gave his sons and a daughter plenty of opportunities to learn work and responsibilities. While I didn't like all of the work, much of it gave me a sense of worth and value. I had farm chores from about age 6 and I was driving farm vehicles by age 10.

Two years ago, we moved Dad and Mom from the farm to a retirement home. A vision test confirmed our decision not to let him keep his car. That was a blow he and Mom had always anticipated that they would still be able to come and go on their own from the retirement center that has been a final home to many of Dad's siblings and his own parents.

Just a couple of months ago he asked again about the green Buick. Did my brother have his car? The car and his pickup truck were sold soon after the move.

Dad is mostly still clear of mind although his hearing and his eyesight have further deteriorated. He misses a lot of information. He is no longer as able to read his Bible each morning and listen to his favorite radio preachers. He now uses a walker. And it doesn't help that Mom's grasp on everyday reality has slipped substantially in the past year or two.

His legacy lives on. My brother grows wheat on about a thousand acres of scattered farmland, maintains the small beef cattle herd and grades and mows township roads.

Once in awhile we can get Dad to talk about the really old days his growing up as the next to the youngest of seven brothers. Or we can get him to talk about the two teams of horses he worked with as a youth. One pair was named Doc and Dewey. The other, Maude and Barney. I always forget which was the black team and which was the white team.

Just recently Mom and Dad had to move again from a two-room apartment to a skilled nursing room in the retirement center.

Sometimes Dad will still get out his harmonica. He knows a few old hymns. His mother also played harmonica. And so does my youngest brother.

Let's call Dad a "Rock of Ages."

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