I want to wish a VERY happy birthday to my amazing dad, David Chew. He is an accomplished pianist, gifted singer, talented craftsman, and obviously, a great father. I mean, just look at me, Emily Chew, and Aaron Chew as exhibit A, B, and C. He is a loving husband to Nancy and the best grandpa a group of grandkids could ask for?
No matter how old I get, there is a beautiful assurance and security in having a father like mine. I minister to a lot of women in jail who never had that incredible blessing. So much of who I am is attributable to the stable foundation my dad provided for our family. I never worried that he wouldn’t provide for our family and I never had fear that he would leave us.
In addition to working a full-time job, dad did side jobs to bring in extra income. He mowed yards (BIG yards with a push mower) and I remember one summer that he collected nightcrawlers to sell to a bait shop. I can still smell them. I know we weren’t rich by a lot of standards, but we were safe and secure. I’m sure mom and dad experienced stressful times financially, but they never let on to us. And I always remember seeing the envelope to go in the offering plate, faithfully, every week.
We always knew dad would be there for us when we needed him and that didn’t change just because we left the nest.
Always My Biggest Fan
When I was 16 years old, I left home to attend a boarding school for my junior and senior year in high school. The residential school was about an hour from home and I wasn’t sure if I could do it! I used to get terribly homesick even at summer camp. But I did get through the two years and graduated, encouraged the entire time by my dad. He used to send me letters and cards that made me laugh and reminded me that he loved me.
One of my favorite cards read on the front, “Do you know the difference between toilet paper and the shower curtain?” When I opened it, I read, “so YOU’RE the one!”
I think I still have all of those cards and letters. Thank God for my hoarder tendencies. I wish I had been smart enough to keep the beautiful dollhouse he built for me when I was a little girl. Dad was always making us stuff out of wood or aluminum. (He worked at an aluminum casting factory.) He made me a huge dollhouse, carpeted, wallpapered, and completely furnished with furniture he made by hand. I can’t believe my mom let me sell that at a garage sale. What I wouldn’t give to have that back.
Fortunately, I still have the beautiful, cherry hope chest he made me for my 16th birthday. And our home is furnished by several of the shelves and pieces of art he created when I was growing up.
Father Knows Best
When I was in college, I decided I needed to buy my own car. The 1985 Chevy Celebrity mom and dad had given me wasn’t good enough anymore because I wasn’t smart enough at the time to see it for the blessing it was! Dad tried to talk me out of it, but against his advice, I borrowed $2,500 from the bank (he went with me to do the application and probably co-signed for me) and purchased a 1988 Hyundai Excel from a friend of a friend. Not terribly long after I got it, I was driving home from work on the west side of Indianapolis and I got into a turn lane earlier than I should have and, going about 50 mph, I hit a median. I went over the median and ended up in oncoming traffic with 3 flat tires and two badly bent rims.
The car, undrivable, was towed on a flatbed truck to my apartment (where, fortunately, I still had the Celebrity). My pride wouldn’t let me reach out to mom and dad for help, so I purchased 2 used rims from some guy named Bubba in a rough part of Indianapolis. I took the rims to Firestone and purchased the cheapest 2 tires I could get and had them mount them to the rims. I took them back to my apartment and replaced the front two tires with the new ones and put the donut on the back tire.
The guy at Firestone had offered to dispose of my shredded tires — for a fee, of course. I was tapped out at that point, so, instead, I just put them in my hatchback trunk and forgot about them. Fast forward a few weeks to when I was preparing to leave mom and dad’s house to return to college. Dad offered to carry my bags to the car and without thinking, I opened the trunk. He and I stood there, looking at the mound of shredded rubber.
He calmly replied, “Do you need me to get rid of these for you?”
I answered simply, “That would be wonderful. Thank you.”
And now he knows the rest of that story.
The Possessed Ford Taurus
One night in 2012, David, Morgan and I went to a play in Richmond with my parents. it was late when we headed home and at nearly midnight, we were approaching Pendleton, Indiana (about 3/4 of the way home from Richmond) when David noticed the accelerator was sticking on the car, causing the car to speed up. He was driving with his foot on the brake instead of the gas! He frantically pulled into a gas station in downtown Pendleton so we could take stock of the situation, which wasn’t good.
There were no hotels near our location and nothing open on a Saturday night in a small town. We called a couple of people for whom we’ve done solids for, but got no answer — not surprising at that hour. But dad always answers the phone and that night was no exception. I had no doubt I had awoken him, but after I explained the situation, without hesitation, he said, “I’m on my way.”
As we sat and waited, we realized we needed to move the car a little, & decided to just see what happened if we started it again. It felt like the gas had released, so we drove around Pendleton (barely another car on the street at that time of night) to test it. It seemed OK, so we decided to try for home. I called dad to tell him to turn around, but he wouldn’t do it. The best I could convince him of was pulling off at his next exit and waiting until we called to let him know we had arrived safely home.
And, thankfully, we did make it home. It was a harrowing drive as the car did start accelerating on its own again a couple of times. I prayed the whole way and I’m sure my dad was praying, too, at that truck stop in Cambridge City, IN. I called him from Noblesville and told him to go home and go back to bed. But I have no doubt that he would have driven all the way to Pendleton, driven us home, and although we would have tried to convince him to stay the night, he would have driven back home because the Christian church in Milton would be counting on him to play the piano the next morning. That’s just the kind of dad I have.
Lessons I Learned from my Dad
- He taught me a lot of things — one of the most memorable lessons was the importance of putting oil in the car. He made sure I remembered the lesson by making me pay for the rebuilt engine in my 1988 Hyundai Excel, but protected me by taking me to “his guy” to have it done and he hardly laughed at me at all. (Come to think of it, he didn’t even crack a smile.)
- He taught me to use the F-bomb (“Fiddle”) only sparingly so people would know when I’m REALLY mad and that you can’t possibly calculate your taxes or balance a checkbook without dropping that F-bomb a few times.
- He taught me to clean my plate (private family joke).
- He taught me that softball is not more important than church.
- He taught me that ice is a delicacy and that the ice from Powerhouse in Richmond, IN (RIP) had the best.
- He taught me to LOVE donuts, mom’s cooking, and God (not necessarily in that order).
- He is a living example of a strong work ethic and a good sense of humor.
- He taught me to “read my Bible every day” (another private joke) and to behave in church — he could simultaneously play the organ, lead worship, and give me “the look” when I didn’t.
These pictures were my gift to him after he and mom went on a cruise (gospel music themed, of course). He was showing pictures to their small group and one of the members said, “There aren’t any pictures of you in a Speedo, are there?” When he told me that, we hatched a plan. There is a whole series of these wonderful pictures. A sense of humor is something we have in common that I really love.
The accordion was a gift from my mom for Christmas a couple of years ago. It’s a Maserati! A couple of months later, on my birthday, I got my birthday call. Mom and dad always call us on our birthdays and sing to us in their beautiful harmony. But not that time! No, dad accompanied them on the accordion. It went kinda like this:
Happy Birthday to
(Oh, fiddle…hang on)
You get the idea.
Love you, dad, and Happy Birthday!
(featured photo, left to right: my brother, Aaron; my dad, David; my mom, Nancy; me; my sister, Emily)