My dad, gone since 1991, would have been 94 as of the Wednesday of this week.

I grew up with a father who did everything with his kids. He played ball with me and the neighborhood kids. He kidded everyone mercilessly with a fine sense of humor. He took me hunting and fishing. He taught me to drive a stick shift. He made sure my sisters and I watched historic moments on TV, memorably the coverage of the Kennedy assassination in 1963, and the moon landing in 1969. He made sure we did our homework, and supported us in our musical studies as he’d watch the news with the sound turned down as we practiced our piano lessons. I don’t think I ever heard him use four letter words. He took us out for treats on occasion – the A&W for supper, or we’d get take-out hamburgers from Steve’s Place. He treated his wife as a partner – they certainly taught us what a marriage can be. He was a good neighbor to all – a good son and sibling to his eight brothers and one sister. He did his best to see that we had what we wanted and needed – and we never wanted or needed.

And there’s one moment in my mind . . .

It was my first day of my higher learning career at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Mom, dad, and I took the four-hour drive down with the car loaded as much as a car can get loaded. The drive down was completed in the waning weather of summer, sunshine all the way. We arrived at the college and moved everything up to my room in the dorm. There were a few orientation meetings to take in, and then lunch in the school cafeteria.

At last it came time for them to leave and for me to hit the college halls on my own. We headed to the parking lot, making small talk as we strode to the car. Mom gave me a hug, of course, which was pretty much standard issue for her.

And dad, as if intending to pass the torch of some kind, looked me in the eye and shook my hand.

That moment, I became a man.

Johnson; Chet and Gladys church shot  Johnson; Chet in the railroad newspaper  Johnson; Chet with Hector and Peanut

Pictures: Chet and Gladys Johnson:  Dad at work for the DM&IR Railroad:  Dad with Peanut and Hector