“Discovering Dad,” Ensign, July 1998, 65
Although I was never a rebellious child, at 14 I began to feel Mom and Dad were becoming so hopelessly antiquated that I wanted none of their advice—especially concerning a mission. I knew Mom and Dad expected me to serve, but what was so special about a mission? Or about my parents, for that matter?
Then one Sunday afternoon I found my dad’s white family history binder, with a temple embossed in gold on the front cover. When I picked it up, it fell open to a page marked “Personal Record.” Intrigued, I started to read my father’s life story.
It began by listing three of his teachers who later made important contributions to the Church. Then the story took a new turn when he was in fifth grade.
He wrote of a personal tragedy when it was discovered that osteomyelitis had infected the bones of his left leg. Local doctors performed a series of operations, but without success. By Christmas they had given up and sent him home with pain so intense that a bump against his bed, or even someone sitting beside him, hurt unbearably. In desperation he was sent by train to a bone specialist in a distant city.
The day after he arrived, the diseased bone was removed. During his 14 months in the hospital, he suffered through 13 additional operations, many without anesthetic. Sent home to regain strength for another round of operations, he took a carefree ride on horseback. The mare stumbled and pitched him off, and the blow caused the disease to flare up and run rampant through the bone. Finally his leg was amputated.
I read on, fascinated. The story became more cheerful. During his recovery his older brother pulled him to school in a little wagon while Dad became proficient with his crutches. Then an artificial limb was fitted, though it felt awkward and unwieldy at first. And there eventually came a day when his crutches broke and he had to depend solely on his legs.
Soon my father was participating in singing lessons and festivals. He was blessed at one time with a promise that he would serve a mission. The call came, and he responded. His faith and testimony inspired me, especially when I realized he walked everywhere.
Later, the tale became a love story. He had gone to school to become a teacher and had met a girl who liked to go for long walks. She even agreed to dance with a one-legged date and had fun. They fell in love, married in the temple, and had a child—me.
I wept as I read. I wept with joy for the little boy who had endured so much to live and who later became my father. I wept with pride for the girl who showed much maturity in accepting him and marrying him. And I wept with gratitude for a Heavenly Father who had sent me to such a special home.
That afternoon was a turning point. The very next Sunday I stood and bore my testimony for the first time since childhood—a testimony of love and trust in my parents. Because of my newly softened heart, later on I was able to accept counsel from my father, which helped me grow significantly toward my own mission, all because a binder fell open to my dad’s personal record.