February 23, 1943 – August 10, 2018
I want to first take a moment to express to you why we have chosen to honor dad’s body as we have today, because we acknowledge that it is not as common now days. It’s hard. It’s awkward. And no one really knows just how to feel about it. And that’s really okay. Death is a curse and it’s never supposed to be easy to bear or comfortable. Its presence reminds us that we live in a broken Creation. It points like a signal flare to eternity. Something so wrong tells our spirits that there must be a right. Wrong cannot exist without right because right came first. We acknowledge and want you to know that it’s ok to feel odd about this decision. We will not be offended.
But we want to honor dad’s body because that body was a temple. That body was a temporary dwelling place of God, much like a tent in the wilderness. And there is a far more glorious temple that will never die that is yet to come. But that body was God’s instrument to serve others, to bring forth life, to provide the smile and laughter that brought people joy, to carry and kiss the heads of countless babies, to hold my mom’s hand, to walk into homes and fix things and relieve worries, to hug, to worship, to offer as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God.
So, honoring it in this way, for us, reminds us not so much of just how he looked, but how he lived a full life in that body… It reminds us of how our own bodies are by rights not our own, but we have been bought with a price by the precious body and blood of Jesus freely laid down for our sakes so that our bodies could become Temples for our God.
My Dad was a simple man. He was a meat and potatoes kind of guy. He did not respond positively when we all went on a low carb kick and replaced many potato dishes with the dreaded cauliflower. I’m not sure he was ever able to really forgive mom for mashed “fauxtatoes.” If ever there was a creature of habit, it was Bob Olsson. Once he found a good restaurant he would go there faithfully until he was known by name. He was such a regular patron of his favorite places that he even convinced certain popular cash only burger establishments to accept personal checks from him. (Don’t even try this unless you have a good 20-30 years to commit to a comfortable relationship with a burger joint that also happens to make the best darn oatmeal in the world according to Bob Olsson!)
And yet, he was adventurous too. Once you convinced him to try a new thing that you knew he would love, he would simply adopt that thing as one of his new regulars. Sometime in the early 90’s my mom convinced him to get a phone installed in his work truck. This was a legit car phone with a cord. He took a long while coming around to that idea but he became so attached to that phone that when it was no longer supported and he had to get a regular cell phone, he taped it to his old car phone so it would be a similar tactile experience. While Dad’s habits often made us laugh, there was a beauty there. He was eminently knowable.
For instance, raise your hand if you know Bob Olsson’s favorite topic of conversation for roughly the past 25 years? (wait for hands) And what was that topic? (Congregation Answers: Creation!) Who here can say what one of my Dad’s most defining characteristics was? You are probably thinking one of a few things… hard-working, dependable, honest, and generous. While there was more to him than met the eye, as is true for every one of us, those who knew him intimately well and those who knew him to a lesser degree essentially have the same qualities that they admire in him. Whether you knew him from a Sunday School or Bible study, as a plumber, as a Creation Bookstore Guy, as a church workday regular, or as a landlord, you surely know how hard-working, dependable and predictable he was. While his family knows his faults and quirks more than others, as is to be expected, none of us could argue against those things which stand out to anyone who has ever known him to any degree. Because he was not an overly-complicated man.
When I was little I was a real daddy’s girl. My earliest memory is being carried in a baby backpack by my dad. I remember the smell of his green jacket as plants blurred by. I knew I had him wrapped around my finger but he didn’t seem to mind. I was always so excited when he came home from work. I remember he would come home from a long day of plumbing and smooch mom loudly and tell her, “Joan! It smelleth good! If King James were here, that’s what he would say!” He would go to his work cupboard and put away his service receipts. Then he would take a shower and come down and put his socks on while he sat on the couch. He would say, “I took a shower so I could smell like a flower!” I would tell him to “sock me” and he would thwap my head with a sock. And I would giggle.
I loved it when he would take me on breakfast dates to Val’s. I was the only other early riser in the house for years. I would be up at 6 AM watching Smurfs on Saturday mornings in hopes that when he came downstairs he would invite me to join him for breakfast at Val’s. And he always did. We would hold hands and walk down the street. It was his morning routine to make a to-do list on his yellow writing pad. This is where all of the chores he wanted us to do would also be recorded in his sharp scrawling writing style.
I loved going to work with him and handing him tools. I loved being at work sites for all of the smells and sounds and activity. He called me his little helper and used my head as an armrest when I sat by him in his truck. I’m not sure when I grew out of wanting to go to work with him but I am so glad I have those memories. I loved eating lunch with him, usually rom Lucca’s Deli, meeting all of his work friends, seeing the places he went and how he conducted business. I loved that he always literally whistled while he worked. I’m sure the fact that he was such a reliable business man is why I did not feel terribly intimated or afraid of starting my own business when I grew up. And I know that his commitment to quality work impacted how I have always seen my own work, whether I was working for myself or another company. One of my favorite picture books that I’m sure both mom and dad read to us a few hundred times was called Euphonia and the Flood. Euphonia had a saying that my Dad embodied every day, “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” He held himself and us to these standards whenever he gave us a list of chores or paid us for a job of some sort. Whether we were washing windows, chopping and stacking wood, or painting apartments, we needed to do it well. That workmanship has your name on it, so give yourself a good reputation!
Dad grew up as an only child and, while he always had lots of friends, he suffered with loneliness. Mom told us that he had always wanted a nice handful of children and he certainly got more than a handful! Not only did he have 3 biological and 3 adopted kids, he was the first Daddy that a great many foster babies knew as well. In addition to this, Dad loved it when we had friends over. He loved our friends! My dad would take my friends and me driving in his mustang or out to eat. He would even tell us to invite a friend on some of our family vacations. For years he would ask me how various friends from junior high and high school were doing because he took genuine interest in them. As we went through his Rolodex today this fact was proven as I saw how many of his kids’ friends I found in there. None of this is surprising as he faithfully kept in touch with many of his friends from his childhood, and teen and early adult years.
One thing I love about my dad is how he wanted everyone to experience and love the things he loved. Whether that meant making Mount Shasta a special place for us by bringing us there so frequently because it was the place he grew up in and loved so much, or whether it was taking us to eat at Fisherman’s Grotto #9, or driving us down Ice Cream Grade, or bringing us Salmon fishing in the Straits of Juan de Fuca, or taking us all to Maui after doing a big job there, or Mount Hermon, or passing on his undying love for artichokes and cheesy jokes, Dad made it obvious what “superior” tastes were by relentlessly reminding us of what we really should like, love, and admire. This most notably extended to how much he wanted everyone to know and recognize God as their creator.
When we were kids Dad felt convicted that we ought to be reading the Bible together as a family after dinner. He bought each of us a copy of The Living Bible and we had them on the table. I am embarrassed to tell you how much we grumbled about this much of the time. I can’t say how long we were able to stick with it. We did it for several years as I recall. But when we were done with those Bibles for family use, for years he would literally tear pages out and photo-copy them to give away when he participated in visitation or during Castro Valley parades and fairs.
This is my Dad so I could go on and on and on. I could tell you how he taught me fractions by cutting up paper plates on the kitchen floor. Suddenly it all made sense. I could tell you about mountain hikes and neighborhood walks to catch polywogs. I could tell you about how he took us on a camping trip to Mount Eddy near Mount Shasta and brought us to the top so we could carve our names near his and experience the same pleasure of having climbed a mountain that he had as a teenager. I could tell you how he took us ice fishing at Crystal Lake.
I could tell you how he didn’t at all like seeing cars leave the family. I could tell you that he traded a plumbing job for his dream car to be overhauled very, very slowly.
I could tell you how he was a stubborn, goofy, cat-loving plumber. How he would make my mom drive him part way up the drive up the mountain (Shasta) so he could ride his bike down without having to ride it up.
How he always held a snipping of a pine tree under his nose to make a mustache at Christmas or out in the woods. How much he loved the Everly Brothers, Handel’s Messiah, Johnny Cash, and the Azusa Pacific University Choir. How he hand chiseled a head stone on a rock for my pet rat, Emmy, because I thought it was really important. Or I could tell you how he made sure we got to enjoy the things that he enjoyed as a kid and more. How he pulled all of my baby teeth using his hanky. How he never missed a BASS convention. (Not the fish.) I could tell you how much he LOVED fishing. How when I was little he would give me a back rub every night with his giant rough plumber’s hands while we watched The McNeil-Lehrer News Hour. How he took me snorkeling in Hawaii and comforted me that it had been at least a few weeks since a shark had eaten any girls my age. I don’t need to tell you that he would not ever, ever stop talking about the Creator. I could tell you what a relentless tease he was. I could tell you that he was extremely generous with his time and his money. How he did “milkshake” with all the babies who ever lived in his home and most of his grandbabies.
How he surprised me by picking me up from school in my first car, a muscle car. I could mention how he drove us all crazy with his obsessive compulsive volume button pressing on the TV remote. How he loved to drive his Mustang down all switch-back roads. I could tell you how he asked me to arrange for a “chaos photo” with his grandchildren whenever there were enough grandchildren present for chaos to ensue. How he hatched and envisioned these and made them happen. How he bought us girls big beefy metal toolboxes for Christmas. How he taught his sons and sons in law a thing or two about plumbing.
Or that he loved Almond Roca. I could say how he taught us all about hard work, loyalty, and friendship and that he taught us nothing about computers because he “never clicked.” I might tell you how he hand-wrote emails for my mom to send and when she wasn’t home, he drove his emails over to Sandy to send. I could tell you what exemplary care he took of his mom. I could tell you how I loved and laughed, and certainly rolled my eyes a little too much, at his quirkiness. But I can’t say enough. Mostly, I’m just so sad that I couldn’t say goodbye.
I love you, Dad.