Happy Birthday Dad: Joy4U as U4US (May 11, 2010)

Where did I come from? It’s a question we all want answered and, no, the answer is not found in the pages of 1977 classic which uses a doughy animated couple’s humorous erotica to explain the birds and the bees to children.

No, I think the question we often want answered is, “Why am I like I am?” “What influences informed my thinking and my behavior.” 

Looking at the very best of me I see my father reflected. I suspect if I asked him (and that might be a nice thing to do, wouldn’t it?) he would tell me that he has always tried to lead by example rather than with endless proselytizing.  In fact, I can’t remember him giving me a single speech in my whole life (a fact which might be just as attributable to my poor memory as the frequency of his familial oratory). But it ought to be just as important that if he did give speeches, what I noticed and what I remember is what he did.

Of course, it has long been known that it is not what we say but rather what we do that most influences the people around us. Though example-setting isn’t as sexy as a lifetime of pithy quotes, (when was the last time you saw a book called “101 Neat Examples to Live Out on a Daily Basis for your Thankless Children,” yet tomes like “The Wit and Wisdom of [fill in the blank]” fill the shelves of bookstores.) it is a steady commitment to acting on enduring values that best shapes character.

No one makes every person he meets feel more important in that moment than my dad. His joyful exuberance over making your acquaintance will surely make you believe he has you confused with an Alsatian monarch with a similar name. And once he discovers an area of interest of yours he will find, clip and mail you articles from a variety of periodicals until you are certain he cares more about you than your own family.

He would call his approach a commitment to “higher values.”  (Someday I need to compare this concept to Russell Kirk’s “permanent things.”) And I think he would say the highest value is the dignity of each individual. While he and I might have occasionally disagreed over what the “highest value” is, I don’t think he has ever wavered, despite my periodic, yet resolute, petitioning for exceptions.

He lives joyously because he believes every day is a day to revel in the glory that is the gift of life. Something great is happening right now, he would have you believe. This is the day; this is the moment. Don’t miss it. Smell the flowers. Express your love. Be comfortable in your uniqueness for it makes you special. Every moment is an opportunity—not waiting to happen, but unfolding—don’t miss it.  If Reebok says “Life is short. Play hard,” my dad would say, “Life is short, love hard.”

He has set a standard in our family for kindness and civility-in-action to everyone with whom we come in contact.  It’s not an act like we often see people of means engage in to demonstrate their sensitivity by deigning to interact with the commoners.  Dad’s civility is a genuine desire to demonstrate love through the active valuation of the thoughts and company of all who are fortunate enough to engage him.

My dad turns 75 this week. With any luck at all, you’ve got another 20 or 30 years to track him down and meet him.

Published in: on May 11, 2010 at 5:59 am  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Happy Birthday to the consummate birthday well-wisher! You never forget and now it is time for us to lift you up, twirl you around, and sing “Happy Birthday”! So, today we send verbal bouquets to Mackinac Island and say AMEN to Drex’s blog to you honoring your ‘joyful exuberance’.
    Have a great day!
    Love, Ellie for Art, too!

  2. Hi,
    What a beautiful tribute to you. You are truly a lovely
    human being. It’s a honor to be your friend. Much joy to you on your B-day

  3. Teachers at my son Drex’s school must pause every few minutes to allow for the roar of planes passing a few meters above their heads on their way to landing at the Lisbon Airport next door. A little after 11 this morning Vatican 1 roared overhead, giving Drex the only glimpse of the pontiff he feels he needs, so he’s not planning on walking the 12 minutes downhill from our house that would be required to attend mass in the Praça de Comércio in about an hour. The route by which the Popemobile made its way downtown from the airport is decorated with hundreds of sky blue and white banners, each with a photograph of an ordinary Portuguese José or Maria alongside one of nine verbs—share, love, pray, believe, trust, hope, forgive, listen, and celebrate—and under the verbs the phrase, “It was the father who taught me.” I don’t know how many of my neighbors find the banners resonate with them, but having never been under the auspices of the Pope or his church, the banners have little meaning for me until I apply them to His Eminence The Father Chuk F Kleber, my dad, who turns 75 today. He tried to teach me those things, but they’re a lot to try to pack into 18 years, especially when one wasn’t paying attention most of the time, so it should not be seen as an indictment against him that I still do them all very poorly thirty years later. He did his best, and he hasn’t given up, he’s still going strong, spreading his gospel of love and joy through the world’s most protracted direct and electronic mail campaign. Can you imagine what our lives are going to be like when he discovers twitter!!! God bless you on your birthday, Dad. I love you.

  4. What a fabulous idea, Drexel! Yours and Jordan’s witty words brought tears to my eyes. As a newcomer to knowing the wonderful, kind, funny, loving Chuk – it is a marvel at every email link, envelope of clippings (always with way cool stamps :), and conversation about most anything,even if nothing more than reviewing the weekend’s sports activities, always neatly clipped and marked (in priority order – UM always first, unless Northwestern is playing!) in priority order.

    Happy, happy birthday Chuk! See you soon. Love, Katie O.

  5. and, i am the most fortunate of all for i am getting to spend over 50 years with this wonderful man. l,m

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    • That is such a nice piece. On Aug 3, 2014 3:47 PM, “Kicking the Anthill – Blog” wrote:

      > Full report commented: “If some one wishes to be updated with latest > technologies therefore he must be pay a quick visit this site and be up to > date every day.”

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