The Portrait




She was painting a remarkable picture. When he asked about the portrait, she invited him to sit down. She recounted her memories of the man with many occupations.

magical moments

“As a magician, he would produce bananas and quarters from behind my ears. Amazing what was tucked in my head, and I didn’t even know it. Using his magic rope and blocks, he demonstrated the story of Jesus and the sacrifice He gave in exchange for my eternal life in heaven.

be a cheerleader

As a fisherman, he took me to the ocean, cold streams, lakes, and ponds looking for the best fishing holes. Thankfully, he always baited my hook. He taught me to yank on the fishing line at just the right time to set the hook. If my fish got away, he was sad for me. He also cheered when I caught the big one. When we set out on our chartered ocean fishing trip, he brought my favorite: Italian hoagies and orange soda. Regretably, as my stomach roiled from the waves, lunch was tossed overboard. He compassionately held me.

don’t sit on the sidelines

As a coach, he taught me how to swim, play baseball and tetherball, and how to ride the monkey swing he made. Actually, he was more than a coach; he was also a participant. Oh the fun we had dunking and splashing each other in the pool, or playing catch in the backyard. I was always tired first, but my coach never quit.

winning is good, but being a good sport is better

As a master game player, he taught me how to play Rook, Parcheesi, Flinch, checkers, ping pong, and pool. (As a result, Rook has become the game of choice with my children.) Sometimes, he would beat me soundly, but he would also purposely loose to make me laugh. By example, he taught me the value of letting others have the pleasure of winning also. He taught me that winning is good, but being a good sport is better. Teasing was his favorite game, and he never missed an opportunity. Shoving a frozen ham under his tee shirt was the best prank I played on him. Even though he was startled, he laughed hard. He lived by his motto: Don’t dish it if you can’t take it.


As a Santa-moonlighter, he perpetuated a belief in Santa. As my siblings and I got older, we began to doubt the validity of Santa. So, he secretly hid a mask of Santa outside the window and pulled down the shade. That Christmas Eve, we sat on his lap while he read a bedtime story. When the story was finished, the window shade snapped up and there was Santa staring right into our surprised faces. Next, we heard Santa command, ‘You’d better get to bed or I can’t come with presents.’ All three of us clammored to get up the stairs at one time. His jolly Santa’s belly still shakes with laughter as he remembers that Christmas.

think through a problem to find the resolution

As a teacher, he believed there was an educational value in all things. Whether lessons on how to buy and sell antiques, how to wire the new church for electricity, collecting coins, or constructing and repairing with tools, he shared his knowledge. This dear teacher insisted that I think through a problem to find the resolution. He would not give the ‘right’ answer until you demonstrated a valiant effort.

give a piece of yourself to others

As a craftsman, he loved the wood shed. I’m not referring to spankings, although he did lovingly provide one or two of them. He had a superior ability to create unique designs. As I look around our home, I see his gifts everywhere: coffee table, sofa table, lamps, shelves, pictures, and tray tables. He has been know to encode sentimental words and symbols into his creations which add to the mystique of the gifts.

enjoy the tracks of life

As a train collector, he was exuberant. I can remember watching his eyes light up as we would go to the train museums. He would tell me about the different gauges of trains, how he owned this railroad crossing sign or that water tank in his personal collection. Each Christmas, we set up the trains. First we covered the platform with rough paper, then made the mountains and sprayed them with snow paint. We built a tunnel through one mountain. Then put on the finishing touches with signs, houses, and churches. To this day, I can still hear the click-clack of the trains as they whistled around this miniature playground and emitted smoke from their stacks.

demonstrate a love for Jesus

Lastly, as an artist, he liked to paint with oils. I remember several paintings, but my favorite is the one he helped me paint as a 6-year-old. Because the three crosses on a hill were vivid for me, he helped me paint my love for Jesus on canvas. First, he taught me how to paint the sunset. Next, we added the crosses on the mountainside. When it was finished, he said, ‘an artist must sign their work.’ Since it was hard for me, he added C. Keen 1961 to the bottom right hand corner of my first masterpiece.

As you can see, he had many occupations. This portrait is of that one man,” she concluded.

With the story finished, the storyteller got up from her chair and gave the listener a big hug. Then, she turned the easel toward the man. He saw himself—through her eyes.

Dear Dad


4 thoughts on “The Portrait

  1. Ginger Dorr June 19, 2016 / 4:01 pm

    Cindy, You captured so many wonderful things that dad did for us so well! It couldn’t have been stated any better. What a wonderful tribute.


    Liked by 1 person

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