The House that Jack Built . . .

Beautiful quiet morning….still dark, frogs croaking in the golf course across from my Dad’s house. I’m all set up in his kitchen, drinking the Earl Grey tea he put in the cupboard ‘specially for his first child so she would have all the comforts of home.  Here we are, last night after dinner at Nic’s, me, my dad and his darling, wonderful wife, Jeannie. It’s a fuzzy photo Joe took with my iPhone, but we’re all there together, on a gorgeous starry night in the old town of Cottonwood, in the high Arizona desert.

We brought Dad his belated birthday present, an iPad, which we’ve been practicing up on while on this trip, trying to learn it, so we could “teach” him.

This is the blind leading the blind.  But together, we ended up seeing the light.  What a fun little machine this is! First stop my dad made, Youtube, to hear Johnny Cash singing I Walk the Line.

My dad’s fingers are big and wide and hitting the keys just right on the iPad looks like it might be an art!  Something learnable and doable with practice, but at first, not so easy.

My dad’s name is John Patrick Stewart, Jr.  But most people call him Jack.  His fingers are wide, but his hands are square and strong and beautiful to me.  These are two of the hands that raised me.  I like to put mine in his still, to this day, all warm and pure comfort in there.  When we hold hands, I feel six-years-old again and I don’t want to let go.  They are the hands that made my childhood safe and secure; they’re the ones that tied the tent on the roof of the car so there’d be room inside for his eight children when we went camping to the High Sierras every summer; they planted the plum tree in our backyard, and built the playhouse for my sisters; they dug the hole for the swimming pool, and held us while we learned how to swim. Strong enough to fix anything, soft enough for putting babies down for naps.

He sends me his favorite recipes, written in his own handwriting.  His hands helped to build the house that is my life.

Here he is with his dog Daisy, feeling the morning sun.  We leave here today, back on the train overnight to California, with more memories under our belt.  I wish we could stay.   Just one more hand-holding will have to do for now. ♥ I love my Daddy.

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260 Responses to The House that Jack Built . . .

  1. Betty says:

    What a wonderful dad! My dad’s hands were just like your dad’s hands and he used them to make all sorts of things for our home and for his family. He was a great handyman. He passed away seven years ago, aged 93. I really miss him.
    Thanks for this beautiful post.

  2. Ginnie says:

    Susan, I love this tribute to your dad. Two things come to mind: first, my dad just celebrated his birthday yesterday, and he was and is still a big influence in his 5 kids'(and grandkids) lives. I think our dads would have a lot in common if they met – your dad looks like he might be my dad’s contemporary. Second, I just finished reading a series of novels by Nancy E. Turner set in the Arizona Territories in the 1800’s. The first is “These is My Words” and is set in 1865-ish or so. Really interesting – the first 2 more than the third, I thought. Recommended by a friend, who spends winters in Tuscon and knows the area, they were especially meaningful for her. Maybe something your dad might like if he hasn’t already read them.

  3. Teddi says:

    Seeing your Dad’s hands reminds me of my Daddy. We lost him a few years ago but I remember holding his hand whenever we walked together or sat in a waiting room. Big strong hands like your Dad’s. I miss him sooo much! Thanks for sharing your time with him with all of us.

  4. Evelyn says:

    Hi Susan, This post brought me to tears reading it. Your Dad seems like such a sweet man. Much like my sweet Dad who I lost to cancer in 1996. Miss him ever day. Lovely post.

  5. Lisa Nelson-Jones says:

    Coming from someone who has never known her father, this man, your lovely father, is EXACTLY the picture of what I like to imagine my dad would of been.

    • sbranch says:

      I can share . . .

      • Doreen Strain says:

        Susan & Lisa, you are both making me cry! The thought of Lisa not knowing her father caused such a sadness within seconds of reading it. Then Susan, your offer to share your “Daddy” with her just caused such tears. How unselfish of you Susan! Both you & Lisa hit such tender spots in my heart. Now that… is what being “Girlfriends” is all about!!!!! And to boot….I believe your “Daddy” would enjoy being a “Daddy” to Lisa! {{{{{Hugs!!!}}} to all three of you!!!! (Susan, Lisa & Jack)
        FOSB 4~Ever! ~ Doreen ~

      • Lisa Nelson-Jones says:

        You already did… so blessed to know “know” you both 🙂

  6. Cathy in Golden, CO says:

    My daddy just turned 89 on 9/3. He and I are learning and cleaning out cedar chests. I just found his Army coat from WWII and my brother’s newborn baby clothes. I remember my daddy lifting me out of my baby bed, giving me baths, and rocking me before bedtime. He’s still very nurturing. I hate the thought of losing him . . . You and I are blessed . . .

  7. Deb says:

    I love your Dad TOOO!!!!

    no wonder you turned out simply wonderful in every way <3 You're like peas in a pod!

  8. Glenda says:

    Your tribute to your Dad reminded me so much of my own Dad, especially the hands! Although Dad has been gone for ten years now I still have those precious memories. Dad is in heaven now and I look forward to seeing him again in heaven. We’ll sit down just to ‘chat’. 🙂

  9. Sandy says:

    Susan, thank you so much for your post. You must be very proud of your Dad. Keep him so very close and hold those big hands. My Dad was a dairyman and had large hands like your Dad’s. I miss those hands every day and wish they could hold me once again. I wish I had brothers and sisters but my parents only had Me! I lost my Mom when I was 39 and my Dad 6years ago now but I have 3 children and 4 grandchildren. God Bless you and your parents. Agsin Thank you for the post. See you on the 9th of October in San Luis Obispo. Good Nite.

  10. Pat says:

    Your post brought tears to my eyes this morning. A beautiful tribute to your Dad. Hold his hands as long as you can. It’s lovely.

  11. Maureen says:

    You have such a gift for writing among your other many talents. Reading this on an early Saturday morning it brought tears to my eyes, but happy tears because I feel similar with my dad. I love the image of his hands. My dad is 89 now, and still in good health and has been there for me in his quiet way and shown me how to appreciate nature, gardening and always being there for his family…. I am so happy to have found your blog and I ordered a bunch of your books. I have shared them with my mom and she enjoyed all of them. I also joined the Gladys fan club, and read Stillmeadow which was a great read. I have passed that along to my mom and mother in law. Thank you!

    • sbranch says:

      You’re so welcome Maureen … It seems to be the land of kindred spirits around here!

    • Doreen Strain says:

      Here Maureen….let me pass you a tissue! Seems I have a whole box of them next to me here this morning! Sniffle, sniffle! Susan is soooooo right, there are just sooooo many kindered spirits around here! Just gotta love it. I know I do! Just love all the “Girlfriends”! FOSB 4~Ever!
      ~ Doreen ~

  12. Darlene says:

    Thank you Susan for sharing with us the beauty of you and your daddy’s love. I love my dad and mom so much and thank God everyday that I still have the both of them. One of my favorite pictures of me and my daddy is when I am about 2 years old and I am asleep on his chest snuggling him. Thanks for that beautiful memory. <3 Your dad is very handsome!! xoxo

  13. Deborah says:

    What a perfectly lovely tribute to your father! He must be so proud of you! I love the picture of his strong and capable hands with the delicate and feminine mug. Perfect contrast. My dads hands also were large square hands with big fingers, and my youngest son has these same hands…so do I. Not very feminine , but when i recall where I got them, it makes it ok. I love the picture of the view from the porch with your dad too, great picture.

  14. Christine from Lafayette, CO says:

    No matter how old we get we are always “daddy’s little girl” 🙂 When my dad turned 80 I took pictures of his hands. I’m lucky — he’s now 85! Weren’t we lucky growing up with such strong and loving dads who still are our heroes?!

  15. Cindy Davis says:

    That was such a sweet post! I felt like you were describing my relationship with my dad. He always made me feel safe and secure – and still does. My children are blessed to have a daddy like that in my husband. I wish that everyone did. Thanks so much for sharing your heart with us. I always say that your life is the one that I would want if I didn’t have mine. You are so talented. You have a gift for writing so that we all feel that we are reading letters from a close friends. God bless you!!

  16. Joan B says:

    Well the tears are just streaming down my face right now, along with everyone else. What a beautiful, thoughtful, loving post. A wonderful tribute to your father that will now last for all time. Lucky you – and lucky Daddy.
    Thank you so much for sharing.
    With love and gratitude,

  17. Maxine says:

    Just finished reading about you and your dad..brought tears to my eyes (good tears). I miss my dad so much, so enjoy yours while you can…Love picture of Daisy and your dad…Thanks for the memories..

  18. Tiina says:

    I wish he was my dad. Whats one more kid?? What great memories you have. You are truly blessed.

  19. Yvonne Shafer says:

    HI Susan! I wish I could hold my dad’s hands just one more time. Your post was so endearing and evocative. Thanks for helping me relive precious memories of my dad.

  20. Lee Ann G. says:

    That was a precious post Susan! Made me tear up seeing your dads hands (photo) and hearing how he held yours and all that those hands did for his family. You have been blessed to have such a wonderful daddy. Thanks for sharing him with us.

    ♥Lee Ann

    • Lee Ann G. says:

      I saw where you said you would share your awesome daddy in a reply above Susan and it caught my heart. I didn’t know my dad very well, since he was out of my life most of my growing up years and then we started getting know each other in my forties. He died a few years later at age 62 and I am so thankful for those last few years, but wish I would have had more time with him. So to any one out there who has a chance of getting to know their father but hasn’t reached out because of past pain, pleeeessseee don’t wait and just do it anyway.

      ♥Lee Ann

  21. Sherrah k says:

    Hi Susan Such a wonderful tribute to your dad. I lost my daddy when I was 21 years old and had just gotten married. I sure missed his sweet humor and wisdom to help guide us through the years. Your dad is a sweetheart and you are so blessed to have him and share him with all of us. 🙂 love you Sherrah (my real name is sherry but my mom called me sherrah) a little southern touch

  22. Janie Phillips says:

    Please tell your dad I’m up for adoption. Also, tell him not to get discouraged with the iPad. It gets easier, but even with thin fingers, I’m forever inadvertently launching some operation that will end in who-knows-what! It seems to be an occupational hazard (and keeps it interesting), but having a few ants at the picnic won’t make a dent in the iPad Feast!

    Thanks for this beautiful post, Sue. You touched a lot of hearts. xoxo

  23. kate garfield says:

    What a delightful story of you and your Father. I am just over the hill from Cottonwood, in Prescott Valley! I’ve recently finished radiation for breast cancer and I rode over to Sedona every day for almost 8 weeks for the treatments. Our shuttle van would stop in Cottonwood and pick up a gentleman to ride with us. What wonderful stories he would share with us. Your father seems to be as equally fun as YOU are.

    Thanks so much for sharing him with us and especially the photo of his working hands! Oh, the stories they could tell, huh? I’m glad you are getting his recipes in his own handwriting. I recently discovered a postcard my Dad wrote to us while he was on a tuna boat in the 1950’s. It’s the only thing I have in his own handwriting! Very precious! He’s been gone since 1962.

    BTW, my husband and I want to take a train trip and your blogs have proved our desire is valid!

  24. Marilyn says:

    As soon as I saw the photo of your dad’s hands, I just had to stop reading for a moment. They reminded me so much of my father’s hands. Strong, stout but gentle enough to dry a little girls tears, or bait her hook when fishing, gather fresh snow to help her build a snowman and especially to hold her hand when she was frightened.

    I lost my wonderful, loving 87 yr. old father just 5 months ago. During the viewing, I kept looking at those hands. They were old and worn, but hands I knew so very, very well. Love you, Dad,,,,,,,,always and forever!

    Treasure that photo of his hands, Susan! It’s incredibly beautiful.

    Marilyn (in Dallas)

  25. Marilyn ( in Ohio ) says:

    Beautiful & touching! Gals, let Dad know while you can how much they mean to you (Mom, Too).

  26. Marcia (in Brazil) says:

    Another wonderful post! As someone who also loves daddy very much, I was moved by what you wrote. Your blog is such a joy to read, Susan… Thank you for taking time to brighten our days! 🙂

  27. Shelly D says:

    Susan, your moving post opened a floodgate that is still pouring out. I was in an orphanage then a foster home when my parents came to look for a baby. I was older -a year & a half- but the minute I laid eyes on my future Daddy and he saw me, that was it. They brought me home that happiest of Christmases. When the song “Daddy’s Little Girl” came out 2 yrs later, I thought it was made for us, as he held me on his lap and sang with the record. He was wonderful, eternally supportive, and I miss him greatly 20 yrs after he passed at 87. Thank you to you & all posters for your memories, and for rekindling mine. Bless you…

    • Karen P says:

      Oh Shelly! What a wonderful story of perfect love! Thanks for sharing that…pass the tissues, please… xoxo…kp

  28. Karen P says:

    Well, Susan, I think from day-to-day, what can you possibly come up with for tomorrow’s post but then you “gift” us with something more wonderful than the previous post?! If it’s not some creative tip to help enrich our lives and make our homes even more comfy, then it’s something so close to your heart that it brings us to a better understanding of who you are and brings us closer to you as kindred spirits that we “girlfriends” are! You truly have a gift and we all thank you for sharing! xoxox…

  29. Regina says:

    I just had to post again after reading so many stories about everyone’s dads. Like you, Susan, there were 8 kids in our family, 4 boys and 4 girls, and my dad’s family was the same! He was such a hard worker on our dairy farm and could fix anything from a toaster to a tractor. I thought all men were like that! We never had much money, just barely getting by, but 3 years before he died, my parents were able to move into a brand new house in town, leaving the old, worn out home on the farm. It was such fun moving them into their new home, which they so deserved after so many years of getting by. At my dad’s funeral we realized that his real legacy was his family and how close we all are and we feel very blessed that he instilled that in us. I’m near tears writing this, but it is good to have such memories. I was also able to interview my parents and recorded their voices on a cassette for their 50th wedding anniversary. Everyone should do that! I now can hear his voice any time I want. So precious. Thanks so much for sharing your dad with us. P.S. One of my dad’s favorite essays is called “The Farmer’s Creed.” Those of you with farmlife in your blood can google it and read it. It’s everything my dad believed in.

  30. Tam says:

    I’ve enjoyed all the great memories growing up you’ve shared in your Girlfriends Forever book. You are one very lucky and blessed person!

  31. Joyce says:

    Susan, thanks for such a sweet story. My dad is also the hero in my life. He will be 85 on October 12 and I am so thankful for his influence in my life. He has always encouraged me and made me believe I could accomplish anything if I tried. To this day there is nothing more comforting than hearing my Dad’s voice on the phone or getting that special hug every time we meet. Aren’t we lucky ladies?!!!

  32. Linnea says:

    Wonderful post and wonderful comments! I read through all of them. I still have my dad at 81 years. He is very frail though and has Parkinsen’s. He has always been there for me. Helped me with homework, washed my hair (mom said he had to do it if he wanted it long), could repair anything including my car. He was Mr Fix-it until he couldn’t do it anymore. He did a lot of work on their house and helped us with various things. Would rescue me if the car broke down. One time I was only able to give the cross streets and the name of the store across the street and he found me! And got my car started…gas station guy could not seem to figure it out. I was on my way home from college for Christmas. One time was I was looking at the magazine “Country Living” there was a linen press I wanted. I ask Dad if I got the plans for it would he make it for me. He said he would buy the plans. And he made it for me! I love it and he did an awesome job on it. It was our anniversay, birthdays and Christmas gift that year!

    Now my dad’s hands are thin and weak and feel frail when I hold them, but still special all the same. I try to see him as much as I can, and give him hug or two when I do.


  33. Elizabeth says:

    Your tribute brought tears to my eyes. My dad died in March 1993, the day after his 79th birthday. He had raised my half-brother and me, the child who was born when he was 50. He had psoriatic arthritis (arthritis due to psoriasis) and his hands were crippled for as long as I knew him, but they were wonderful hands also.
    Someday I will hold his hand again, and it will be whole. Bless you, Susan.

  34. Sandra Gillanders says:

    Memories came flooding back from long ago of my daddy as you described your dad’s hands. My dad’s hands built tents for me and my friends to play in, fixed anything and everything, painted model race cars, sculptured mountains and trees for train layouts, mowed lawns, painted houses, washed up dishes and held my hand when he took me shopping. Thanks for sharing your memories and bringing back my own to enjoy.
    P.S. I could look at the view off your dad’s porch for hours, it’s so majestic.

  35. Jake Gariepy says:

    Hi Susan,

    What a great post. I think it’s my favorite so far. Being the dad of eight kids myself, and only one daughter (my oldest, she’s seventeen), it really got to me. I’d give just about anything for my kids to look at me like that. What a tribute to a great dad. All through the time we are raising our children, we never really know whether they will look back and know how much we loved them and treasured them. Obviously, your parents knew what they were doing!

    Now, not to take away from the meaningfulness of the above… may I ask you a technical art/design question? When you are putting together the images for your books or cards or calendars, is your art done in the same size as the finished product? For example, say your book will end up measuring 7″ x 7″… Is your original art done in that size or do you do the originals in a larger size that is then reduced to fit?

    • sbranch says:

      I think your kids will have wonderful memories of you Jake! On the art…90% of what I’ve done is to size. I keep the pages of each book in order, in a box. Page one in the box, looks just like page one of the book, same size art, writing, everything is there on the page. Once in a while I will paint something, just for the painting of it — not sure how or if it will be used, so I paint it to any size I want, then later we can reduce it if we want. Hope that answers your question.

  36. donna marie says:

    Hey there Susan <3 Sitting here, wide awake at 4am…I got up with Gabriel, (our amazing, sweet, doesn't sleep through the night yet baby) and now I can't fall back asleep! Stealing a few minutes of quite time to myself to read your latest blog entry. It feels just like reading a letter from an old friend! I can't help but smile to myself after reading about your love for your Dad! Thank you for making 4am feeding time a little more cheery!! Can't wait till next time!!
    Love, Donna <3

    • sbranch says:

      Loved sharing Gabriel-feeding time with you! xo

      • donna marie says:

        I guess being up at 4 am causes one to misspell words! lol
        p.s. I am quite happy that you responded to the comment I
        wrote during my quiet time last night!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 ha ha

  37. Barbara says:

    You’re lucky, lucky; lucky to still have your Daddy. I have wonderful memories of my Dad, walking down our cul-de-sac, holding hands as he taught me how to whistle. We unraveled the mysteries of the world on those walks…
    Thanks for bringing those wonderful times back to the surface.

  38. Katharine says:

    I just had my dad over for dinner last night. I had forgotten that he had broken his wrist because I hadn’t seen him since it happened. He huddled in a chair with his cast and it was so unusual to see him like that. He is normally so strong and robust, even at 83. He tripped and fell on the way back from the beach. The thing that is ironic is that he was boogie boarding at Santa Monica Beach and rode 3 waves before walking home and tripping. I told him I was telling everyone this story and he said “not much of a story” and I said but it’s better than he feebly walked out the door and tripped and fell. The word feeble has never been used when thinking of my dad. He has always been the fastest and strongest walker and uses his hands to design, build and create everything, including the remodel on his home. I hate seeing him in pain and pray he feels better soon. A year ago he was washing and polishing my old kitchen hardware for my newly painted cabinets (that I paid my sister to repaint). I love my dad and cherish every precious moment with him.

  39. Mindy says:

    From one “Daddy’s Little Girl” to another……… great reading! I am 42 years old and still hold my dad’s hand 🙂 My husband and I spent our anniversary this year in Cottonwood……wine tasting, shopping and going to Nic’s for dinner.
    We got a great antique wood goose from that big antique barn at the end of the main street.

  40. Virginia says:

    As soon as I saw the title of your blog and the pictures, I knew I’d have to wait to look at it again (I was at work). I’ve only just now read it and all the wonderful comments everyone has shared. They brought the expected tears and memories.

    Susan, your father sounds like he was a wonderful dad (still is!) and you are so fortunate to have him.

    Mine was not a demonstrative man. I have no memories of hugs or bedtime stories. But he raised my younger brother and me alone from the time we were 7 and 4. Without going into a lot of detail, my parents divorced and my father got full custody of us. While he wasn’t able to provide for us very well emotionally, he did make sure we were fed, clothed, and taken care of. It wasn’t until I was a parent myself that I really came to appreciate all he did do. By then our relationship had become that of friends, rather than father/daughter. He lived to the age of 90, in good health almost to the end. It’s been 5 years since he passed away and not a day goes by that I don’t think of him.

    Thank you so much for sharing your daddy with us. What a gem he is!

    PS – I would love to know what “Breakfast by Jack Stewart” entails. There was only enough visible of the card to be enticing! In a bowl provided by Susan Branch… I have a crunched up…what?? If he’s been eating it for 50 or 60 years, it must be pretty good stuff!

    • sbranch says:

      He mixes together some different granola’s and cereals, I’ll have to find out, I forget exactly what they are. Yes, I should be having whatever he’s having!

  41. Karen P says:

    Did you design the teacup that your dad is holding in that picture? Beautiful photo…

    • sbranch says:

      Yes I did — It was part of a set no longer being made by Lenox. I think I will treasure that photo for the rest of my life! Now I want to take pictures of the hands of all the people I love!!

  42. DeAnna Passmore says:


    My Daddy passed away 13 years ago at the age of 54. Susan I know exactly what you meant when you said you felt 6 years old again holding his hand. I have such great memories that will forever live in my heart of my Dad. I was lucky enough to have HIS father (my grandaddy) live with me and my 2 daughters for about 7 years. He has passed on as well but taught us many wonderful things (like how to make the BEST fried potatoes in a cast iron skillet!) My girls learned so much by having their great grandfather live with us! We all have been truly blessed! Thanks everyone for sharing all your stories! xoxoxo

    • sbranch says:

      Let me add my thanks for that too, and especially for my dad, who read every one of them! He now understands exactly why I love blogging so much!

  43. Elizabeth says:

    So nice reading about your Dad and remembering mine. His hands and arms that did hard work and provided such a great life for me and my brothers. Thanks for the memory.
    BTW: I had 3×5″ cards with recipes from my grandmother in her handwriting. I made copies and used many of them, all together, as the mat for a framed picture of her. Her cooking and the way she managed her kitchen was an inspiration. Never a dirty dish to be seen when we ate at her house; the whole meal in one tall stack of pots on her stove, keeping all warm and waiting for her guests. I like having her picture watching over me in my kitchen — but she also sees all my dirty prep dishes are not cleaned and put away when the company arrives!

  44. Love the post and especially the hand-written recipes. I have a whole box that my deceased mom wrote. They are very special to me and I feel close to her when I touch them. Now I am writing down recipes for my own daughter to have.

    I would be curious to know the recipe that your father has written down for breakfast. I can read that he said that he has eaten this breakfast for the past 50 or 60 years. Must be a good recipe. Hope you can share! How lucky you are to still be able to hold hands with your dad. What I wouldn’t give to have that chance again. My daddy died in 2001. I miss him every single day. My mom, too.

    • sbranch says:

      I’m not sure what that recipe is, I’ll have to ask him. I do know it’s a combination of granola and cereals.

  45. Jean says:

    Lovely post! I especially like the recipes written in your father’s own handwriting – what a treasure. What a special time you must have had with him during your recent trip.

  46. Sarah says:

    Maybe one of your greatest posts….loved the hands….wonderful that you thought to capture that photo of his hands. Your love for your dad brought tears as I remembered my dad and my step-dad. I was lucky to have two great people in my life and so sad they are gone now. The Johnny Cash music made me think of listening to old 78 records of Bob Wills with my dad. We’d sit on the floor with the record player and sing together….”Stay all night, stay a little longer, dance all night, dance a little longer. Pull off your coat, throw it in the corner, don’t see why you can’t stay a little longer…”

  47. Wendy says:

    I absolutely love your post about your dad…..I too have a dad with big but strong hands……how wonderful to be able to spend some precious time with him….made me a little sad that you had to board the train and leave him behind…..I am fortunate to live next to my parents so spend much time with my dad… reason I have not commented much lately as I have been working the garden with my dad and then canning the bounty with my mom…….this post really touched my heart and I hope you have many more trips for time to spend with your wonderful dad……..

  48. K. Ross says:

    When I looked at your Dad’s hands, it was almost like seeing my Dad’s hands again. He’s been gone for almost 30 years, but I can still remember the strength and the gentleness of those hard-working, solid hands. Thanks for sharing that beautiful photo — and stirring the precious memory.

  49. Linda Hancock says:

    A wonderful tribute to your Dad! Makes me miss my own dad who left this world far too early.

  50. Eugenia says:

    There is something so special about hands. Every 4th of July and for other occasions, too, we make little stepping stones for our garden. In each are the hands or feet of our growing children. My one regret is that I didn’t make a stone with my mother’s hands.
    So easy, purchase a stepping stone kit from your nearest craft store. I promise you will not regret having your Daddy’s hands forever….

  51. Cathy McC. says:

    What an incredible bond you have with your dad! My mother passed away when I was near eleven, and being “the baby of the family” my dad and I were inseparable. While reading your story (through tear-filled eyes), I felt it could have been my own dad and me, especially when you wrote about your dad’s hands. My dad had hands of a farmer and hands of a mechanic — but they were hands of strength and gentleness at the same time. Recently I was in a panic because I could not remember what my mother’s handwriting looked like. I dug out old recipe cards and requested copies of such from my sister, gathering cards and memories, so dear to my heart. Did the same with those from my father, so between the picture of your dad’s hands and those of his recipes, I was totally interjected into your tale. Dad passed away in 2000 — oh how I would treasure another hand-holding day. Thank heavens for the memories. Thank you for stirring them.

    • sbranch says:

      Our memories need a good stirring sometimes. Thank you for sharing your recollections and stirring some of mine!

  52. Beth says:

    Dads are an amazing blessing. My dad passed away 6 years ago. The fall is always the hardest time for me. We had a wonderful relationship; we were a lot alike, co-conspirators, to my mother’s dismay, on many things & epic battles when we butted heads. He taught me so much. How to make yourself a rhinoceros with a rose thorn, how to eat a pomegranate & sugar cane (that’s what elephants eat, you know), how to fish & clean the fish, & how to agree to disagree. There is so much more I could write about a dad of three daughters, but I’m sitting here bawling & I’m having trouble seeing the keys. Thanks for the opportunity to talk about Richard Paul David Heil. Although I talk about him all the time.

  53. Jolene says:

    I read this blog yesterday but was too emotional to write. I too have lost my dad…November 30, 1991…six days after my birthday. I just posted on the “What I Love About Fall” blog and shared birthday memories, as one of my favorite Fall things. There for awhile there weren’t very good birthday memories, recalling him laying in the hospital and all of us thinking he would be ok and then he was gone, heart disease. But I wanted to comment on the photo of your dad’s hands…took me back to one of my visits in the hospital to see my dad…he asked if I could “rub some hand lotion on his hands, they feel dry”…I recall looking at his hands and thinking too, some of the thoughts you shared about looking at your dad’s hands…how hard he had worked to give my sisters and me the best life he could…putting together toys on Christmas eve so we would have a happy Christmas…growing his roses and keeping the outside of the house so neat & pretty, always mowing the lawn & trimming the edges ( the part I hated helping with, but wish I could go & help with now) handing us lunch money every night before bed because he would be up & gone to work in the morning , before we awoke. Anyway, I could go on and on but I just wanted to say how much that picture you posted said to me , without ever reading a word. You are blessed to still have him in your life and I know you know this. You are a good daughter. <3 Sending a virtual hand squeeze to your dad.

    • sbranch says:

      Jolene! That was beautiful, and I have tears. Very very touching. xoxo

      • Jolene says:

        Thank you. I get tears too thinking about him. I have also kept birthday cards since I was a little girl, actually any & all cards I have received from everyone, in boxes..and I have the last birthday card from my dad…loved his handwriting( reminded me of those recipe cards)…but there is something even more special about this one…I know one of my sisters had to have gone out and bought it for him to give me…but his signature on this one was so light, reminding me of how the strength he had always had was fading…but I still love looking at it now & again. He’ll always be the strong daddy I loved & always will.

  54. Glenda says:


    Thank you for sharing. It was such a touching tribute to your Dad and your relationship with him. Tears were running down my face, as I read what you had to say. You definitely have been blessed to have such a wonderful Dad. He too for having such a neat daughter.

  55. Karen P says:

    Had to read through these comments again because they were so wonderful! My dad is in an assisted living home with Parkinson’s (so I can relate to Linnea) and I hate to see him getting so frail. But one memory that I will always cherish is how he ALWAYS calls me on the phone on my birthday and, without even saying hello, starts to sing “Happy Birthday.” When he’d come in to wake me up in the morning when I was growing up (usually on Saturday mornings), he’d wiggle my big toe and quietly say “Karen, time to get up!” Then, proceed to go to his workshop on the other side of the wall in my basement bedroom and start doing work…I HATE the sound of a circular saw to this day! Oh well, they’re all good memories and worth a laugh! Wonderful things these men called Dad that God gives to us! xoxo…kp

  56. kay arundel says:

    hi and greetings from england.i loved your blog on fathers and cherish my father every day.he lost his partner of 16 years in may and is finding it very difficult,but soon i hope he will come and live with me ,he is 86 and is still fairly active. i love him so much and the times we have together are so precious,i still walk hand in hand with him evry where we go and it always reminds me of being a child,that wonderful safe secure feeling you have when you are loved no matter what.with love and gratitude for your wonderful,joyful site

  57. I loved reading about your father Susan. Better watch out about that iPad though because he will soon be addicted, if he isn’t already. My mom had never used a computer before, but when the iPad was released, she decided she wanted one. To her, just touching the screen is less intimidating than using a “real computer” as she calls them.

    Almost a year later, she’s become a true iPad addict who now spends way too much time reading blogs and watching stuff on YouTube. She says she now gets why the rest of the family has had our noses stuck to our computers for so many years, and says I’m a bad influence for teaching her these things!

    May you have many more wonderful years with your father.

  58. annie says:


    Thanks for sharing your Dad blog, what a wonderful venue you have used to inspire many to consider the part their own Dad played in their life.

    Your dad and mine are both “John. Just like your Dad, my Dad has “helped to build the house that is my life.” (Branch, S. 2011) Now at 88, my Dad tends to my Mom’s every physical need without complaint..he gardens..gathers..sets by the pickles and tomatoes…cooks over his pristine 1950’s stove and serves my Mom each meal with love added in. A quiet man, he shows his love through deeds, not words. These past years have taught me some of the greatest lessons given by his hands..
    I love your Dad’s day when my Dad leaves us I will give out his half sour recipe at his farewell service…
    Thanks for listening..and sharing.. by the way…inch by inch your wonderful CA garden grows! (Love the hedge!)

  59. Patty says:

    Such a nice tribute to your dad.Mine was a wonderful father too and I miss him every day. Count your blessings to be able to still hold his hands.

  60. Nina Parrino says:

    My Dad passed away on 9/2/2011 at the age of 91. I still cannot believe he is gone. Treasure your loved ones while they are still here and tell them how much you love them often!

  61. MaryAnn says:

    I thought of you and your tribute to your dad as my sister and I held our dad’s hands at the hospital early yesterdy morning. He fell and required stitches in his head. He is doing okay today. Dad is 89. His hands have piloted a P51 in WW11, built houses, held the bikes as we tried to learn how to ride, and held great grandchildren. We are so thankful to still have him. I appreciate your sweet reminiscence about yours. Hope you are getting settled and Girl Kitty is happy to have you home! Blessings to you.

  62. I get pleasure from, cause I found exactly what I used to be taking a look for. You have ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

  63. I relish, result in I found just what I was having a look for. You have ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

  64. Babita says:

    I dont know what to say.. just speechless…felt a lump in my throat as I read those lines about your daddy’s hands.. Amazing post !!! I’m sure everyone in here is after that handsome man’s hand now ..he..he..he..
    People say I’m a female version of my dad..Have’nt really been the best daughter to him.. but I guess now I should pick up my phone and call him now..

    You are blessed Sue.. I’m sure ur dad is soo proud of you.. Tell him he’s got huge fans allaround the world !!! and I saw the wooden spoon he made for you.. hey, Can I hire him???

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