My Dad, Louis S. Durkac, died this morning, September 4, 2019. He was 91 years old and the adopted father of 5 adopted children, and he himself was adopted. He died just 2 days shy of his 67th wedding anniversary with my Mom, Irene, whom he leaves behind in a fight against dementia.
I am the middle child of the 5 Durkac’s and often accused of being the odd guy out or the black sheep of our family. It’s a mantle I don’t mind wearing and a very noticeable difference from the footsteps of my Dad’s life.
It’s no secret that I didn’t follow in his footsteps when it came to his life’s work, religion, politics, or even in building a life in the same community of Rossford, Ohio.
However, don’t confuse my different path in life for not being grateful for my Dad or not having respect and love for him. His influence upon my life is something that I appreciate and am reminded of daily.
The thing that has always impressed me about my Dad was his steadfastness of character that stood out in his work life. I watched him go to work at LOF Glass, day in and day out, year after year after year.
He likely didn’t realize it, but he was impressing me with a teaching lesson in perseverance and showing up and staying at it and viewing life for the long hall. His stick-to-it-ness at the factory paid off in his retirement years as well.
Dad wasn’t always excited about being a factory worker, but I am guessing he always knew it was for the bigger purpose of keeping five kids in cloths, shelter, and food.
There was a time he decided to try real estate sales as a part-time job with hopes of possibly turning into a more rewarding career. While working a full-time job, raising five kids, he went to school and received his realtor license, showed some homes, but it just didn’t materialize.
He likely didn’t realize it, but he was influencing me with another teaching lesson in not being afraid to fail at something different.
As it turned out, failure has been something I had to deal a lot with in my adult life, but learning my Dad’s response to it has helped me to recover and turn it into fuel to get where I really needed to be.
Dad wasn’t just steadfast about work, he was steadfast about church attendance, too. He tried to drill that into my life at a time when I wanted nothing of it. To this day one such encounter, with his animated choice words, has been frozen in my memory.
There was a time when as a High School junior he challenged my assertion that I just came back from Catholic Mass although I couldn’t produce a church bulletin. Unknown to me at the time, he saw Milan and I cruising around town during the exact time we were both suppose to be at Mass.
Obviously my religious story turned to a very different chapter than my parent’s would have liked for my Catholic upbringing, but if it wasn’t for his commitment to weekly church attendance, I may not have been open to my calling in vocational ministry.
He likely didn’t realize it, but his commitment to church attendance was impressing me with another teaching lesson that if a 6’3″ gruff factory worker cares about religion, maybe I should, too.
After some teenage years marked by rebellion to the law and noncompliance to the school, I took a hard stance in a very different direction that lead me into full-time Protestant church pastoral ministry and hospital chaplaincy.
It was my Dad who saw the humor in this when I moved to Mobile, Alabama and was employed by a Catholic Hospital here as a chaplain. He once joked that I spent my entire youth running from the nuns and now I had to run to them to get my paycheck.
He likely didn’t realize it, but he also influenced my appreciation for seeing the humor in mundane life and using quick wit to turn a conversation.
It was also in my own adult life that I realized how difficult it must have been for my Dad to accept and raise 5 adopted kids. I have an adopted son and there were times when he was small and our tendencies clashed, that I would lament to myself, Why am I putting up with this? I never verbalized it, but it did cause me to pause and realize that my Dad must have lamented the same thing, but 5-times over.
I’ve learned to appreciate my Dad for stepping up and taking responsibility for me through adoption, because he certainly didn’t have to, but he did.
Several years ago I was able to identify my biological family, including parents, siblings and their families. After communicating with some and learning the difficulty of the family circumstances I was adopted out of I decided to make a special trip back to Ohio to personally thank my Dad and my Mom for adopting me.
He likely didn’t realize it, but his willingness to assume adoption responsibility for me, was another teaching lesson about the lasting worth and redemption of adoption. If you have read or heard my personal Christian testimony, you know that because he modeled that to me it was easy for me to understand John 1:12 and trust in Jesus Christ as my Redeemer.
It has been exactly 1 month since I visited my Dad at the hospital there in Toledo, Ohio and because of my ministry commitments here on the Gulf Coast I will be unable to return for the funeral. I’ve been very intentional these past years to invest into our relationship while he was alive before this day came, so I am at peace with waiting to eternity to see him again.
Until then, I have memories. James, the brother of Jesus, said that our lives are like a “vapour” or a “mist” that is here and quickly gone (James 4:14). Thankfully, God gave us memories to outlast the mist.