Monday, March 1, 2010

The Light Remains

My father-in-law, Adolph Valenta, would have been 82 years old today. He died in May of 2006 of complications from lung cancer. He was an extraordinary man and I loved him.
"There are some who bring a light so great to the world that, even after they have gone, the light remains." - author unknown
We had our differences. When Grandad and I announced our engagement, he forbade the marriage because Grams was not Catholic and had no plans to become Catholic. That gave our relationship a rough start. To Grandad's eternal credit, he stood up to his father. He explained that we were not asking for permission, we were simply informing him of our decision. I cannot begin to explain how hard that was on Grandad or how much it endeared him to me.

My relationship with my soon-to-be in-laws was "healed" when Grandad had a near-fatal traffic accident just six weeks before our wedding. It's a sad fact that spending time by a loved one's side in the emergency room and on the trauma floor of a hospital will help you overcome past slights and hurts. That's what happened to us. Even so, it took me years to come to love him.

He was quiet but strong. He never preached his religion; he lived it. He had integrity. If he said he was going to do something, you could take it to the bank.

I had a hard time calling him "Dad." Eventually, I arrived at calling him "Papa Adolph." It fit perfectly and it stuck. I could go on and on about him, but instead I want to share what my daughter Katy wrote about him.

"A brother, a husband, a father, and Grandpa to me, a true patriarch who provided for his family the love, integrity, and the spirit that is so important in maintaining a close-knit family. This is how he will live on in me. As I embark on starting my own family and home I will keep his sense of family firmly embedded in my heart. It will give me the strength to do the right thing for my loved ones even when I am frustrated and to give my love selflessly.

He lived a full life, he knew his grandchildren well, saw them grow up and start families of their own. And as I reflect on the impact that he had on my life, I know that others loved him too. And that is such a wonderful thing to know…that your grandfather was truly a good man and, he touched the heart of everyone who knew him. So we should celebrate his life. We should take the things that we love most about him and try to be a reflection of those things for the others in our lives.

Every time that I went home to see Grandpa and Grandma we’d always play card games after dinner. On his last birthday we made a point to get home to see him. He was unable to play with us. We would have been content to just sit and visit with him but he insisted that we play cards anyway. And looking back at that night, I know it was because he just wanted to hear us laughing and talking with each other; that he found comfort in happiness at his dining room table. And I know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that he would not want us to be overcome with grief. More than anything he would want to hear us cheerfully visiting with each other and the laughter of the children playing."
Generally speaking, the family was better because of him. We knew if we screwed up we would have to answer to Papa Adolph. We acted differently because we didn't want to bring shame or disappointment on his name. We needed that and I miss it.

There are so many things I miss about him. He could fix anything and he rarely threw anything away. The entire family depended on him for repairing everything from washing machines to bicycles. Since his passing, we've all learned the high cost of repairmen.

He loved to dance, especially to Czech music, and I miss dancing with him. He enjoyed everything he did including golfing, fishing, hunting, and horseshoes. I miss playing cards and dominoes with him. He was one of those players who could tell you what everyone at the table was holding in their hands. He was usually my partner and, thanks to him, we often won.

I can still hear him telling my children to "listen to your mama." With just those few words he could turn them from argumentative toddlers into obedient children. It was remarkable.

And, he was a baker extraordinaire. I had never even heard of kolaches when I married into this Czech family. He made the best kolaches and homemade bread I've ever tasted. I really miss it.

He understood the value of education and had more common sense than most people. You could go to him for advice and he would help you work through whatever you were dealing with.

Happy Birthday, Papa Adolph. We miss you but we know you're still watching over us and taking care of your family. Your light still shines ... and we're doing our best to make you proud.


  1. Vicki...this is beautiful and so true. I, myself had the pleasure growing up in this family as well. He treated me like one of his own. If I was wrong, he let me know it then! I have had such an utmost respect for this man who I also called him Papa Adolf. I have spent numerous of hours in his loving home to learn about God because like you say..he lived it and I have learned about life itself. I have spent many hours with him also playings cards and sitting at his dinner table. I remembered once he tricked me...growing up when you go to someone's houes for never ask what they are serving because that was rude...well...I mind my manners to eat everything on my plate. I remembered Papa Adolf observing my feasting over this wonderful meal he and Momma Ruthie prepared. I complimented the meal to how wonderful it was and to thank them for having me there. Later, Papa Adolf looked at me to asked if I like deer meat...I replied "No sir" he smiled and said..."well, that is what you had for dinner" =) from then own...I never turned my nose but just trusted what ever they cooked was going to be good no matter what it was! Like you Vicki...I can go on and on about him but this website couldn't handle so much. I will sign as to say Happy Birthday Papa Adolf and I miss you terribly also. All of my family loves you as much as I do. Love, Wanda

  2. This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing it with us. We miss him too.
    Russ and Tina Massey

  3. Vicki, thank you so much for sharing this with me. It brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. We have remarkable people in our family. And, it's such an important reminder to think about the legacy we will one day leave.
    Blessings to you this day,
    Sarah Permenter

  4. Beautiful, Vicki! And I just learned things about him that I never knew.

    Had wonderful memories of times at the farm & miss those...

    Michele Blanchette

  5. Thanks for sharing Vicki. I miss his voice, his hugs and his hands - actually everything. One of the most special men I have ever met.