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If you enjoy my blog and would like to contact me, you may reach me at this email:

Some of my stories are published in:
A Cup of Comfort Devotional for Mothers and Daughters (Adams Media, 2009)
Chicken Soup: What I Learned from the Dog (2009)
Love is a Flame (Bethany House, 2010)
Extraordinary answers to Prayer (Guideposts, 2010)
Love is a Verb (Bethany House, 2011)
Big Dreams from Small Spaces (Group Publishing, 2012)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Precious Dad

My precious dad passed away Monday evening, Aug. 27th, 2012.
He slipped away quietly, as if he didn't want to disturb anyone by making a fuss.
So like my dad. Always quiet, always considerate, stoic, not wanting to alarm his wife or children.

My dad, Thormod James Nicolaisen was born in San Francisco on June 14th, 1915.

He remembers livery stables and horse-drawn milk carts. He remembers being frightened, as a three-year-old, of the white-masked citizens of San Francisco during the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918.

The son of Norwegian immigrants, fourth of eight children, my dad lived the childhood of poverty.
Grandpa Oluv Nicolaisen had been an engineer in Norway, but after they immigrated, not being fluent in English, he found whatever work he could to support his quick-growing family.
Nana had enough to do just birthing and raising her four sons and four daughters.

Daddy went to school and worked to help support the family. In 1932, with the Depression in full swing, Grandpa suffered a massive stroke, so my seventeen-year-old dad dropped out of high school to work full time.

In 1941, after the U.S. declared war, Daddy and his brothers, Al, Stanley, and Bobby all enlisted. My dad chose the Army Air Corps. (It hadn't yet become the Air Force.)

Daddy, being the super-bright and cautious fellow that he was survived the training to become a pilot. His superiors quickly figured out that he'd be more valuable to the Allies as a pilot instructor. Even so, he frequently recounted hair-raising tales of near-death spins and malfunctions and the tragic tales of his many war buddies who didn't make it out of the war alive.

After the War, Daddy came home, worked at the Post Office, studied for his BA and met my mother.
They married in 1947 and had five children. . . in five years.
Daddy earned his Masters in English just before he was called back into the Air Force to fly B-29 bombers during the Korean War.

After that war, Daddy became a high school teacher and by the time we youngest had graduated from high school, he was affectionately known by all the kids in the district as "Mr. Nic."

My dad's life was characterized by sacrifice, hard word, responsibility, honesty, and dedication to family.
He was gentle and quiet and never raised his voice. He didn't have to; we respected him so much that just a look of disappointment in his eyes would be enough to instantly crush any rebellion or spirit of mischief.
We kids knew that Daddy would do anything to keep a roof over our heads. Sometimes he moonlighted two extra jobs to feed his family of seven.

Daddy could do just about anything. A child of the Depression learns how to do everything himself. He built a brick staircases, designed bookshelves for every bedroom --books were the cornerstone of our family culture --, repaired cars, installed sinks and toilets, knocked down walls, built up new ones. 

My dad had dreams, too. But his dreams to be a great writer and poet had to be sacrificed. After all,
first a man takes care of his family. Then, when they're raised and on their own, perhaps. . .

And so, when we were all grown, Daddy started to write his poems. They're wonderful. They express the heart of a man who thinks deeply. His poems express the wonder of small things and the glory of great ideas. His poems have been published in the poetry magazine, "North American Mentor."

I often think that for a man like my dad, it is a tragedy that he only lived 97 years. So much talent, so much potential, so many unlived dreams. What could Daddy have accomplished if he'd been given a second life-time, just for him.

". . . then time ticked down and ceased to breathe, and I
Closed eyes, dream-traced the starry lie
To sort this great inigma now set free
And reap the glory fruits of destiny. . .  (excerpted from "Destiny", by Thormod Nicolaisen)


  1. Beautiful tribute, Dena. He sounds like a wonderful man.
    I'm sorry for your grief.

  2. Wow. That was touching. How wonderful to have been raise by such an amazing man!
    I'm sorry for how you will miss him. Hugs.

  3. Thanks, friend. I'm only beginning to process the fact that he's gone.

  4. That was a wonderful tribute, Dena. Your father sounds like an amazing man. I'm sorry for your loss.

  5. Dena,
    Ohhh we were so sorry to hear of your loss. What an exquisite tribute to your precious Dad...exceptional, as his daughter!
    Love and prayers from us both.

  6. Dear Dena,

    Thank you for sharing your dad's story. I'm so sorry to hear of his passing!
    You & your family are in my prayers,

  7. Thank you so much, Karin, Bobbe, and Beth. He was a gentle, loving father and husband, protector, provider, a wonderful teacher, an awesome solver of the New York Times crossword puzzles, a story-teller extraordinaire at parties, and of course, a poet.I think my dad knew just about every word in the dictionary.I adored him.

  8. Dena,

    Such a beautiful tribute to your dad. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and memories about him. And thank you for sharing with us just a bit from his book. He had a talent for words. My sincere sorrow for your loss, and may God keep you in his loving arms.

    Donna Wichelman

  9. Dena,
    How wonderful to know that your father accomplished his dream of becoming a writer, and yet I suspect he knew that his finest legacy was his family. I pray that memories of all the happy times you shared will help you through this time of loss.

  10. Hi Dena -

    Your beautiful post shows not only an accomplished man, but also one who loved and was loved. May the Lord comfort you and your family.


  11. Dear Dena,
    What a wonderful tribute to your precious dad. Thank you for sharing, it blessed me tremendously to read your story. I will be praying for you and your family as you press on through this difficult time.
    Thanking God for your tremendous faith,
    Carol Smith

  12. Thanks, Donna, Amanda, Susan, and Carol. Yes, my dad's greatest legacy was his family; we all loved him so much. His love for great literature and poetry lives on in each of his children.