The knight in shining armor

June 4 2022

When I was a little girl, my dad built my sisters and I a big castle. He also made each of us a puppet to use with the castle as a puppet show, and he even made a stage, and a curtain. He helped the five of us girls create a puppet show with the castle to make money for our Catholic School.

I have videos of us all playing with the puppets in front of the castle, like the kids in “the sound of music”, and even though I remember the puppets (there was a jester with bells on his toes made out of Popsicle sticks, and a white horse with a red mane and four black legs made out of a milk carton as well as other puppets), what I really remember is the castle that he made.

It was a great big white castle, about three feet long by three feet wide, and about two feet tall. It had four turrets, one in each corner covered by a cone shape top with flags on each one. The turrets, were the vantage points for those living in the castle because they were the highest points. It had battlements, which were the square like parts of the top of the castle wall. “Soldiers used the gaps (crenels) to fire arrows at these enemies, and the raised areas (merlons) were used to dodge the arrows fired by enemies in retaliation”.

The castle was built on elevated ground with a flat surface (called a motte) which made advantageous use of the natural environment. He also built a drawbridge that went over a moat that he had painted water around the castle and on the front, and there were hills beyond the moat made out of paper mache. My dad also built an “allure” or “wall walk, for the castle which is a narrow upper deck perimeter, for the guardsmen to climb up to, and watch the entire castle for protection.

We played with that castle for hours growing up. Today, if I were to find that same castle after years of being lost, even though it might be dusty, dirty, and even broken in places, I would love it and cherish it because it was something my dad lovingly created.

It is valuable to me not just because it was something he made, but because it symbolizes valor and a fortress, honoring God, impenetrable to evil. I have not seen our wooden castle in many years, but if I saw it again, I would recognize it, and I would know it, would unquestionably claim it, and would value it greatly.

My certainty of the value of this castle, is a mirror of how the creator of the universe, constructed families out of humanity, like how my dad constructed the castle for each of us. Even as the “castle” weathers and possibly changes hands, it continues to hold and increase in value. Just like this castle, even if we as God’s creation, might occasionally need repairs or a fresh coat of paint, we are valuable because we are the original.

And we are so much more important to God than my dad’s castle is, to me. I am seeing more and more, how much God loves his creation, and is speaking to us, in the things that he does for us.

I remember that my dad also “spoke”, without words, to us, his daughters with other things besides a castle. I remember, for example, that he painted a knight, and I recall that there were many things about King Arthur and knights that fascinated my dad. Unfortunately, the knight painting that my dad did, which was rolled up in a tube, was misplaced and lost a few years ago.

I was heartbroken. I had specifically wanted to keep forever that painting my dad had done, because to me, the knight, like the castle, was full of chivalry, integrity, honor, and bravery, and valor, with his shiny coat of armor, and was the epitome of the good in humanity, Christianity, and hope.

But happily, years later, when I was looking for a knight to paint, so that I could try to replace the painting my dad had done, I found the painting that must have inspired my dad, called “the lady’s favor”, and was so thrilled. It shows the lady, who is honored by the knights promise of protection, giving a talisman in the form of a red scarf, honoring the knight. This beautiful exchange of trust between the knight and the lady, is captured in this painting, and my dad had enlarged and painted the knight, with his armor.

My dad painted the part that I circled. This painting is called “the lady’s favour”

Knighthood, chivalry and honor is so much more than just lances, riding beautiful horses and shiny armor. It is about a myriad of enlightened complex human qualities of good that exist and are developed in those who listen to good. My dad knew that children are receptive to good ideas, and so he thrilled us and inspired us with many stories and examples of knighthood, chivalry and honor, stories like Gunga din, or the Trumpeter of Krakow.

I painted my own version of “the knight” in honor of my dad, and to continuously remind me of those “lovely intangibles” that he created in his girls, with all the things he and my mother taught us growing up.

My dad and mom invested themselves in their five little girls. There was no glory or fame in doing so. And my dad did not even have a son to carry on his name, and still, for my dad, his five beautiful babies, were worthy of every moment of time that he spent, and every sacrifice that he made.

With his stories he inspired us. With his art he instructed us; with his writing he encouraged us, and with his life he lifted us… and he built us into an impenetrable castle. The endearing moments that he spent over a lifetime with each of us, creating, listening, and loving, left permanent, indelible marks on each of us.

The knight in the painting, is not “dead”, chivalry is not dead, and neither is my dad, even though he was in a plane crash years ago. Chivalry, honor, and strong families are alive and well. I can see clearly in my minds eye as if my dad were right here right now…because he built that castle to show me and my sisters, that knights still exist, and that a home can be a fortress, and that God is in control. He was right. He taught us well.

Me on the left, my four sisters and my mom

Just last week at the Denver art museum, I saw an exhibit on knights, their armor and their lives, and even though this is a liberal city, with seemingly deteriorating values I know that many honorable families still exist that share my dad’s vision of integrity and honor, and I have met many of these very families who are living in small towns all over Colorado. The homes that they have “built” are evidence that there is a castle in their future as well.

I feel I must continue to help children “see” the value of those beautiful intangible qualities, build castles not huts, and help them yearn to do good the way my parents created that yearning in me. So in keeping with that awareness, I plan to help the little ones learn about castles, knights and their code of honor as my theme for “Lissy camp” this summer when the kids are here with me. I am excited about what God, acting through me, can do to enrich their lives.

Children can learn about numbers, and they can learn how to read or write, but what will GUIDE them, when they need to know the way, when times are dark or when evil is tempting them, if they are anything like me and my sisters,…what will guide them are the very specific values, instilled within, by their parents, that inspire and illuminate.

I know already, that little six year old Eevie is greatly inspired by “the star spangled banner as you’ve never heard it”( https://youtu.be/YaxGNQE5ZLA) and she wants to “protect” the flag and asks to hear the story again and again. She knows who George Washington is and she admires the bravery of the men in the story of the star spangled banner.

In our growing years, learning was fun, not a chore, and by acting out puppet shows with a great big castle, or listening to the little match girl story, as told by my dad, or painting “the wind” out by an old barn, or having avid conversations about buggy whips and widgets with dad, or conversations by the clothesline with mom, accompanied by the repetition of morning prayers every day… these activities caused us to grow in the desire for valor, integrity and christian fortitude.

My dad opened the door for my mother, not because it was a rule to have good manners, but because he loved and respected her. He played capture the flag outside, with the kids on Thanksgiving day, instead of being inside with the grownups, not because it was his job as our dad, but because he cherished and enjoyed his children, their thoughts, perceptions and ideas. I remember he even spoke to my older sister Heidi before he decided to run for US congress, to get her thoughts on the matter.

God, Children, Family, and country, these were the things that mattered most to my dad, and since he spent time to help us understand the importance of these ideas, and since he simultaneously made our lives enriched and fun, these ideas still mattered to us now… as these are the things that have endured. These are the things that shaped us and will shape our children, and build them into a fortress. There is protocol, and yet my dad operated beyond that set of rules, in an enlightened place they call a man’s home, which is his castle.

Yup, my dad did indeed build quite a castle, but I am not speaking now about the one that was just made out of plywood and paint…his castle was built minute by minute, in cherished moments of time shared, moments that created an elevated home with a strong foundation, surrounded by a wall of Christian virtues. A home with impenetrable walls, and a home full joy, and full of life and honor.

Such a home will not deteriorate. Such a home will never fall.
They say a man’s home is his castle. I am completely certain that they were not talking about material walls.And though there may be many castles in Europe from the bygone times, there are living castles now right here in America.

My mom and the five of us girls, are, in fact, my dad’s living castle. In my minds eye I can see my dad dancing a little jig of joy, watching us embody the qualities he valued and watching my mom continue to be the strong foundation. I know you are proud of your castle dad, because you built it, so it is enduring, and it is indeed a castle fit for a king.

The house I grew up in

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