Father’s Day – do I have to limit it to just my dad? So many have had fatherly influence in my life, and I think of them all today.
Of course, my father will always be foremost in my eyes. He was gentle and kind, and I rarely remember a raised voice. All my memories of him center around his hands. If he wasn’t petting our current black dog, he was polishing a car or tending a child, and teaching me to do the same. My dad wasn’t one to talk about things – he just did them. I was shocked the day a little girl lost control of her bike on our sidewalk and crashed full speed into the passenger door of his Buick. He loved that car, and had just finished waxing it when he looked up to watch the accident. He ran straight to the little girl, picked her up, took care of her injuries and delivered her to her parents. Only then did he stop to examine his door. He spent hours on his cars, and there was never a glitch of paint or engine. The mark on the door was evident, but all that was ever said was that he was just glad she was okay. People always came first – but most especially children. When he died, his dining room was full of discarded bicycles of all sizes he’d restored to give away to neighbor kids as he saw a need. We have no idea how many had already found homes. He taught me that giving of myself and showing love is much more important than all the words in the world.
But words are what I associate with my Uncle John, who woke me every Sunday morning for church with a story. I had moved away from home the summer after I graduated high school and landed at his house after my plans fell through. I stayed through fall, and was just folded into the family. His wake-up stories were improvisational every week, and always involved a beautiful blonde on her flashing Pinto steed, usually finding a handsome prince along the line. I couldn’t help but laugh at all the adventures I’d have in his stories, but if I actually woke up, the creativity would wind up and I’d have to hit the showers. I’d lie there and pretend to sleep and do my best to not laugh out loud.
I’ve probably spent more time with this uncle than any other relative, and he’s marked my soul. Words are never wasted; my mother’s brother is still a master of the right word at the right time. Last September, he ministered to me in a way he’ll never know during a conversation with my brother. Even though I wasn’t part of the conversation nor in a position to join it, his words inspired me. He talked about mindset being the major battle to face in life, and that how we approach life is the greatest indicator of how we’ll fare. The rest of it will fall into place if we’ve conquered the monsters in our minds.
Challenges are merely future story material in my Uncle Bill’s eyes; there’s seemingly nothing he can’t face down. He approaches life with a smile and a good dose of humor, and even though I know life hasn’t always been rosy for him, he’s always made it fun for the rest of us. Once again, he is a man who is all about family; I’ve only seen him once without happy relatives clamoring around his infectious humor. That was the day he set aside for me. I was staying in his home briefly on the way home from Uncle John’s that same year, when he unexpectedly called home from work. Was I available for lunch? Wow! He took me to a restaurant – no one had ever taken me to lunch before – and we talked about anything and everything. We spent several hours sharing old family memories and chocolate shakes. It never occurred to me that he had to go back to work. He had his priorities in order, and he chose me right then. When he did finally get home from work, I found him hosing salt off my car so it wouldn’t rust. He knew what was important to me and gave what I didn’t know I needed. I am who I am today because he’s been there every time I needed encouraging. I know that not only is my dog welcome in his home, but I am important to him. He’s in my corner.
My dog was never welcome in my father-in-law’s home, although we did stay there briefly. I assured him the dog did not bark; I wasn’t even sure she had a voice. That night we were all awakened by her barking like a fool at an opossum glaring from the top of the wrought iron fence. It looked like eyes in the abyss, since they lived on a hill. Pooch and I moved along shortly, and I never heard her bark again. But I digress. “Dad” has always been fond of one particular quote from the Bible. I can’t tell you how many paraphrases I’ve heard of it over the years, but I learned it well. “Even a fool, when he holds his tongue, will be counted wise for his silence.” While my father-in-law has always been ready to help me clarify my thoughts on any topic, he has also taught me there is a time when words are not appropriate or necessary. I love him dearly; he has accepted me into the family as his own, and his bear hugs and pats on the back, while usually knocking the wind out of me, are treasured.
But Father’s Day would not be complete without his only son, the father of my children and husband of twenty years. My husband’s mechanical skills and eye for function are amazing. He builds automated warehousing systems in huge distribution centers, ensuring the computer programs actually move the conveyors the way they are designed to sort and handle product effectively. He has traveled all over the country to construct or troubleshoot facilities for companies like Levi Strauss, American Eagle, and LL Bean. He volunteers his spare time with the local fire department, acting as their treasurer as well as fighting fires. He puts in long hours so that I can stay home and rear our children. He gives generously of himself to the church and the community, and our children are following his footsteps. He has shown us all that giving is more important than receiving, and sometimes taking care of those you love means hard work.
And this is where the rubber meets the road of fatherhood. Doing what you alone can do to take care of your own and those in your care. Fathers carry a tremendous responsibility to shape the next generation. Whether they do it well or not, only God can say, but they shape it nonetheless. Each father is God in his child’s eyes until the child is able to discern God for himself.
I have been blessed to have many wonderful influences show me the many faces of the God I now call Father. I know I am loved beyond whatever stupid stunt I do. I know that the careful use of my words can encourage and edify others. I know that giving is a blessed act, and a shared laugh is a blessed moment. Both are vital parts of life which should be intertwined tightly. There are always responsibilities that must be met, and sometimes they are pure drudgery. But in completing them for the ones in my care, love is given in a deeper, more meaningful way than any other.
Thank you, to all the fathers in my life, for being there for me. Who you are and what you’ve given are becoming a part of my children and beyond.