Friday, June 19, 2015

A Fathers Day Tribute To The Memory Of My Dad

It is hard to believe that it has been over twenty years since my father died.  And memories of him are fading.  Now I am older than he was at his passing and memories of him are swiftly fading.

Dad was a little crusty on the outside; a tough construction worker with leathery skin, rough hands, and a rough demeanor to match.  His direct, no-nonsense, sarcastic style of conversation was often misunderstood but, to those who knew him best, it was endearing. He was not overtly affectionate and I don’t remember him ever telling me he loved me. But I never doubted his love; he demonstrated it in very real and practical ways.

I never had what some people today would describe as “quality time” with my father (or my mother, for that matter). In fact, I don’t remember ever hearing the phrase, “quality time,” used in any context when I was growing up. With seven children, there was always work to do and most of the times I had with my father were spent in hard work.

Dad was a straight shooter; he always meant what he said. You could count on it. Disobedience often brought fearful and painful consequences by his own large, rugged hand. He understood the Proverbs…” evil is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction drives it far from him” and “he that spares the rod hates his son.” He never automatically sided with me against my teachers or others in authority. He taught me that, although they are not always right, it is always right to submit to their proper authority.

But he was also fair and, believe it or not, he was kind. Our family never had much, but we always shared what we had with others. And he was always forgiving. I remember how often I disappointed, failed, and hurt him but still, he loved me because I was his son.

My dad taught me to judge people on the merits of their character, not on their appearance. He understood that true friendship required work and that people must be accepted with and in spite of their shortcomings. He had friends of varied colors, backgrounds, and stature. The only people he could not tolerate were intolerant bigots.

Our family depended on him to provide for our needs. Although he was a skilled craftsman, no job was beneath him. Several times in my life, construction work was hard to find so, over the years, I watched him work as a night-time school janitor, a drive-in theater usher and a door-to-door Fuller Brush salesman. He found dignity in honest work and he wanted his children to see him getting up early in the morning and going to work to bring home a paycheck rather than going to the mailbox to bring in a welfare check.

He valued his reputation. He was honest and just in his dealings. Sometimes, as a contractor, he would make costly mistakes. But he always finished the job at the agreed price regardless of the loss. He was a man of his word.

He was faithful to his wife and his children and that provided a great deal of security for us. Home was a good, safe place to be. We didn’t always have everything we wanted, but he always tried to give us everything we needed.

Not only was he our provider, he was also a strong and brave protector. I remember, at the age of nine, one evening when he had sent me out to buy something at a neighborhood market (in those days it was safe for children to be out after dark). On my way home I passed a parked car with four guys who yelled something at me. I was scared and felt threatened and told my dad when I got home. He immediately got up and went out to confront them and warned them to keep their mouths shut and leave his kids alone.  In retrospect, I imagine he was really fearful of confronting four thugs at night but he never let on.

It has been said "a child is not likely to find a father in God unless he finds something of God in his father."

A pastor once asked some children in a Sunday school class to draw pictures of God. He intended to use them to illustrate his sermon. At the end of class, the children were excited to show off their pictures of men with long robes, white hair, and big, outstretched hands amid rainbows, bluebirds, and fluffy white clouds. Finally, one little girl showed her picture of a simple man dressed in a suit and tie. "I don't know what God looks like," she said, "so I just drew my daddy instead."

Much of my early understanding about the character and attributes of God, I learned, by experience, from a father who was seldom in view, but he was always there.



Daisy said...

That is why children make you pray, "Dear Lord, please make sure I don't mess my children up." My other pray is, "choose them also, Lord."

Jon (Daisy's Husband)

Anonymous said...

As the youngest son in that family, I don,t think I can add much more. I know I had it much easier as my older siblings left the house. Finances were not as tight, I think he mellowed a little as some of the stress of trying to provide for his family was eased by fewer kids in the home. But even then, my (our) dad was always the first to offer help to anyone who was truely in need. I think what I learned from my father is to always hold things in an open hand. Not to cling too tightly to the things of this earth.