Sunday, June 19, 2005
My Father's House
My Dad resting in his lounger, channel surfing.
My father is a Midwestern farm boy from southern Illinois. He is the second son of five children, born with bright red hair and freckles. My uncle tells me that dad always had a hard time telling a lie even when the truth would get them both in trouble. Once my grandmother caught them under the table with that we've-been-into-something look that only a mother can recognize. She asked and dad spoke right up, "We've been eating brown sugar". That was the truth, but also a transgression. It was during the depression and sugar was gold. Needless to say, his truthfulness led to punishment for both.
Dad went to school in a one room schoolhouse from first grade to sixth and walked with his brothers the mile to school. His only sister was born when my dad was thirteen. Two of his younger brothers went in to farming and still farm land in Illinois. His older brother became an engineer and the baby girl entered the Air Force, later going into computer science.
My dad became a Christian at a young age. He felt that God wanted him to be a minister so after high school he attended Asbury College to that end. There he met my mom. He chased her until she caught him. After her graduation they married; that was fifty-four years ago this month.
Dad has never been a flashy preacher, he would never be confused with the television evangelists. He delivers God's Word to his congregation, not with threats or fiery rhetoric but with love; not just with words but with his life. He lives his faith. And this has touched more lives than he will ever know. He listens patiently and speaks slowly, weighing his words to find those most helpful.
My dad is not just a preacher, he is a pastor. He is the first they call when someone is taken to the hospital, he comforts families when death comes, he counsels couples in preparation for marriage and dedicates the new babies in the church. He is retired now but he still has a group of people to care for, his Sunday School class. The "Older Youth" class of retirees are a funny bunch but they appreciate his teaching and he in turn keeps his mind sharper with lesson preparation.
As a father he was always there to take care of us when the stomach flu hit. He resuscitated half frozen chicks, built dog houses, put together swing sets, stayed calm when our dog walked into church and on to the platform during the service, took me to pony rides, listened when I broke up with my first boyfriend and wanted to die, walked me down the aisle at my wedding and then performed the ceremony, dedicated my only child, supported me through a painful divorce, and helped me start my life over. He came to Oklahoma to help me move as a single mom to Mississippi, even though he was in the midst of a severe gallbladder attack. He has always been there and I am so fortunate to have him with me still.
While I don't remember him ever being angry with me to the point of yelling, I do know I was angry with him at times. He set rules and we were to obey them. Disobedience reaped consequences. When he said "Yes" he meant it and when he said "No" there was no point in arguing. Yes, he spanked on occasion but only after talking about the transgression and telling me why the rules were there, how they had been broken and that it hurt him more than it did me. I believe he did hurt more when I was disobedient than I did upon being spanked. As for me, knowing that my actions hurt or disappointed him was the most severe punishment.
His ability to be calm in high tension circumstances and to be slow to anger, in spite of the red hair, has served him well. Over the years he had to handle a drunk man with a loaded shotgun, the same drunk man with a bulldozer in the middle of the night, my ex-husband the night before we moved, a type A personality wife and a type A++++++ personality son. I of course was only an A- or B+ type, so more like my dad.
Now days he moves a lot slower and he tires easily because of his atrial fibrillation. He putters in the yard and in the house and helps with the cooking. He gives in too much to my mom's whims, but he still sees her as that bright eyed young girl he married. They argue lovingly, back and forth but with this mischievous twinkle in their eyes. He rests more in his lounge chair and snores when he falls asleep there. He channel surfs and this annoys mom. He still tells me how to drive and which way to turn when I drive them to church, even though I have done it every Sunday for a year. I just let him.
My dad is not computer savvy, actually he is technology challenged. I have had to show him how to do an OCR scan and get the page into Word for editing about ten times now. He loses e-mails he writes and doesn't realize they are just hidden by another window and he is in no way ready to start the "cut and paste" process. But he tries. He is addicted to the Shanghai game on his old Mac. He has finally learned to call and receive on his cell phone if he can remember to take it with him and turn it on.
My daughter says grandpa is quirky, sweet, funny, huggable, and cute. I don't know if these descriptions are what I would say but it doesn't matter, she loves him a lot. I know he is and has been the best father I could ever have. He has guided me, loved me, cried because I cried and been there when I needed help in any way. Dad also let me go; to marry the wrong man, to find my way in life, and to ultimately come back home. I'm glad he had the wisdom to do this.
I love him. I know he won't be with us forever, but I'll appreciate every minute, every hour, and every day we still have.
Happy Father's Day, Dad!