Short and tall. Thick and thin. Loud and quiet. Doctor and carpenter. They come in all shapes, sizes, and dispositions. I don’t know what kind you had, but I do know this – you had one.
You had a father (or do, if he’s still alive). From him, you inherited many things; your hair color, for example, or the way you laugh. You inherited an extended family. You received from him your DNA and, to a certain extent, your identity. Like it or not, your father, whether by his presence or his absence, left an indelible imprint on your life.
I’m one of the lucky ones. In a society where divorce is becoming increasingly commonplace, my dad is still with my mom. No matter what ups and downs they had, we kids were never worried about whether or not dad would come home, because he always did. Every night.
An entrepreneur, my dad, along with his brother, started a business back in 1974. With a little bit of savings, a strong work ethic, some tools, and the skills God gave them, they set about building their version of the American dream. Thirty-six years later, that dream still thrives there along Highway 50 in Hutchinson, Kansas. “Quality Body Shop,” it says on the sign.
As the years went by and the business grew, he and mom turned their attention to the next part of their dream – building a house on the Kansas prairie. Determined to do most of it himself, Dad bought books and taught himself how to do things like plumbing and electrical work.
Day and night they worked. With mom’s help and the help of some neighbors, this brilliant man with only an eighth-grade education completed a lovely log home there amidst the buffalo wallows.
Faithful readers of the column have already “met” my dad. You know that he’s a prankster extraordinaire. You know of his rapier-sharp wit. You’ve heard of his boundless creativity.
You know that he and mom love to camp. It was a year ago that they arrived with a huge trailer and four nephews and nieces in tow. For a solid week, they transformed the reservation into a KOA campground with Dad presiding at the grill.
What you don’t know is that Dad seldom, if ever, raised his voice. You don’t know, but perhaps you can guess, that we kids knew exactly when he was serious and when to stop pushing him.
You don’t know that he played hide and seek with us when we were little, or that he would do pumpkin rolls with me sitting on his lap. You don’t know that when he’d come home, tired from a day at work, he would take off his shoes and throw his dirty socks at us just to make us holler.
You don’t know that he’s an avid bow hunter. Guns, he says, are no sport at all. He’s spent many happy hours in the woods with my brother and the wildlife, escaping, I suspect, the wildlife at home (i.e., teenage girls).
Never one to remain stagnant or to shy away from technology, he eagerly embraced the computer era, taking classes at the local community college. He taught himself to type, using a free-form system of pecking. It may not be taught in any classroom, but it works for him.
With a grandson’s help, he even joined the Facebook craze where he stays in touch with family and friends, sharing his humor on the worldwide web.
Many times over the years, I heard Dad say, “A fellow doesn’t know how lucky he is if he has healthy kids.” In addition to the three God gave him, he now has 10 grandchildren with 1 on the way.
In preparation for this column, I called Dad. What, I asked, was the most challenging thing about being a father? “Raising them right,” he said simply, summing up every parent’s burden.
His favorite memories were doing things as a family, including the camping trips that we all loved. He had no favorite stage, he said, as he’d enjoyed them all.
He is actively enjoying the stage that he and mom find themselves in now with the lessening of responsibility that it brings. Together, they still go camping (getting far more sleep now than they used to) and take trips, enjoying cruises with friends.
When I asked him if there were other men he looked up to as role models, he said without blinking, “Davie Miller.” Instantly, my mind flashed to this older gentleman from our church (now deceased) who, with his wife, raised five sons of his own. Interestingly, one son grew up to be one of my grade school teachers. Another son is a chiropractor here in Middlebury, and one of them married my aunt.
Yes, I could see why Dad would have admired him.
So what do I admire about my dad? His gentle spirit. His bright, creative mind. His delightful sense of humor. His gift of mercy combined with strength. The godly heritage he’s leaving for the next generation.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.