His Bible still bears his fingerprints soaked into the pages where he studied and marked up passages, writing in the margins. He came to Christ after meeting mom. They dated for three months and then married. I was lucky enough to share in twelve of their seventeen years of marriage. I never heard them argue. Ever. People that say that all couples argue are misinformed. Or just plain wrong.
One thing he asked mom before he died was that none of us kids ever smoke cigarettes. Mom, not yet 50 years old – widowed to raise four kids. And three of us took up smoking at some point in our lives. Me? I even smoked dad’s brand for awhile…
My memories of dad are few, but vivid. I remember his laugh probably most of all. A laugh that was so unique that I have only heard one other like it in my adult life. I remember dad’s soft-spoken voice. He rarely swore – usually only when the hammer missed its mark by finding his thumb. We filed into the third pew every Sunday morning, the whole family. He was a gentle man; there was really no other way to put it. He was gentle.
I am the third child out of five, counting the one mom lost shortly after birth. Mom always counts her, so I do too. Being a middle child is tough, but it’s no picnic being at the top or the bottom either; each place has its own challenges. Just ask around.
My younger sister once commented that we never even got to the transition from calling him “daddy” to “dad” because we were so young when he passed away.
Daddy had to retire early because of his heart and joined Jesus at the young age of 53 years. It seems young to me now that I am just over 55. It didn’t always seem so. He spent most of his retirement summer days with his head under the hood of an old Ford Falcon that was his ‘project’ car. I don’t know if it ever started, but he fiddled around with it a lot. He and I spent several afternoons sitting on the front porch steps, eating plums. Now I don’t even like them, but we ate a lot of them – just sitting together, saying little, if anything at all. We simply connected with one another. It’s funny, the things that we remember.
My daddy didn’t have to talk to be comfortable. I didn’t inherit that from him, unfortunately – I talk too much, too loud and volunteer my opinion all too freely. He was a quiet man, not without an opinion, but, if you didn’t ask for his opinion, you probably wouldn’t get it.
I have always hoped that I am at least half the father that mine was to me. Even though I was young when he died, he left a legacy that I so desire to be perpetuated in my own life. I have never been a quiet man, and I know that I was not as gentle as I should have always been with my kids, but I did the best that I could. I know that sounds like a rationalization and I don’t mean it to be. My regrets at my failings as a father are many. But I kept my kids in church to give them a firm foundation, and trust God to bring them back to Him if they stray.
A friend of mine once commented that I could be an adult or a child with my kids. I think that was a good thing. Sometimes, we need to just play a little.
And sometimes we need to pray. I did a lot of that – and still do.
With my grandchildren I have a lot more patience than I did as a dad. Maybe because at 55 I know that a scared 5 year old just wants a light on or to be near someone when they drop off to sleep. I’m sure I didn’t realize that at 30 – but things look different on this side of the century.
My second son is a good husband and a father of three young ones of his own. He is a wonderful, patient man with time to listen to, read to and play with his children. I don’t know how he finds the time, but he does – and he does it well.
I hope, that in some ways, he reflects me. I hope my fingerprints are on his heart like my father’s are in his Bible.
Fatherhood happens when a baby is born, but daddyhood – now that’s something different altogether.
Daddyhood is the true blessing. I still miss him.