On special occasions, my Dad proudly wears a t-shirt that reads, “Jabez Elementary, Class of 1951.”
The truth is my Dad is quite intelligent. When he was 16, his father set him down and said, “You can quit school now and become a real man. Earn money for the family.”
Dad became the family’s wage earner working third shifts at a nursing home. And he stayed in school to earn his diploma.
Dad went in the military and was stationed in Germany. He has fond memories of seeing the European countryside and meeting new people. He’ll even tell you he learned to speak German and then share his vocabulary – “Eins bier. Zwei bier. Drei bier.”
Dad got out of the service on a Saturday and went to work on a Monday at Cummins where he worked for 32 years, starting out on the burr bench and working his way up to scheduler, the best paid office hourly worker for the company.
Dad worked to earn a living, but he didn’t live to work. When he was off, he was off. One of his passions was getting involved in my sports. Though he knew nothing about baseball, he accepted a position as assistant coach and statistician on my little league team, the Nineveh Cubs.
Dad had his own way of scoring. Anytime you didn’t strike out, he counted it as a hit. I batted over .850 my rookie season.
I once calculated I played in 128 games in my basketball career and Dad attended a total of 127. He missed one because he was in the hospital after suffering a motorcycle wreck on his way to the game.
Dad wanted me to gain a good college education, but he wasn’t able to save much money to invest in it. That didn’t stop him from contributing. After I received a generous Sons & Daughter’s scholarship from his employer Cummins, Dad calculated the exact number of overtime hours to earn it and he worked off the clock, sometimes going in at 3 a.m..
Dad was no saint, though. For years, he drank and smoked about as hard as he worked. It took its toll as he developed host of other health problems. Yet, his strong will has allowed him to make necessary changes. When he was diagnosed with emphysema, he quit smoking. When he was diagnosed with diabetes, he quit drinking. Just quit. Cold turkey. And hasn’t looked back.
Now Dad lives modestly with his “lovely assistant” and wife Connie. They watch hummingbirds out the window, watch Nascar religiously, and are active members of Trinity Baptist where they have a host of brothers and sisters they love, and who love them in return.
He’s done pretty well for a self-described “dumb old Kentuckian with a sixth-grade education.”
Happy Father’s Day, Dad! I love you very much.
It’s hard being a father 500 miles away. It’s particularly hard on Father’s Day. It’s easy to become weighed down by worries and regrets. What could I have done differently? How can I possibly do to help them now?
It’s hard being such a father, but as one of my therapists used to tell me, “You can do hard things.”
So today, with the help of a smoothie from my sister April and a cup of coffee from my wife Susan, I dragged myself out of bed around noon. I cleared my head of the visions and voices holding me back. We loaded Briley in the SUV and headed north.
We spent the day with Susan’s folks Ruth & Jim Klinker, her sister Julie & Steve and niece Emily Ann. We told stories born of a family rootedness which celebrates the unique contributions of each member. We laughed. A lot. I cried some, though no one seemed to notice.
On the drive back, I got a Happy Father’s Day call from my son-in-law. At home, there was a card awaiting me from Susan’s daughter Kathryn Pesyna and her grandchildren. I just got a text from my best friend and podcast partner Eric Rippy Riddle. It’s been a good day.
How about Caleb & Hannah? Well, I didn’t talk with them today. This makes me sad. But they have been on my mind and I trust the Spirit of Christ is revealing this to them in some inscrutable way.
One thing I have learned in my 27+ years of being a father is that our primary purpose as fathers is not to be loved but to love, and specifically to introduce our children to the love of Christ. I pray each day for my children to receive this love and for God to work through me to show them this love in all I say and do.
Our primary purpose as fathers is not to be loved but to love, and specifically to introduce our children to the love of Christ.