Fathers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes—short, tall, curly hair, no hair, old, young, skinny, stout, etc.—but one thing that they all have in common: a real father loves his children. Fathering a child does not necessarily make a real father. Some of the best fathers that I know are not the biological parent of their children.
I was blest to have a real father. It has been almost 38 years since my father was called to his Heavenly Home, yet I still miss him. As Father’s Day came, I found that there is an empty place in my heart that only a father can fill. It is a special day for remembering, and I am remembering the things that Daddy taught us.
He taught us a love and an appreciation for nature that many folks take for granted. He would point out the fragrant glory of an apple tree in bloom, and show us the intricate perfection of a tiny violet cupped in one palm. He couldn’t walk through a meadow without picking a bouquet of wild flowers for one of us, or for Mom.
He loved spring, and in the dead of winter, he would describe its coming in such graphic detail that we could feel the soft, new grass under our bare feet, hear the trill of the song birds as they built their nests, and smell the wild plum blossoms in the air. Many times, he would call us out in the yard to see a rainbow arched high over Pilot Knob. He would call our attention as to how the colors blended together, and then tease us about the pot of gold that was at the end of it. The glory of a sunset streaked with amethyst, crimson, and gold, thrilled him beyond words—and he enjoyed it so much more when he could share it with one of us.
We learned early the pleasures of the outdoors—camping out along a trout stream, eating our breakfast from a tin pan as the swift waters rippled and sparkled in the sun, and the smell of pine trees were strong in the air. We learned about the woods in the fall, when we camped out again at Hickory Knob during squirrel season. There was a quiet glow about Daddy as he showed us an especially showy maple tree decked out in its fall colors. He wanted us to love the outdoors as he did, and we do.
I can remember how he pulled us on a sled after a snowfall, and would catch snowflakes on his glove to show us that no two were ever alike. He had a zest for living that spilled over and caught in us.
Daddy taught us to work, and to take pride in doing a job well. How many times did we hear the old adage, “A job worth doing is worth doing well?” “Do it right the first time, and then you won’t have to do it over,” he would tell us. He would make us go over the row of corn that we had half-hoed until we did it to suit him. That was a valuable lesson, and one that helps me to this day.
He taught us to value our time, and not waste it in unhappy pursuits. Sometimes my brother Larry and I would spend a morning bickering and fighting. Daddy would tell us, and his words are still so clear today, that we had wasted that much time uselessly. “You can never go back and live that time over,” he would say solemnly. “You could have been happy and having fun, and you wasted it fussing.”
He taught us a reverence for older people; to respect their age and the wisdom that their many years have brought them. I have rewarding friendships with older people that I may have missed otherwise.
Daddy gave affection unrestrainedly, and we learned early to do the same. He loved Mom, and us and other people. I have seen him put his arm around Mom in church, or take her hand when we were walking, and the glow of love encircled us. He loved babies, anybody’s babies, and this heritage has been passed down to my own children. My six-foot sons will pick up and cuddle and kiss a baby in public without embarrassment.
The most important thing that Daddy taught us was God’s love for us. He taught us, by word and pure example, the worth of our own souls. We learned early the way of salvation, and letting God lead and direct our lives. Daddy taught us to pray, and I have never heard anyone pray like he did. He had a “secret place of prayer” down in the woods beside a big rock—and it was no secret when Daddy prayed. Even if we couldn’t have heard him (which we did, and Daddy’s prayers still ring in my ears) we could tell by his shining face that he had been talking to God. He brought us up in the way that we should go, and if some of us have departed from it, I am sure that they have not forgotten. Daddy taught us things that no one else could have.
I am so thankful for the love and understanding that my father showed us. That is the way we learn and better understand the care and compassion of a Heavenly Father. What better way can we learn than by having an earthly father who is a living example of abiding faith in God? I think that this is the most important thing that a father can do for his children—to live a life that they can follow in his footsteps and not go astray.
May God bless and keep in His care all our fathers.
God took the strength of a mountain,
The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun,
The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature,
The comforting arm of night,
The wisdom of the ages,
The power of the eagle’s flight,
The joy of a morning in spring,
The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity,
The depth of a family need,
Then God combined these qualities,
When there was nothing more to add,
He knew his masterpiece was complete,
And so He called it . . . Dad.