How long do you keep missing your father? Our Heavenly Father took my Dad to heaven 39 years ago, yet there is not a day that I don’t think of him.
I can still see him coming down the hill from the Ball Diamond carrying a bouquet of wild flowers that he had picked as he walked along. The flowers were always arranged in symmetrical perfection; rows of blue and purple encircling a center of yellow. These were always offered with a shy smile and an offhand, “Here, I picked you some flowers.” He could no more walk through a field without picking a bouquet than he could pass a bird’s nest and not look in it.
These soft spring evenings make me think so much of him. How he loved to sit on the porch as the twilight shadows deepened, and the long day’s work was over. A whippoorwill sounds its pure, liquid notes in the evening air, and a pang goes through my heart as I remember how he loved its call. The fireflies flicker their miniature lights off and on, and somewhere in shadows, a tree frog makes its melancholy sounds. I can hear the squeak of the porch swing, and the tone of his voice rising and falling as he recounted a tale of long ago.
No one loved a practical joke better than he did. In my mind, I hear his laughter echoing even now. His face would swell up and turn red; he would gasp for breath with streaming eyes, and whoops of laughter would turn into squeaks. It was so contagious that we would be forced to join in, even when we were the victim of the joke. Sometimes when we were punished, we would pout. He would say, “Bet you can’t look at me without laughing!” Then he would stare deadpan into our eyes and try as we did to keep a straight face, we would both soon be overcome with laughter.
He loved romping with us, and then it was the grandchildren. I remember how he used to swing Andy on his foot and sing, “Here comes Andy with a snigger and a grin, groundhog grease all over his chin!” Of course, the toddlers loved it and begged for more. He would swing them, carry them, and throw them up in the air. (Then I see his grandsons, Freddie and Andy, carrying him from his hospital bed to his wheelchair. These memories cut like a knife.)
I can see him coming out of the garden, tired and sweaty, after a long day of plowing and hoeing. He would wipe his forehead with a bandana, and ask someone to bring him a glass of cold water. He was such a perfectionist—the rows of vegetables in his garden marched in orderly fashion, and no weed dared rear its unruly head. Everything he did had to be done right. Remember the brush pile we burned, and had a wiener and marshmallow roast at the same time? Jeannie declared that he took a level and squared it up before he allowed us to strike a match to it!
I miss him most of all in church. I can envision him sitting in the first row, with his arm around Mom, eagerly waiting for the service to begin. He has on the blue plaid sports coat that he favored, and his face is bright and shiny. It must have been the goodness of God shining from his countenance.
He prayed more than anyone I ever knew. Hours were spent down over the hill in the woods—he called it his little patch of red brush—and we could hear him calling on God in prayer. I wish he could see how his heritage is carried on—grandson Matthew and great-grandson Josh preaching, and nephew Eric teaching Sunday School.
He always seemed so young and handsome to me. I don’t know how he got old, and so worn out before my eyes, and I didn’t see it. He was Daddy, and he was always here. Now he is gone, and I still miss my Daddy. Father’s Day is empty without him.
Fathers are so important to their children. It is sad that so many children are being raised without a father. God has a perfect plan for the family—fathers first, the mother by his side, and children following in their footsteps. I was so blessed in having a father who set the right example for us children. May God bless the fathers on their special day, and may they lead their children in the right way.