Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day Revisited

"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years." ~ Mark Twain

Today is Father's Day. We don't celebrate Father's Day at my house. My five children are all grown and living lives of their own except the youngest, and he will probably be on his own in a year or so. He doesn't work, and has no money, so he can't buy me anything, but he MAY do something for me today, if I badger him about it long enough. I bought some occassional tables (unassembled) at Walmart the other day. Maybe I will get him to put them together for me for Father's Day, but I doubt it.

It's OK though. Father's, unlike mothers, are supposed to be martyrs.

The following is an encore of the blog post I published last year for Father's day. I still have not received any anecdotes from my siblings. I guess they are too busy with their own lives:

Being the youngest of 6 children in My family, It is perhaps more difficult than my siblings for me to remember much of the things that my father did, or said, that makes him special. So, I sent e-mails to all my brothers and sisters, asking them to send me a short story or anecdote that best describes what our father meant to each of us. For some reason, I didn't get any replies. So, I will simply tell what he means to me.

My father and I had what many would probably agree was the typical rebellious teen/loving but firm father relationship. We fought on numerous occasions over what I wanted to do versus what he wanted me to do, which were, of course, the "right" things. Somehow we made it through and I grew to respect the man on so many levels as time went on.

Now for some memories. I remember more than a few times that my mother would tell me to "Go help your dad" when he was working on the washing machine, or the car, etc. I would go and stand there looking bored and he'd say, "what do you want?" and I'd say "Mom told me to help you." he'd say, "You wanna help? Stay out of the way!"

We were a church going family, but I was not the best behaved boy in church. I remember specifically 2 occasions when my father responded to my behavior unusually. By that I mean he didn't respond the way I would have expected. Both times I had been caught doing something I shouldn't have done in church. I expected, both times, to really get a beating when I got home, (not really beating, just a good spanking, in retrospect) but instead once he dropped by the Dairy Queen on the way home and bought me a pineapple sundae. The other time, he just said nothing about the incident. Years later, I realized what he was thinking. The fear and humiliation I was already feeling was punishment enough.

He was right.

Fast forward to his final days. My father died of a long lasting painful disease called Chronic Respiratory Pulmonary Disease. Once, while visiting him at his bedside on a day that I sincerely believed was very nearly his last, he astounded me with a revelation. He told me about 2 times when he had been proud of me. Perhaps it would be important to say at this time that my dad was not one given to displays of effusion, however, on this occasion he spoke about a time, years before, that I had stood up in church and told the congregation that I was glad that my parents made me go to church with them when I didn't want to go. Personally, I had forgotten that I did that.

But he hadn't.

He also told me he was always proud of how good a basketball player I was. Knock me over with a feather! I had no idea he even knew I played much basketball! Incidentally, I wasn't that good. I tried out for the 7th grade team and was cut, and was so devastated, that I never tried out for another sport in school. But he never said a word about it.

My older brother told me, just last year, that Dad believed if you didn't make any money from the things that you did that it wasn't important. I know that sounds like a pretty shallow man, but you have to see the man the way I do to understand and realize just how special that made him. I wish my siblings had responded to my request, those anecdotes would tie this together so much better.

Dad didn't die in the next few days. Instead, a very different and miraculous thing occurred. He entered the hospital shortly thereafter with severe breathing difficulties, and the Doctor told my mother that he would be surprised if Dad lived through the night. That day, my father prayed to God, asking him to either take him or cure him as he could no longer go on in his present condition. And, contrary to what you are supposed to do, he gave God a timeframe to work with. He told God he wanted to be cured or dead by 2:00 PM the next day. At precisely 2:00 the next day, Dad drew the first unobstructed breath he had drawn in years! From there, he made a complete recovery and was running up steps in a matter of weeks!

Dad didn't just sit back and enjoy this new lease on life he had received. Not my dad.

He applied for and was given a mission from the state home mission board of the Southern Baptist Convention. In the next few years, he planted and pastored a small church in Claflin, Kansas. I believe that was the work God had been grooming him for his entire life. And so did he. After establishing that church, and making sure it was self sufficient, his disease returned and shortly thereafter, he died in my mother's arms.

I don't have many more memories of him that are worth sharing. They are just little things that are special to me alone, that I'm quite sure no one else would be able to appreciate.

One thing that I have always been grateful for: I got the chance that so many people never get, and that is, I was able to reconcile all the differences I ever had with my father before he died.

I don't feel guilty.

I don't feel sorry I never got the chance to say "I love you, Dad". Because, you see? I did tell him I loved him.

Happy Father's Day and God bless you, Dad, rest in peace.

10 comments:

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Happy Father's Day, Mark. Glad to know your son is raising you right.

Mary said...

Happy Father's Day, Mark!

Great post.

jgf said...

Nice tribute!

Little Miss Chatterbox said...

Ditto what Juanita said and Happy Father's Day!!

Pamela Reece said...

Mark, Happy Fathers Day!!

BRUISER said...

Happy Fathers Day Man.

CNN reports that Dubai is still controlling the ports, and that Congress silently killed legislation that would have helped ensure the ports stay American-owned. Lou Dobbs thinks the Republican Congress and the Bush White House have played a fast one on the American people.

Gayle said...

Mark, that's a wonderful tribute to your Dad. Isn't it great that all the differences were resolved before he died? So many people never have that opportunity, or - if they do - they let it slide by, and sometimes it just gets too late.

You presented your Dad as a real person; someone who wasn't always easy, but who tried to do the right thing. And someone who obviously loved you. Thanks for a great read!

Having said that... what despicable things did you do in Church? ;)

Poison Pero said...

Where ya been, Mark?

Great post by the way. I wish I could do the same, but my dad and I haven't spoken in a long time.

Mark said...

Gayle, if I remember correctly, One time I was at the church with my parents for some function in one part of the church while a wedding was going on in the main sanctuary. I wandered into the church balcony and dispupted the wedding. (just making noise, like kids do) The other time I was cutting up in church to the point that the pastor literally stopped his sermon and scolded me from the pulpit.

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