In a Father's Day message many years ago, one of our favorite preachers stated the following:
Absent or present,
indifferent or engaged,
abusive or loving,
dead or alive,
our fathers have THE most influence upon our lives.
As I reflect on my years with my dad, I find that to be so true. My dad was a career U.S. Army officer during the Viet Nam War. There were many times that he was absent from our home, yet his very absence had an impact. It meant that my mom had to step up to be all things to all the little people in her life. It allowed her to grow her independence, yet it made it difficult to reintegrate when he returned. When he was absent, we missed him, and when he was present, we forged new bonds of relationship as we went through each age and stage and phase. (And boy did we put him through our phases!)
My dad was not always engaged, but he was rarely indifferent. I'm sure he always had an opinion about whatever our latest crazy idea was, but he didn't always express it. He had difficulty telling us with words how much he loved us, but he has learned over time to express it openly with heartfelt meaning. Many of the decisions he made as to where we would live, or where he would work in his post-Army job made little sense to us. With the advantage of wisdom I've gained being a parent myself, I know now that he made those decisions not for his own pleasure or advancement, but in order to provide for his family.
He didn't grow up with a lot of great role models for hands-on fathering, and he lived in a day and culture that eschewed 'touchy-feely' fathering. Two things he did learn along the way though were that a MAN does not walk out when things are tough and a MAN does not rely on the government or anyone else to provide for his family.
He became a better father than he had ever had, doing the best he knew how, with the resources he had. It is a testimony to his example that his three children are all thriving, contributing human beings. None of us were ever arrested. None of us are homeless. None of us are on drugs or drowning in other types of addictions. His determination to continue his education influenced all of us -- All of us finished college and two of us went on to attain professional degrees (medicine, law). All of us have married and are each still married to the same person we pledged to honor and love and cherish until death do us part (for over 20, 20, and slightly less than 20 years). His oldest daughter received his dark hair and dark eyes. I think she learned from him the values of forgiveness and compassion. This makes her a most excellent wife to her dear husband! His son also received the dark hair and eyes, and learned commitment to family. This makes him a great dad and husband. His middle child took after the other side of the family with the blonde hair, blue eyes. Yet, that is the one for whom he was present at birth, not deployed somewhere across the world. I've always thought that gave me a special connection with my dad.
My dad has been a warrior, a poet, a lover of music, an observer of the wonders of God's creation, and a sharer of stories. He is a fabulous grandfather to my children, and I am grateful that he is mine.
Thank you Dad.