Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. – Proverbs 22:6
August 17, 2022 would have been my father’s 84th birthday. In the nearly nine years he has been gone, I have found myself in more and more situations where I am doing things he did, saying things he said, and generally moving into that role of becoming my father. And while most people dread the thought of doing what their parents did and saying what their parents said, I find myself comforted by it. It’s nice to hear people say that something I did; a movement, a gesture, a mannerism reminded them of my dad.
In looking back upon my life with him, I inventory the numerous memories, looking for those things I most want to emulate. I see strengths and weaknesses and find myself learning from both. My father wasn’t perfect – apart from Christ Jesus, no one can make that claim. But I recognize many strengths in him that I would like to develop and enhance in my own life.
My father was dedicated, loyal, and willing to sacrifice to make sure the needs of others were met. Over the course of his married life, he opened his home to his mother-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and her two sons. He saw to it that they were fed, clothed, sheltered, and their basic needs were met. Some cringe at the thought of the in-laws staying for a weekend. Over time, they would come and they would go, but at least one additional family member lived under my father’s roof for nearly 25 years.
My father had the greatest work ethic of any person I have ever known. A cousin of mine once had the opportunity to work with my father for the Parks Department of the city of Saginaw. In most cases, being paired up with a family member would draw criticism. Somebody would be getting preferential treatment. As my cousin tells it, the crew didn’t tease him for a cushy assignment, they teased him because they knew he would be going home tired that night after my dad was finished with him. My parents rebuilt their house working evenings and weekends while holding down full time jobs and watching kids. Dad would use his vacation time to work around the house. And there was nothing more terrifying for my sister and me to hear than my father say, “Come here, I have a ten minute job for you.”
My dad was a simple man. He enjoyed the simple things in life. His simple views did not make him ignorant or incapable of accomplishing things; despite the labels some would give him. He made the most of every opportunity life gave him to do what he felt was most important to him: To be a loving husband, to take care of his family, and to raise children of whom he would be tremendously proud. For 44 years he demonstrated his first goal. Through a lifetime of hard work, effort, and sacrifice, he accomplished his second goal. And for the rest of my life, I will do all that I can to ensure that his third goal will come to pass in every possible way.
I miss my father. In my most difficult moments I find myself wondering what he might say, what perspective he would give. But my memories tell me everything I need to know. Love the people God has given you to love unconditionally, no matter how difficult that task may be. Work tirelessly to accomplish everything God has set before you so that you might know the fullness of His good gifts. Pour all that you can into your children, teaching them the value of hard work while praying that God would show them grace in abundance.
Thank you Homer. I’ll see you soon.
A touching tribute, Rich. Your words made your dad come alive in the hearts of your friends, too.