Another Father’s Day is upon me and I’m missing my daddy. As the years have unfurled since his death in 1998, I’ve learned more about the man he was, the character he had, and the many lives he powerfully and positively impacted in the years he lived.
Age, memories, and experience have helped me understand how precious he was and how important in my life he was. I don’t think we, as children of great parents, can fully appreciate who and what they were to us and others, until we have enough life behind us to really comprehend all that they left to us, for us, both in example and in legacy.
It’s as though one day you wake up to a full understanding of what big footsteps – and both Daddy’s and Mama’s were big – you’re walking in. That’s the most humbling thing I’ve come to realize as I’ve walked through Mother’s Day and Father’s Day this year. I’m not half the person either my daddy or my mama was, but, God willing, my intent and my determination is to aim for the standard they left for me.
Both my parents were capable of, willing to, and showed deep and abiding love, care, and concern all their lives. It was a part of who they were inside. I hear, and am reminded of, stories of their generosity, their open doors, their willingness to give to and serve others. All others. Their home, their hearts, and their service were open to anyone and everyone.
I remember, of course, the many times during my childhood when our houses were full, whether for a meal or for an overnight stay, of whoever needed a family and place to call their own.
I remember each Sabbath and holy day, as long as we attended in Greensboro, NC, Daddy and/or Mama (when Daddy was out of town during the hog cholera outbreaks in the 1970’s) going a bit out of their way to take an older lady to church who didn’t have any other way to get there.
My parents did this because that’s who they were. They were always about taking care of others, no matter what or where or how that presented itself.
They did it with us kids. All of us were adopted. They wanted children, but after Mama suffered several miscarriages, the last of which almost killed her, they decided to adopt. Daddy and Mama knew they had enough love between them to adopt and cherish as their own. And they did. We were theirs. We still are. That will never change.
I’ve thought a lot over the past several months since Mama died about how they parented us. In many ways, it was, at least for me, exactly what I needed. It made the person I am today. I will never be the social hosts they were because of my INTJ temperament, but I am and will always be looking for behind-the-scenes, anonymous, and hidden ways to give and serve like they did.
Mama was the disciplinarian in the family. Consequences for wrong-doing were swift – except in my case, when often I heard “I’m so angry with you I have to get calmed down before I punish you, so go to your room, and I’ll come for you” (I pushed all her buttons and then some – she often told me when I was older that she prayed that I was less stubborn than her, because she never quite believed it) – and physical.
Daddy, on the other hand, hated physical discipline. On the rare occasions that he meted it out, I could always tell that it hurt him way more than it did us. It just wasn’t how he did things.
I’ve said before that with Mama and me, growing up, everything seemed to be a contest of our wills. I was convinced (where in the world I came up with this God only knows!) that physical punishment ended up being about who won. Which meant if Mama made me cry, then she won. If I didn’t cry, then I won. So that was always my goal when Mama was punishing me. To outlast her and not cry. Then I won.
Most of the time, in my mind, I won. I knew I could outlast the licks of a paddle, a belt, or a switch. But, looking back, I realize that “winning” reinforced a stubbornness that I often have to fight when it really matters to this day. So, in the long run, I didn’t win. I just made things harder for myself.
Daddy, though he never really knew it because I never told him, was a much more effective influence for change in my life.
Daddy’s preferred method of dealing with us kids was to talk to us, to reason, to explain why what we did was either not the best way or simply wrong. The first words out of his mouth were always “I’m disappointed with what you did (or said).” That was always a crushing blow to me because it hit my conscience and my heart and my relationship with Daddy.
Then Daddy would explain what was wrong about it and what the right way should have been. This reinforced, even though I often stared at the wall above his head as he talked and tried to maintain my best poker face throughout his explanation so he wouldn’t know I was listening or cared about what he said (I always was and I always did – a lot), my sense of letting Daddy down.
He’d believed in me, trusted me, depended on me, and I failed him. And that was unacceptable to me and it prodded a lot of change in my growing up years. Even though Daddy didn’t know it because I didn’t let him know, he was often the catalyst for real changes in me growing up.
Daddy was my conscience and Mama was the enforcer. Together, I hope and pray, they raised three kids who look, act, walk, talk, and are like them. They followed God and Jesus Christ to the best of their ability and they raised us to do the same. They didn’t preach it. They lived it. That is and was the best example of the Christian walk.
Today, I’m trying to live it too, as they did, following in the same footsteps of God the Father and Jesus Christ. I fall short way more than I succeed some days, but I’m not quitting, just like they never quit.
I am grateful for their examples, flawed like mine, but on the balance more positive and right than negative and wrong, and I can’t wait until we all see each other again completely healed physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
That will be a Father’s Day to remember!