My Dad Would Not Beat Up Your Dad
Chili dogs. Four, sometimes five, for a dollar, bought at Smoky Mountain Market after a little league game when he could have gone golfing. The rope swing he scaled thirty feet into two trees to fasten. Any number of times he kicked a ball back to me in our backyard the instant he arrived home from work. He and I rebuilding a 1968 Volvo 142 Series car instead of simply buying me a new vehicle for me to drive to high school. His patience as the Southern Baptists convinced me he to confront him about the evils of Free Masonry and his raising me into Free Masonry when my mind was more open. His paying for tuition as I paid for books in order for me to attend college.
The trips made to Kentucky with my sister or me as a passenger, though we thought we were his assistants. His digging an 18 foot hole in the backyard because I thought we should have a well. The patience and love he gave my mother and the love they shared. All of the roads he traveled to find me when I was running wild. Dozens of huge electronic 1960s era calculators that he bought at an auction and let me dismantle just to see how they worked, and because I liked collecting the springs. Playing games, both on a table and on a Commodore 64, the putting together of puzzles, the building of a thing simply because an idea flew into our minds.
His lessons of peace, taught not in reaction to violence, but in the way he lived. His lessons on finances, taught not by withholding anything from me, but by what he did without and shared in his own life. His lessons of love, taught not making a show of how he treated others, but in the stories others would later share. His lessons on what it is to be a man of God, not by mentioning his relationship with God, but by creating a space for God in everything he did. His lessons on things I will never understand that he comprehended the instant he learned a new thing. His appreciation for beauty and what made me both his son and an individual.
Helping others. Listening to the world and to those he loves. Having opinions that have to be coaxed out of him rather than tolerated as he spews them into any ear that is available. Smiling in the face of a friend as well as in the face of what troubles have come. Knowing those around him are imperfect and that he is imperfect also. Being content with others having glory and his contribution to that glory being all that he needs to find contentment. Knowing that he is not obligated to have an opinion on every subject that comes up.
Perhaps because I am his son, perhaps because he is that good, I have never heard (except from one person who is known as a jack ass in many circles) that he is anything but a kind, good, decent, human being. He is the sort of person that does not demand attention, but that when your mind wanders back around to your experience with him, you think to yourself, “I need to give him a call”. My friends love him. His friends love him. Strangers love him. My mother loved him. I love him.
Some circles of thought teach that we, being in the spirit world before we are born, choose our parents. I am not that smart. If I were that smart, I would have chosen him in a heartbeat. If it were up to me, I would choose him again and again. If I am to believe, as more traditionally believed in the West, that God gave me to them and them to me, then all glory to God. Our relationship is proof to me, that the Divine always wanted good things for me.
My father has always treated me as if he wanted what was good for me. Not what was good for him, but what was good for me. He is not perfect. Perfection was never a goal for him or even me. He was always, in everything he did, loving. Love is perfection enough. His dreams are not my dreams, his skills are not my skills, and his ways are not my ways. But his love. His love is what I carry with me and share with others in my life. His humor, his wit, his way of looking at things from another point of view are lessons in and of themselves. Lessons I am still trying to learn.
My father would not beat up your father. My father is not better than yours. My father is, however, better for me, than yours. I am sure your dad is/was great. My father has made it through his life, through raising two children, and through this world of everyone having certainty, convictions, and the need to express opinions, with this idea in mind. “There is no need to conquer another’s spirit to live a life filled with spirit. There is no need to demean another person in order to find meaning for oneself. There is no need to take what is not yours, in order to have a thing, or things, in life”.
In elementary school, when we started filling out emergency forms on our own, the question was asked just under the line for the recording of the answer, “Father’s Occupation”. I always wrote, “Salesman”. And this is what he did for a living. I did not know if it was door-to-door (it was not), or if it was insurance (it was not), or if it was for a pyramid scheme (it was not). I wrote it with some hesitation, as by the time fourth or fifth grade came around, salesmen had bit of a tainted reputation. When I was older and was able to know the people in the building material industry he was “selling” to, I realized that he was doing more than simply offering goods for purchase. He made a living by being a friend to those he saw each week. He would have done if for less. He did it for no charge to those he met that were not in the business of buying what he had to offer.
On this Father’s Day, what I have come to realize is that while I look to the Universe and ask questions like, “do you really have good intentions for me?”, the Universe responds, “have you seen anything less?”. My father is one in a million. And I suppose that I am also, though not due to my parenting skills. All of the worries and concerns that face me in life were facing my father, all while he was being a friend, dad, mentor, teacher, and an influence on me. In the end, there is nothing I can repay him or God, for the time we have had together. In the end, I understand that there was nothing I did to receive the grace of a father like mine. And knowing I did not deserve the goodness that came with my knowing this man, much less his caring for me in the way he has, I can only live as a testament to him, and the goodness that exists in this world.
Happy Father’s Day.