On Father’s Day

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

Growing up, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day were generally celebrated in a similar manner.  Similar in that the day usually was marked by attending church and then having dinner with extended family.  Different in that Father’s Day more often than not meant a large home cooked meal, and Mother’s Day meant waiting for hours while trying to obtain a table for 20 at Red Lobster.  Father’s Day was usually the more pleasant of the two.  Mother’s Day is largely responsible for me learning how to cook.

The days now stand in stark contrast to each other.  Mother’s day continues to be a celebration with her, though now usually an in home affair.  Father’s day is an opportunity to honor and remember a man that left us about 12 years ago.

Dad took an active role as a father raising 4 children of his own and several others along the way.  He and mom always seemed to understand that their job as parents, a job that they always placed above all others, was to prepare us for the path we would take rather than to prepare the path for us.  As such, there were life lessons constantly along the way.

One of the earliest and most repeated lessons that my parents taught us was that we would be judged by the company we keep.  The way the message was conveyed verbally changed over the years as we aged, but the central message was the same.  Looking back, it’s much easier to see the message that was the strongest wasn’t what was said, but by the actions and decisions he made.  Dad led by example.

I’ve written about a couple of his friends before.  Men like Riley Burton and Frank Flanders, along with many others yet to receive mentions, were excellent company to keep.  When judged by the friends that he chose, Dad was a giant.

There were also lessons on independence, a required skill if you were going to do what was right than what was popular.  Given the number his kids who have chosen to remain single, perhaps he overshot on that one. 

Many of these were learned at various church committee meetings, where Dad was often the exception to group think.  Retail politics has nothing on church politics, and navigating the same processes among people who share a much more personal bond with each other.  Many of those battles weren’t pretty, but standing your ground on principle rarely is. 

Within those lessons was also the understanding that disagreeing isn’t personal, and when the issue under discussion is settled, it’s time to move on.  Life is too short to dwell on decisions that have been made or to re-fight battles over settled topics.  There are always other challenges to be tackled, other decisions that must be made. 

Dad was simultaneously frugal and generous.  We didn’t have a lot of money and therefore didn’t spend a lot.  That’s a lesson that a lot of us could use to re-learn again a time or two.  He was always willing to share what we had. 

Often that sharing was in the form of time.  Plans were quite frequently re-arranged if someone needed Dad’s help.  He always had a pickup truck, and often that was part of the package. 

Dad was also the first to admit he wasn’t perfect.  He did his best.  And that was pretty good.

I remain eternally grateful and understand how fortunate I am to have had the parents I have.  It is much easier to appreciate things as an adult that you take for granted as a child.  Role models are more powerful than is often possible to realize.  Honor and remember those you have had this Sunday.