I was wandering about the mall last week feeling substantially out of place looking for the perfect father’s day gift. I felt that this father’s day was special, considering all that you have been through with your health and otherwise this particular year. After passing several stores emitting annoying, very loud thumping noises inhabited by what appeared to be very thin, emaciated teenagers with a penchant for nose rings and very strange hair, I dove into a store that looked suitable. It had guns, knives, hunting equipment, sporting goods, cooking pots, motor oil and a cookie stand (I’m exaggerating, but only slightly).
After rummaging about for a half hour or so while repeatedly telling a bored looking sales person that no, I did not need help I had still found no suitable gift. Becoming a little depressed that I could not find what I was looking for I started to think about what you may truly want.
What, after all, do you purchase for a man of such faith? What trinket could possibly describe all that you mean to me, the eldest of seven children born to a man of utmost loyalty to his God and his family? What could I possibly buy with earthly money for a man to whom possessions mean so very little? A father whom I witnessed go without, who cared for little other than his family and his faith. I was flummoxed.
I returned home, leaving the drone (a drone consisting of thumping rap music) of corporate (and increasingly desperate sounding) shopping and its air conditioning where they belong. As I continued my day, I began to think of all the ways that you influence every single thing that I do. While backing out of the parking space, the thought “Never back up further than you absolutely must” was threading my consciousness. “Watch everyone around you” while I was travelling home. While using my chain saw (A Stihl, the brand you use), I remembered to pull back before the chain touched the ground. While splitting wood, I swung with my strange left handed swing while remembering to breathe out as the maul hit the log. While taking a shower I started with my head and washed down. While shaving I shaved with the grain. I still automatically pray over our food. I remember to try to clean for my wife, even though I never do it exactly right.
I’m a careful man with his words, yet your gift of knowing what to say in most situations is with me. I see so much of you in the adult that I have become, yet there is so much that is still missing in the man that I need to be. I share your love of simple things, and books. I will never possess your gift of patience, but that’s ok. You taught me to notice everything, pay attention to where I am at all times and to never shoulder a shotgun until the target is acquired.
Despite our poverty, governed by a recession and fluctuating economies, you taught me to be myself and be confident, no matter the situation. You instilled in me as a child a deep love of our mountains, a pride in where we’re from and a sense of adventure that still leaps in me as an adult more mornings than not while watching the mist roll down the mountains. You taught me that, no matter what, two wrongs never make a right. You taught me to fight if I must, but only if I must. You taught me that it is better to sleep the silent stillness of the honest than to lie awake a rich man.
Our mother has often referred to me, when hurt physically or spiritually, as “the mean dog that crawls under the front porch and growls at everyone.” This, as is everything else our mother has ever said, is true. It was the same as a child, when my night fears would come upon me and I would be angry that I was afraid. Lying there in the dark, battling my nightmares and demons, there would ultimately be that one night when I could not face the dark alone. Those nights, even though we were not encouraged to sleep with our parents, I would flee to your bedroom as only a child can. You would always be awake before I hit the room, no matter how silent I was. You would not mock my fear, nor tell me there was nothing to fear. As an adult, you have continued to be that safe haven in those storms that I simply cannot weather alone.
So, while pondering on these intangible lessons that you have given me, I thought of the one gift that means more to me than any other. As adults, we forget far too often to bestow this gift even on those that mean the most to us. At our corporate Christmas Party last year, my former CEO pulled me aside and said, in his Irish brogue that I can’t ever begin to imitate on paper: “Ron, I appreciate everything that you’ve done for us. I know you have made some very difficult decisions and worked very hard. I’m glad to finally have a manager of your caliber.” That literally brought a tear to my eyes that night. However, in corporations, you are only appreciated for as long as your services are irreplaceable.
Dad, I appreciate you. You have shaped who I am as a man, who I will continue to become and who I will be when I am no longer destined for this earth. Unlike corporations, you will never be irreplaceable. You are always a place that I can go for wisdom and advice, no matter the day or night.
I appreciate the sacrifices, the hardships, the late nights, working three jobs, the pacing, the praying, the examples and all the things that you have done not just for me, but for all those around you. Thanks to you, I am sure of where I will end up when my presence is no longer needed here on spaceship earth. For, as you have quoted to me so often, “Train up a child in the way he shall go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Thanks for the training, Dad. I appreciate it.