Friday, June 18, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

Some people absolutely hate all the special "days" on the calendar: Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandparent's Day, Valentine's Day, Teacher's Appreciation Day, Etc. I don't. My schedule tends to be so busy that I need these gentle reminders to make me stop to appreciate the one's I love.

My dad, actually I still refer to him as "Daddy" most of the time, grew up in a pretty rough environment. Both of his parents worked in factories for minimum wage and weren't home very much. As a result, his older sister became his primary care-taker, and she was only three years his senior. At five years of age, he was sent out to walk several miles to school each morning. He didn't know any better, so it didn't bother him. My dad's father was a Baptist preacher on the weekends, but drank alcohol and often beat my dad with a belt so hard he left marks all up and down his legs. As a result, my dad would never be caught in public in a pair of shorts---even if he was playing basketball as a teenager, he would wear pants to cover his red-marked, bruised legs. On Sunday's, from the pulpit, my grandfather would use my dad as an example. If ANY child was acting up during the service, he would slam his hand down on the pulpit and scream: "Billy, you better settle down!" It would humiliate my dad, but the kid who was being disruptive would heed the warning and settle down for fear his name would be called out next time. Needless to say, dad dreaded Sunday morning worship.

At the age of 14, my dad realized he had a gift called athleticism and a passion for it as well. He started playing basketball and was quite good, so good in fact, he was offered a "full ride" college scholarship by several schools. Without a scholarship, my dad would never have been able to afford college. Dad was dating Mom by the time he became a senior in high school and didn't want to take the chance of losing her by moving to another state (smart man), so he entered college on a basketball scholarship at what was then Lee College in my hometown of Cleveland, TN. Today, the same college is called Lee University. My dad averaged 35 points a game and was a local superstar. His parents never saw him play a single quarter of the game.

When my parents married, dad decided he no longer wanted to attend church since his experience with church had been so negative. My mom, young and brilliant, went without him. She was the organist in another local Baptist church and stayed true to her commitment. After several weeks of being home alone on Sunday mornings, my dad decided to join her. He hasn't missed a Sunday since.

Pretty soon, my dad became involved in the church bus ministry....picking up kids who were growing up just like he had and toting them to church. He called them by name, joked and teased with them, and reached out to their parents too. Dad and Mom would get up early on Saturday mornings to visit the children in their homes and minister to them. Whenever they saw a need, they would do their best to meet it: coats and shoes in the winter, school supplies, and money for groceries. Eventually my dad became leader of the Children's Worship on Sunday mornings...loving kids and teaching them about God's love for them.

As far as work is concerned, my dad has worked with the same company, Olin Chemicals, as long as I have lived. He has held almost every job at the place, and consequently, knows everyone. He continually talks about retirement, but the folks at Olin are like family to him, so I think they will have to literally run him off at some point. (They may have to throw rocks at him to get him to leave) My dad and his coworkers have walked life together, good times and bad. Through it all, he has remained steadfast with a strong work ethic. As a result, he has a house that is paid off, a vacation home that is paid off, and no debt.

My dad, I think, decided early that he wanted to give me a different life than the one he had. He is one of the most giving individuals I know. Growing up, I never wanted for anything; in fact, Dad met my needs before I ever asked and enjoyed being able to do it. He encouraged me in all of my endeavors, and when I was a cheerleader, he never missed a single game....whenever I was on stage, he was always there. My dad was present at the birth of each of my children and has been by my side through all of Hope's surgeries. When we decided to adopt Natalie, he and Mom kept the other children while we were in Russia and waited at the airport to welcome Natalie upon our return home with gifts in hand. An avid sports fan, he had a golf club and a basketball in Caleb's hand as soon as Caleb could walk and he loves attending all of the girls' recitals. And Hope and Charlie....he adores them.

A strict disciplinarian when I was a child, Daddy had a famous wooden paddle that my brother and I hid on more than one occasion. He never used it in anger, though, and it really did hurt him when he felt he had to spank us. When my brother and I disappointed him, he would cry....unashamed to show his heart to us. He poured his life into us and truly desired for us to live life to its fullest. For sure, he was determined to keep us on the straight and narrow path. With the grandkids, he is the biggest softy that has ever lived. My kids cannot believe he ever owned a paddle in his them, the old wooden paddle is a terrible myth. I wish I could find it so I could prove it to them, but the last time my brother hid it, he found a VERY GOOD hiding place and conveniently forgot about it. I am sure it is buried somewhere in the yard of the house on Timber Trail that we grew up in. He will never tell.

Back to my dad's parents, when his father was dying of lung cancer, my dad was at his bedside each and every day....he bathed him, fed him, and treated him with such tenderness. Likewise with my Mamow, Daddy visited her in the assisted living home every day without fail until her death a year and a half ago. His childhood had not been a very good one, it wasn't filled with warm, fuzzy memories, but he still treated his parents with love and respect. Why? My dad learned the most valuable lesson in the world. His worth and esteem never needed to come from his parents or from anyone else. His worth comes from God. In response, my dad loved his parents out of the abundance of love in his own heart for his Heavenly Father.

Daddy, please know how much I appreciate all the sacrifices you have made for my life. The example you have set as an overcomer has molded me into the person I am today. The love you have lavished upon me is now lavished through me to my children, and your giving spirit reaches through me each time I give to my family. The many times you have driven to Nashville to help me paint, redecorate, or work on a hair-brained project is etched forever into my memories (even the time you fell off the ladder and scared me half to death as well as the time you had an open blade in your back pocket and kept accidentally cutting Chappy's leg every time you bent over while the two of you were wallpapering our tiny half bath in Brentwood), each time you held my hand and reminded me that God holds Hopey in His hands while she was fighting for her little life in the hospital is sealed in my heart, and each time you have shed a tear out of pure love for me has endeared you to me beyond measure. You listen to me, you speak frankly to me, you support me, and you love my children with a crazy kind of love that can only come from God. Your life serves as a light to so many. You overcame many obstacles and have continued to get up and walk each time life has knocked you down, pressing forward to the goal of eternal life. I just want you to know that I think I am the most blessed gal in the whole world to have parents like you and Mom. Happy Father's Day to you, one very deserving of honor!


  1. Very touching. . . thanks for sharing . . . my Dad grew up in a very abusive home, and though he was able to recognize and do away with a few things, so much remained. . . it's been a big challenge to me to stop the cycle with my own family, and to be a nurturing, loving mother.

  2. This is beautiful! God set your family on a new path through your father. What a legacy of love for your children.

  3. I love your stories and this one is no exception.