Happy Birthday! Happy Anniversary and Happy Father’s Day!
This week is a celebration week. It contains my dad’s birthday, my parents’ anniversary and Father’s Day. I have often told my father that this is the week of the year I can honestly say costs me the most. If the truth were told, I think my dad gets ripped off when we celebrate all three in the same week. Seriously, how many cakes can one man eat? Although his preference would be to have a mincemeat pie, I’ve never been able to bring myself to make one. Mom loves cake, however, so Dad makes the compromise. My father got married on his birthday because he never wanted to forget his and Mom’s anniversary. I’d say after 58 years it was a smart thing to do.
I have shared many stories and ‘Dollyisms” about my mom when it was her birthday or Mother’s Day, so I wanted to give a shout-out about my dad. My dad has always been the most hardworking man I know. He can also fix anything. This is a trait I have always admired in him. If my dad didn’t know how to do something, he taught himself. He’s still fixing things today. Although he retired when he was 62 and is now 76, there have not been many days when my dad has taken a day off. Every morning he is up bright and early and does a 5K. Yes, you read that correctly. It isn’t an easy course either. When you live in the hills of upstate New York, not only is there terrain to contend with, but also the unpredictable weather. It doesn’t matter if it snows, sleets, rains or is hot and humid, you will find my dad walking first thing in the morning. I try to walk with my dad when I’m visiting, but I am not a morning walker. Mornings are too bright and too loud for me. Dad is like the early bird that loves to get the worm. I am good with that because I’m not a fan of worms anyway.
I love to spend time with my dad. When we were young, he worked countless hours to provide for our family. It wasn’t always easy, and he would be the first to tell you he wasn’t a perfect dad. The fact is, I wasn’t the perfect daughter either. However, I have always been my daddy’s little girl no matter my age. My dad spanked me one time in my life, which was well deserved. The reason he spanked me was because I was tap dancing and singing on the hood of his new car in my shiny black shoes. Hey, I needed to have a stage and the world needed to hear my song. I don’t remember the event anymore. I’ve only heard the story so many times that I think I remember it.
One of the things I loved to do with my dad growing up was planting our garden. We always had a big garden, and it seemed those dang green beans always came on right before we were leaving for vacation and we’d have to get them snapped and done before we could leave. One year my father’s garden was just beautiful. Everything was up and growing. It was green and lush promising a bountiful harvest. Then a hail storm went through and shredded everything to bits. I cried because I knew how much work my dad had put into his garden and now there was nothing left to show for all of his hard work. It felt like I was on “Little House on the Prairie” and Pa had lost all of his crops. (No, I’m not dramatic… ok, maybe a little) Dad came home and put his arm around me and said, Babe, Babe, “It is what it is.” My dad still says the same thing to this day whenever anything goes wrong. And yes, Babe, Babe is what my father has always called me. It is so endearing to my heart that I will forever be his Babe, Babe.
My dad grew up on a farm with four brothers and my grandmother’s sister because my great-grandmother had passed away with cancer when she was still very young. Dad always shares stories about growing up on the farm with his dad and the many adventures they shared as siblings. One of my favorites is how the brothers would stick their fingers in each other’s dessert and say, “sell it for a dime?”, hoping the other brother would be grossed out and give it away. However, that didn’t happen very much.
A few months ago I asked my dad to tell me more of the story behind his faith. I was shocked to learn something new. When Dad was young, and his grandfather was dying, he went to visit him. There was a Catholic priest there, giving his grandfather his last rites. The priest had asked Dad’s grandmother why she didn’t bring Dad to church. His grandmother replied that she wanted her grandchildren to decide for themselves where they wanted to go to church. The priest looked at my father and told him he was going to hell. At that moment my dad decided that if he was going to hell, he might as well raise a little hell first. The priest’s statement turned my dad off from God and religion for a very long time.
It wasn’t until much later that my dad and God would once again talk. A deadly combination of schizophrenia and drug addiction had left my brother in bad shape, and my parents had been told by the doctor that my brother would most likely never be able to feed, clothe or even wash himself again. It was then my dad told me he began to pray and talk to God. Dad asked God if he was real and cared about him to please bring his son back to him and he would never doubt God again. It took some time, but my brother did come back. My father’s faith continued to grow, and Dad had found a personal relationship with God.
Many times it is life circumstances that change our perspective of who God is and how we relate to Him. Fast forward and my dad is now retired, but God has done a complete overhaul in his heart. Dad could be gruff at times, but now his heart is so tender. I see how he loves my mom and marvel at the trials they have been through, yet their love remains strong. My parents are both cancer survivors who know what it is like to not know the outcome of their future and be left wondering if the treatment will work. I am thankful to say they are both in remission.
My dad is a strong man, but what makes him strong isn’t his physical strength, but his faith. My dad’s faith has grown in leaps and bounds, and his heart’s desire is to finish his race strong. Dad’s gruff demeanor has softened, and his calloused heart from hurtful words spoken to him has healed. He has gone from hunting deer to watching them in the woods and talking to the bunny rabbits in the yard. My dad usually calls me a few times a week to check-in, and we chat about everything that is going on in the world and what is going on with family members. We share insights about God’s word, he tells me about the Bible study he attends and does devotions with my mom every night.My dad would do anything for anybody, but he will tell you he isn’t a mind reader and you have to ask because he doesn’t know how to take a hint.
Dad’s heart is about wanting to please His Father in heaven and live a life that demonstrates God’s love through him. Dad has made peace with his past because God gave him peace in his heart. I love my dad for so many reasons, but none of them mean more to me than to know should God call either of us home we will see each other again.
As we both get older, every moment with Dad becomes more precious. I realize how blessed I am to be able to have had so many memories and new ones to come. On, June 14th I will celebrate my dad’s birthday and their wedding anniversary, but I’m celebrating so much more. I am thanking God for the gift of my father who loves me unconditionally and demonstrates the character of Christ to me every day. It may be my dad’s birthday, but I am the one who received the gift of being his daughter.