This letter is long overdue. You have been gone from us for 42 years but Father’s Day is coming up and so are a bushel of memories. You are my Dad, my only Dad. Funny, I never called you Father or Pops or by any other term but “Dad”. So many times I wished to have a second chance, just to sit with you, alone, and talk about our family life together.
Being the youngest of seven children (three brothers and three sisters) I felt both sheltered and neglected. By the time you used your energy to tend to the other six, there was little time left for me. Yet I was always looked on as “My baby” and introduced by mother as “my preacher boy”. Not one time did I ever hear you say to me, “I love you, son”, but I knew you loved me and shared that love with the whole family. Mother was stone deaf and it was difficult for you. She never heard any of her seven children’s voices, never heard them cry or laugh or sing. She was our mother and your wife and what a great woman she was. She never used sign language but she was a master lip reader. She read our lips even when we wished she didn’t, and I saw at times your frustration in trying to communicate with her. It hurt me to see her struggle to catch a word here or there, especially after she had prepared a wonderful dinner for all of us and some visiting preacher. In the last thirty-one years, I just wanted to sit and talk about these things and so many others that now come to mind.
Remember when I would pick some horse weeds and try to sell them to mother for a penny. We could buy a pack of Kits (seven individually wrapped pieces of candy) with a penny. But with seven mouths to feed and a heavy load of being District Manager of Life and Casualty Insurance company, time just got by us.
Some things I have had to live with and carry the guilt of what I did. I never told you of the times that I would slip through the window from our screened in front porch and reach up real high on the top of your chest of drawers and steal a penny. I never told you, even of the time I took a nickel or the one time I stole a quarter. I felt so guilty, but in some ways, I was afraid to confess this to you. The pine trees that lined our driveway were ever present; and that is where you would pick a switch when we needed thrashing. The whipping never really hurt, but it was the thought that you would be the one to administer it. If the transgression was a misdemeanor, mother would handle it on the spot. If it was a felony, you took us to the one bath room we had. You would always say the same thing, “The louder you holler the harder I’ll whip”. We knew that was a lie and we would always scream ‘bloody-murder’. How did mother know when you were going to whip us. When we four boys had gotten into some sorry mess, mother would say, “When your Dad comes home, he’s going to whip you all.” We always wondered how she knew in advance what you were going to do, but every time she said it, you did it.
I wished you had said to me just one time., “Jack, I love you”, but this was not your nature. You were honest and just and right but you just never said it. You loved us in your own way. I had another wish, that one day you would take me aside and just sit on the porch in our rocking chairs and say, “Let’s talk, son”. That didn’t happen either. You just seemed so happy to come home without advance notice of a broken arm, or a black eye from a neighborhood fight. You were our Dad and the greatest.
Come to think about it, I never told you that either. I just remember when you were old and sick and I made a special trip home from my work in Beaumont, Texas. I knocked at the back door, and you called out, “Who is it”. I didn’t answer, and just banged on the door again. You opened the door with the words, “What do you want”. You didn’t know it was me. I said, “Dad, I want in because I’m home and I’ve come to see you”. That was the one and only time that I saw you cry. As I left you said, “Son, If I never see you again on this earth, Just know I . . . .”and the tears came. That was the last time I saw you alive and the sight of the tears are still etched in my life. I am old now and have experienced sickness. I understand you better as the years have come and gone.
So if you are listening Dad, I want you to know that you were/are the greatest Dad a boy ever had, and that me, your youngest son will openly declare to the world, “I love my Dad”.
My oldest son wrote to me recently (He lives next door). “Dear Dad. I woke up early this morning. I couldn’t sleep. For the second time, I saw you in tears, doing what I found myself doing, wishing I was forty again. A bit of fear for the future with that ‘over the hillism’ feeling. But you still have so much to offer people . . .You have always managed to prove to us as a family, that although we are not rich, we have never gone hungry, without clothes or a roof, and never without love. We always had a Dad.”
Paul’s instruction is simple. “And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). The wise man Solomon wrote, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Every day – “Happy Father’s Day”.