Last week I wrote a post about my mother, so it seems only appropriate that I share my father’s story as well. My parents could not have been two more different people. My dad was soft spoken, quiet, often moody. My mother is boisterous, loud, incredibly outgoing. As a child, they managed to complement each other so much I never realized the differences between them until I had two children of my own. #1 is like his grandfather; dark hair, moody, a bit of a clean freak. #2 is like her grandmother; light hair, never meets a stranger, loves the lived in look. But like their grandparents, they are the perfect compliment to each other.
For many people being so different might have been the reason they would have went their own ways, but for my parents, they each knew their strengths and weaknesses and they took care of each other. The one trait they both had in common is their work ethic. Both of my parents were incredibly hard workers their entire lives.
When my brother was born, there was no such thing as Supplement Security Income, or Disability. Parents of children with handicaps just had to pay the bills for hospitals however they could. And for my parents, that meant Dad worked two, sometimes three jobs while I was growing up. If my brother had to spend 5 days in the hospital with the mumps like he did at age twelve, Dad was going to have to pay the hospital. And so he worked hard.
But Dad still managed to be there for his family. Growing up, I don’t ever remember a Sunday that my Dad was not at church. As a Deacon and a Sunday School teacher, making sure we were at church was important. My Dad was an incredible man and his family (Mom, Bubba, Me and the Siblings as I call Mom’s youngest three brother and sisters) were incredibly important to him. Despite the fact that he worked long hours he still found time to take us camping every weekend when I was a small kid. Mom, Dad, me and my brother, the three younger siblings, all their kids, a few neighbor kids, two campers, two tents, two station wagons and off we’d go to Old Stone Fort to camp every weekend. Those were the best memories of my childhood. Our entire family camping, swimming, cooking out.
One weekend we got to the Fort and set up camp. We had a special campground we always tried to get because it was in the crook of three trees, so we could basically all camp together as three campgrounds formed into one. That weekend it stormed terribly and our tents were knocked down. We had to move to a covered picnic area for the night because we didn’t have enough places to sleep. Mom and Dad were in our camper with my brother and all six of the smaller kids when the Camp Ranger came by to tell us we had to move. You couldn’t camp under the picnic area. Dad opened the camper door just a little so as not to wake the children, but when he heard what the man had to say, he opened the door. Kids were sleeping on the floor, on the pull out cabinets, in the bed… The man looked at mom and dad and simply said, “Be gone by the time I do my morning rounds…” Dad never said a word. That was just how he was. Soft spoken, often quiet. He just let you come to the right conclusions all on your own.
My Dad never lost his temper with us as kids (at least not very often). It was Mom’s job to be the disciplinarian. I realize now that wasn’t exactly all that fair to her. He got to be the hero, and she was always the bad cop.
A few months before I was born, my dad ran his finger into a printing press, making his middle finger slightly crooked. When I was a kid, if I was misbehaving, he would point that middle finger at me. I knew the translation was simply “if you don’t behave, I am going to beat you to death.” Which was funny, since the only time my dad ever spanked me in my entire life was because of something I didn’t do and I took the punishment for my two younger cousins. But as a kid, I knew that finger meant I had crossed his line and if I didn’t calm down, Momma was going to spank me. Remember she was the bad cop.
I only heard my Dad cry one time in my entire life and to this day the sound terrifies me. When I was nine, our house was destroyed by a tornado. When the storm was over, Daddy told us to stay under the mattress we had survived the storm under and he went out to survey the storm damage. We lived on a family farm and all our neighbors were family. When Dad went outside the forest that surrounded our house was destroyed. Dad was convinced we were the only people left alive. He began to cry. Mom went to him. She said as soon as she saw what he did, she thought we were the only people alive as well. My Dad had always been the pillar of strength and hearing him cry shook my world as a child.
My parents were the most charitable people I ever met. Many times when they helped someone, only the person and my parents knew about the help. Dad was a member of the Kiwanis and he and mom were very active in helping families with children with Cerebral Palsy in any way they could. I remember one Christmas we were going to visit the home of a man whose son was severely handicapped with CP. He had a younger daughter. I don’t know what had happened to the man’s wife, but he was raising the two children all by himself and he had let my dad know that there wasn’t going to be any Christmas at their house that year, so Dad and Mom had collected gifts and we were on our way to visit the family. I loved going there to play because the little girl was about my age, and I was looking forward to taking gifts to her.
We arrived at the house and off to the bedroom she and I went to play. When we got to her room, she asked me if I had heard about Santa? Then she proceeded to tell me that Santa had had a bad sleigh wreck and he had been killed and wouldn’t be able to bring gifts that year. I ran to Daddy quite upset, because I still very much believed in Santa. When I told Daddy the story, he quickly realized what was happening and he quickly recovered. He picked me up and put me on his knee and pulled the little girl over and told us that yes, Santa had had a wreck. But the elves were reporting that he had merely hurt himself and that he had entrusted Daddy with the gifts for this family and that he would be more than ready to make his ride on Christmas Eve for all the other kids. We passed out the gifts to the family and left. I don’t remember ever seeing the family again after that night. I am sure we did from time to time. But that night, my Dad was a hero not only to me and the little girl, but to her father as well. I often wonder if things ever got better for that family.
When my father died, I was totally unprepared for his funeral. Well, not really the funeral. Dad had planned the entire thing and all Mom and I had to do was buy flowers for the casket and show up. What I was unprepared for was the crowd! For hours, people came by to tell me and my husband how Dad had touched their lives and had been instrumental in their Salvation. Over the years, my soft spoken quiet father had witnessed to thousands of people from all walks of life. Even working in a printing company where the machines are loud and little talking is ever done, Dad had found a way to share the love of Christ with his coworkers.
If my Mom was fearless, it was because my Dad was always faithful. Faithful to the very end….