Happy Father’s Day to a quiet and strong father
Admittedly, I watch more than my fair share of sporting events. A good amount of that time can easily be classified as mindless.
Most sports fans have a favorite team and they enjoy following that team, hoping to see that team win whatever ultimate prize is offered. There is also time spent watching other teams, hoping to see a good game, the setting of a record, something that may never be duplicated or rarely seen.
In addition, there are ancillary reasons to watch sports, like the human-interest stories. To my recollection, the Olympic Games (both winter and summer) were the first to bring us the human-interest angle. Just when you were ready to see the start of the 800-meter run or the giant slalom skiing event, the announcer would cut away to “a small village in Czechoslovakia” and you would find out how a particular Olympic hopeful overcame a debilitating childhood disease, the loss of family and home and archaic training conditions to become a world-class athlete. The feature would then cut back to the start of a competition in which that competitor would realize his lifelong dream of winning an Olympic medal.
One of the recurring themes of the hardships endured by many athletes seems to be the lack of a strong father figure in their lives. I am always reading about or hearing from athletes that go home to their mother’s cooking. They talk of their mothers working two jobs to make ends meet. When an athlete buys a house for a family member, it seems that, more often than not, it is for his mom or grandmother.
When you read about a father, often it is about a man who is trying to reconnect with his son or daughter, now that they have achieved success. Or, the father is overbearing and becomes the target of a restraining order. Personally, I believe the media is partly to blame because it doesn’t have an appetite for bringing us news of normal, good family relationships. That isn’t to say that we, as dads, always uphold our responsibilities to our families.
More and more, I am meeting young people who are from homes that have been split by divorce. Generally speaking, the primary caregiver in their lives has been their mother. For the most part, these young people seem to be well-adjusted and contributing members of society. God bless their moms for all they have done and for the sacrifices they have made. In each of these situations, my mind always wanders to thinking about how their lives would be different if they had had the benefit of having both parents available on a regular basis. The next logical step for me is to think of all the things my father contributed to my life.
Without a doubt, my father has been the most influential male figure in my life. For a brief time, I thought that figure was my high school basketball coach, but as the years played out I realized that nearly every important lesson I learned in life, I learned from home.
My father modeled for me hard work, generosity without conditions, quiet humility, giving people equal consideration, listening before talking, finding humor in life and, most importantly, a faith that is strengthened by adversity.
For years, I always had the security of knowing that if my world was turned upside down, if everything I knew was taken away from me, I always had a home. I had a fallback position in which I had complete trust. I never had to play that card, but I remember the security of having a trump card, an “ace in the hole.”
As the years have eroded the physical strength of my father, an inner strength has been revealed. Over the past couple of years, illness has robbed him of his endurance, taken one of his kidneys and now forced him to endure dialysis three times a week. There are moments of despair and discouragement, but what I also see is a peace and a willingness to accept what has happened without bitterness and without cynicism. What I see is a man who has security in something that isn’t based on wealth, good looks, political affiliation, health, physical strength, ideal weight, station in life. In other words, his success isn’t based on anything that can be taken away in an instant by the next hike in the price of oil or a physical calamity. It is based in a faith that transcends the transparency of physical and financial success.
Dad, I wish you a happy Father’s Day. Thank you for continuing to teach me valuable lessons with your carefully chosen words and with the way you live.
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