It’s easy on Fathers Day to remember our fathers for the extreme acts in their lives. But it is really the greatness in the common things that has made me especially proud to be the son of my father. Those who know me have heard me talk of my dad’s uncommon valor in not only the way he served in WWII, but also the selflessness by which he did it. Our family has seen my father rise above the common when he had a landing strip build in front of a small rural hospital in southern Illinois so that he could fly my sister, packed in ice, to Chicago for emergence treatment after she was hit while riding a bicycle at college. I remember sitting in my dad’s hospital room after he had back surgery. Rather than dwelling on the pain and discomfort of the surgery and rehabilitation, he spent his time amazing us by multiplying any set of two numbers in his head. He would give us the answer in seconds and we would spend the next few minutes trying to figure out if he was right…. he was….
Real greatness for any father is found in the everyday common acts like providing food, shelter, clothing and being there to guide and mentor. Giving strength to others. Don’t get me wrong; I had the normal tumultuous relationship with my father as an adolescent. I like almost every child, felt he was too strict. One especially painful experience was when I was 9 or 10 years old. I was expected to keep a journal of my allowance as a life lesson in responsibility. Once a year the carnival came to town. Growing up in the central farm land of Illinois didn’t provide the wealth of opportunity for entertainment that living in Atlanta does. This was a once-a-year event that we all looked forward to with great anticipation. My father checked my journal and it wasn’t current. The punishment was that I had to go to the carnival with the family but I could not and did not ride on any rides or spend any money. I remember it to this day. I can see it in my minds eye as if it was yesterday, the twirling light and music. My father allowed me to make stupid decisions, feel the pain of the consequences, learn from the event and move on with my life. He taught me that it is not in the falling down, but the getting up that we overcome our fear of failure. He taught me that a gift is not a trade and to never promise anything I wasn’t willing to do or give up. The day at the carnival was a hard day for my dad, but there was a lesson, or two, in it. If I was to survive and be happy I needed to learn them. My punishment was his also. I pouted and fretted and sulked all night. Rather then my father seeing the joy on my face as I was once again amazed by what life had to offer, he had to put up with a child who didn’t understand the gift he was being given: a one-time chance to correct a thousand mistakes before they happened.
True greatness is in the common: putting one foot in front of the other consistently day after day. Because he was who he was when I needed him the most, I am who I am today. All the small pieces came together to make the whole. Dad, you are the whisper in my heart that talks to me every day. For this I will be eternally grateful and thankful.
If I have one regret it is that my father may never come to know his creator, that I will not have the joy of spending eternity with him.
Ephesians 2: 8-10
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift from GOD - not by works so that no one can boast. For we are GOD's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which GOD prepared in advance for us to do.