Friday, June 17, 2011

A Father's Gift

This little boy in chalk dusted overalls was born just months before the event we historically see as the beginning of the Great Depression.

His early childhood bridged some of the darkest years our nation has ever known. His mother gave birth to seven children before his arrival, and buried four of them at various ages.

The son of a sharecropper, this boy’s meals often consisted of a biscuit for breakfast, a biscuit for lunch and whatever the family’s farming provided for supper (as Southerners have called the evening meal).

He’d attend a schoolhouse with several grades in one room and drew close to a pot-bellied stove to keep warm in the winter.

Just out of high school, he imagined his life would be spent working in the local textile mill, but circumstances led to his joining the Air Force during the Korean Conflict. Later offered officer’s training, he declined because he was home sick.

On his homecoming, he learned about the GI Bill. It’d be hard with a family to support, but for years he worked full time at the textile mill and went to college.

I’d be there to stand with my dad as we had our picture made just after he received his college diploma. I was four, and it is one of my few early memories, but I recall a sunny day and the green, grassy slopes surrounding the community college nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

My dad eventually became a business man and provided the financial resources for both my sister and me to attend college. I am grateful for the sacrifices he made and the example of perseverance in the midst of hardship he has established.

A Sunday school teacher for dozens of years, he has now retired and handed the torch to someone else. Sometimes the memories grow as faded as the photographs, but on my last birthday, I discovered some precious ones remain, as my dad passed another lesson on to me.

I knew it would be an uneventful birthday, because I was out of state with Jerry while he was having his radiation treatment. We’d already planned to celebrate as a family when we returned, so, Jerry and I tried to make the best of an odd sort of day. As we sat down for lunch, I noticed a cell phone message from my dad. I pressed play:

“Beverly, it’s ten o’clock on a Sunday morning. And so many years ago, you were born on a Sunday morning about six-thirty. And I called to wish you a Happy Birthday, today.”

As the tears rolled, I pressed play again and let Jerry listen.

“How many Dads remember which day of the week their children are born?” Jerry asked.

“I’d almost forgotten I was born on a Sunday.” The only reason I ever remember at all is the little poem about birthdays. I liked my day. “Sunday’s child is full of grace…”

How many Dads would remember? I don’t know, but mine does. He remembers a Sunday morning baby just stirring to the world, and that she weighed ten pounds and eight ounces and dwarfed all the other infants in the nursery. He remembers and that gift makes my birthday so many years later a very special one.

I’m making a note to remember for my own children’s sake—to tell them the stories that have shaped their lives. The details matter, even when they grow older and have children of their own.

His caring gives me a greater understanding of my Heavenly Father, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you” (Psalm 139:17-18).

God remembers and unlike our finite earthly fathers are able to do, he is always thinking of us. Nonstop. And for those who are without Fathers for some reason, that is good news.

And with that in mind, no matter the circumstances concerning your earthly father, remember God the Father has his eye on you. May your Father’s Day be blessed.

And, Happy Father’s Day Dad!!

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