The following post appeared in my blog two years ago. My father is still doing well at eighty one years of age. He told me recently that people sometimes tell him to "act retired." I told him, "Dad, don’t you dare act retired. The minute you start acting retired, you are no longer Dad." He gave an appreciative laugh.
I remember my father taking my brother and me out on Sunday afternoons to watch trains. He just loved trains (even had a record album of train sounds) and we lived by the Penn-Central tracks. It only dawned on my when I had kids of my own that he was taking us out of my mother’s hair when he did this, but there was no doubt that he enjoyed it. The three of us would walk along the tracks, trying to balance on the rails. We would watch the signal lights to see if there was any train coming (the ones over the tracks that tell the trains what is coming in the other direction). We would talk, tell jokes, and just enjoy being together. When trains came we would count the cars, look at the designs on the box cars, comment on how fast the piggy-back or passenger trains would go. The rush of the wind and the clack of the wheels, and the loud sound of metal on metal would overwhelm all other sounds. Then the train would move on, with the man in the caboose (they don’t use them any more) waving if he caught a glimpse of us. The normal sounds of the day would seem so quiet after the train went away. Just cars bumping across the tracks, and kids talking to their dad. I really don’t remember specifics about what we talked about, but the images are burned on my memory. All of the feelings are good ones: feelings of contentment, of happiness, of love.
Yes, he was a good dad. Wise to spend Sunday afternoons with us instead of in front of a game. He always was home at the same time and always kissed mom when he got in. We would always eat dinner at 6:30 (I think it was 6 earlier on), and it was very rare that we would miss eating together. He would show us mathematic formulas on napkins (he has a PhD in Physics) that we never understood. My sister would try to argue with him, but it seems that he got the better of her (she went on to get her PhD in History, so maybe she could probably win some now). He built a grandfather clock without a kit – just from plans he got somewhere. Even the gears inside are made out of wood. It still is in their living room chiming on the hour.
He still is a good dad. He visits regularly (with Mom, of course) to see us and the grandkids. When he comes now he peppers me with medical questions (it’s handy to have a son who is a doctor) and looks for things to do. He’s 79 now, but he and I hung a sliding glass door in my son’s bedroom just a few months ago. He still is stronger than I am. He always gives of himself. Whether it was for the coffee house he tried to start for young-people – they refurbished an old farmhouse and tried to make the barn into a coffee house, or for the church – he wasn’t well understood (I think he was just way smarter than the rest of them), but they appreciated his talents. He would never make much of himself and always give more than he took.
So here’s to you, Dad. If I could come close to being the person you are, I would be more than proud. You have set me a high standard of fatherhood that I wish I could have done better to emulate. But most of all you gave me a great image of God. The best compliment I ever got from someone was that they could see God in my eyes.
I guess I got your eyes.
Happy Father’s day 2008 Dad!This material, written by me, is free to re-post and share under the Creative Commons agreement. In other words, use it all you want; just give me credit.