It came out of nowhere. Earlier this month, we all took time out to celebrate our dads on Father’s Day. The celebrations included cookouts and maybe even a trip to the fishing pond on this unseasonably hot day. Some of us probably called dad, while some of us simply left him alone, because that actually might be what he wanted.
Personally, this was my eleventh Father’s Day as a father. Both the boy and daughter unit did their best to make it a special day. Homemade cards, a picture of a recent trip and breakfast at the local Waffle House conspired to make the day truly remarkable.
But by the same token, this is the sixth Fathers Day without my own father. My own father passed away in the fall of 2012. It’s a bit sad to realize that I can’t see and enjoy him watching his two grandchildren grow. I am sure by now my own children’s life would have been filled with more fishing trips, more caramel cream candies and more trips to K’s than I can imagine.
Yet, even though his physical presence isn’t here, I am still consistently reminded of some of the lessons he taught me.
One of the most important lessons he taught me was that good stories last longer than good times. If you knew my father, you knew he was a master storyteller. His stories were tales of growing up with a dozen brothers and sisters that weaved accurate fact with a bit of family and urban legend. Regardless, his stories were captivating and mostly humorous. Perhaps looking back, it’s the times I can recall growing up that show that good stories last longer than good times.
I vividly remember my father, in his desire to be thrifty, spending upwards of an hour fixing a 69-cent lighter. And of course, this was after he spent about $1.29 for a replacement flint from the hardware store. Not sure if that would classify as a good investment of time, but certainly a good story.
My father also had this dogged determination to be right. I remember going through pictures one afternoon at my grandmother’s house and he found a picture of what he swore was First United Church of Christ. I told him that it was, in fact, St. John’s Church of Christ. We argued about the architecture of both buildings, notably the size of outdoor staircases. We finally agreed that the only way to settle this argument was to actually drive to both buildings. We drove over to St. John’s and it was proven that the picture was, in fact, St. John’s Church of Christ.
My father also understood the value of availability over ability.
I remember the first weekend we brought our newborn baby boy home from the hospital. Our little home of two now had three. And this new person not only couldn’t talk, he didn’t even come with an instruction manual. My wife and I felt wholly unprepared for parenthood. We almost felt that the doctors and medical staff at the hospital were practicing some type of malpractice by actually letting us go home with a small human being.
That first weekend, I was able to find time to mow the lawn. Halfway through mowing the lawn, I absolutely lost it. It was probably the first five minutes I had alone since the baby was born and an overwhelming sense of fear and confusion overcame every part of me.
My wife asked what was wrong and I couldn’t articulate it. My father came over and took me for a drive. I can’t for the life of me remember exactly what was said. I am sure there were words of encouragement and strength. But it didn’t matter. My father’s presence was enough to let me know that everything was going to be okay.
My dad may not be here, but his spirit and his infectious smile are still with me every day. Sure, there are times I wish I could ask him for his opinion on what is happening in the world and see him interact with his grandkids. But I know, he is still around each and every day.
William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.