Several years ago I wrote an article titled Pinch Hitter. I talked about a good man in the neighborhood who many of the kids loved and adored. Well today, I have a confession to make. The man I was referring to is my Dad.
The catalyst for that piece was one of my childhood friends who was telling me how important my Dad is to him. My friend is sixty years old and still brings Dad Christmas, birthday and Father’s Day gifts every year. Visits him often and takes him for lunch and dinner regularly. He’s one example of many who see and refer to my Dad lovingly as “Dad”.
Well, Dad turned eighty-five this past February and his life to me is quite remarkable. He underwent brain surgery three years ago with little expectancy of survival and with limited recovery expectations. Well, by God’s grace Dad came through and his recovery has us (his children) rejoicing, and the medical professionals baffled.
The aneurysm that necessitated the surgery has caused Dad some complications now, and given his age, he is having some difficulties with cognition. But for the most part, he’s quite coherent and as physically active as possible.
None of my siblings and I, or our neighborhood friends are surprised by Dad’s stamina. He was always seen as the “strong man” when we were growing up. Whenever lifting, pulling, or moving was needed, Dad was always called upon. So watching him in this season of life, even when he is declining physically, we can still recognize that brute strength from time to time, and we just simply smile.
Dad is more than just a strong man to us. He was the head and protector of our home. Anyone around us any length of time knew if they messed with us, they had “Old Man Love” (as one of our neighbors use to call him) to deal with. Although never modeled for him by his father, Dad took his role as the guardian of our home and family seriously and he intentionally taught me that one day I would have that same God-given responsibility.
I remember one time when at a company picnic, a man several years younger than Dad mistakenly mistreated my Mom. Interrupting Dad’s horseshoe match, which was his second mistake, the young man thought he would get the jump on Dad and lunged at him. That was his third mistake. In the next moment he was airborne and landed on his back with all of Dad’s 230 pounds crashing down on him. I was young then, but I still think it was the G.O.A.T. body slam. Maintaining his cool, when asked by co-workers to let the foolish young man up, Dad simply and calmly obliged. After recovering from a pair of broken ribs, the young man returned to work and apologized to Dad for disrespecting him and his wife. They went on to be buddies and Dad kind of became a mentor for him. Dad never advocated violence, but when it came to Mom and us kids, he felt and rightly so, it was his responsibility to ensure our safety and protection. That’s something I have not forgotten and passed it on to my two sons also.
The parents at our church knew how Dad felt about his children and entrusted their own children to him also. So yearly a bus load or several car loads of kids would be under Dad’s supervision as we traveled throughout Indiana for State Conventions, Congresses, Summer camp, Church services and, recreational trips.
I could go on and on about Dad, but I will share just one more thought that’s been passing through my mind a lot lately. Dad was a hard worker. He worked until he was not physically able. He and the other Black men in my neighborhood and those who attended our Church were hard workers. Dad and most of them had at least two jobs, one full time job and a second job they called a hustle. Since I can remember, Dad worked at least two jobs. He had a full-time job, and second part time job and he cleaned up cars and hauled trash on the weekends. From my perch, African American men are some of the hardest working men in America. Dad cut his own grass (until I got old enough), he fixed his own cars, painted his own house, tilled his own garden, built his own garage (with the help of friends who worked in the construction field), and repaired his own roof on his house and helped countless others with theirs. Later on in life when he could afford to hire this kind of work out, he still did it himself. Hard work to Dad and many of his friends was what made them men. So when I hear in the news media and other places the characterization of African American men as lazy, shiftless and always looking for a handout, my skin crawls. From the cotton fields to the factory, from which he retired, Dad exemplified hard work and embodied, 2 Thess. 3:10 and 1 Tim. 5:8, just like most of the men I grew up around.
So, who’s that guy always out in the yard tussling and playing ball with his and the neighborhood kids and outrunning most of them? Who’s that guy other parents could entrust their kids with? Who’s the guy known for working hard, sometimes holding down two to three jobs, ensuring his family’s needs were met? Who’s the man standing guard over his home, always at the ready between his family and danger? Who’s that man, although in his eighties and moving a lot slower, still a tower of strength and manliness.
Well, “That’s my Dad”. Happy Father’s Day Dad. May we share many more.