My dad’s nearly 20-year battle with Parkinson’s disease ended last Sunday.
The pastor who delivered the message at Dad’s funeral asked me at dinner the night before, “So tell me, what are some of the lessons your Dad taught you over his lifetime?”
Of course, a question like that opened up the floodgate of memories. What surprised me was how many of those memories had a funny twist to them.
Because of my Dad, I know what it’s like to:
- Watch the sun rise over Atlantic Ocean in a tiny boat 30 miles off coast of Maryland, all the while nearly passing out from the smell of the boat’s diesel fuel.
- Eat PB&J sandwiches on a john boat in the middle of a lake while fishing, except that no fish were biting. None. Zero. Zilch. All day.
- Use old-fashioned hand warmers, fueled by lighter fluid (and not by chemical reaction as they are today) while sitting in a freezing cold tree blind, waiting for deer. I never even ever saw a deer, let alone shot at one, but we were there, waiting for them. Maybe they don’t like the smell of lighter fluid.
- Hear my Dad ask my Mom, in all seriousness, if she wanted him to “cut the cheese.” He did, after all, have a knife in one hand and a block of cheddar in the other. Being a child of the ’70s, I laughed about that for days (and obviously still do). He may or may not have known what I was laughing about.
There weren’t a lot of hunting and fishing excursions, so each one is burned indelibly into my memory. And these times would have been perfect for one of those father-son talks that help turn boys into men. But the “talks” didn’t happen. Dad was a man of few words, and talking just wasn’t his thing.
But what did happen in those times was real life. My Dad was always just himself.
In other words, the time I spent with him was the lesson.
While waiting quietly for a fish to bite, or in perfect silence for a deer to stroll by, I learned his patience and self-control. Sitting in that icy tree blind? There he showed me the value of being prepared, by making sure my hands stayed warm. As I fetched his tools while he worked on a car, I learned his attention to detail and desire to do a job well. And on that boat in the Atlantic, I learned his love for the beauty of nature and the serenity of being alone, miles from shore. I also learned that sometimes you have to endure the bad – in that case, nasty diesel fumes – to get the reward, seeing that huge orange orb emerging from the ocean, with a perfect copy of it floating right on top of the water.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. — Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)
Thanks, Dad, for the “real life” training, the kind a dad gives to his son just by being with him. Your life spoke louder than any words could ever could.
Oh, and that “cut the cheese” thing? I didn’t learn anything from that. It was just funny.