Thinking about Dad on Father's Day

Saturday, June 7, 2003

"What is your dad like?" I asked myself that question when I realized Father's Day was fast approaching, and considered the many varieties of dads. Some are sportsman, collect antique cars and others are musical or studious. Dads can be family men whose primary joy is derived from spending time with their families.

Do saunter down memory lane with me as I reminisce my dad?

The most outstanding memory of my dad, Charlie, was that he was God-fearing. As a young girl I was avidly displeased at his habit of forcing me from my warm, cozy bed on Sunday mornings to attend Mass. Many of my friends boasted of parents who allowed them to "choose" their Sunday activities. I glared at them with the green-eyed monster of envy. But no amount of pleading or feigned illness could change Dad's mind. His piercing glances of disapproval directed toward my brother and me if caught misbehaving during Mass are still etched in my mind. Dad, indeed, practiced the Scripture passage "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it."

Dad was a lover of music and, as a young man, played the violin for barn dances. In my eyes, dad was a maestro. Since dad was advanced in age when I was born his favorite songs to play were "Turkey in the Straw" and "Little Brown Jug" (I had never heard of them). However, I felt regal and elegant as I sat at his feet on Saturday nights and listened to every note. Dad's theater was our family living room. Ah, how I basked in the melodious sounds of his music floating through the air. What a treat we enjoyed, as we sang and he played and tapped his feet on the floor!

Compassion flowed from Dad's heart like water from a gentle, refreshing stream. I especially remember his response to my heartbreak over the loss of my little brown and white spotted dog, Rover. Rover was a genuine member of our family whom everyone loved -- then a neighbor's farm wagon ran over his frisky body. I was embarrassed to cry in the presence of others so I sneaked into my bedroom and sobbed quietly behind the door. My dad quietly walked into the room and, somehow, knew I was hiding behind the door. He glanced at me with a look of unsurpassed compassion and inquired, "You are sad because Rover died, aren't you?" Then, he wrapped his arms around me and assuaged my grief with gentle words of understanding, concluding by patting the top of my head (his favorite way of showing love).

Dad was especially proud of his farm implements, particularly a Farmall tractor. The Farmall had a draw bar situated underneath the large form-fitting tractor seat, on which to attach other farm implements such as plows and wagons. I often grew bored on the farm since few children were available with which to play. But Dad often rescued me by extending the invitation to ride on the draw bar as he drove the tractor. Riding the tractor with my dad was an awesome and coveted privilege. I felt so fortunate -- savoring the luxury. Dad occasionally reached from his monstrous tractor seat and patted me on top of my head. Gosh! I felt special.

As I matured, Dad was present to carry my huge bass violin to orchestra practice even though he was crippled as a result of a stroke. He elevated my self-esteem by assuring me, often, I was really smart -- and pretty too (I knew his opinion was biased in my favor).

I have skimmed, merely, the surface of fond memories for my deceased father, Charlie. But, as I pondered, I believe his greatest gifts to me were his unconditional love and Christian teaching. Even though he could offer little in the way of material possessions his contributions of love and security were unsurpassed. I believe the Scripture passage concerning the prodigal son "But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him" (Luke 15:20) best describes the love and compassion my father felt for his children.

As you walked with me down my path of memories, hopefully, the recollections of your dad or father figure were good -- but remember we all have Father God.

Ellen Shuck is director of religious education at St. Mary's Cathedral parish in Cape Girardeau.

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