My father is not generally the gift giver of the family, at least not in the sense of things that can be wrapped in a box. Usually Christmas and birthday presents arrive bearing Mom’s fingerprints. There are, however, the special exceptions. On such occasions, I open a box and find some special tool or bit of technology. Then, I know that Dad was at Home Depot or Radio Shack, and he thought to himself, “Bill would appreciate this (small flashlight built upon a flexible tripod).”
As much as I do appreciate the flashlight built upon a flexible tripod, three of dad’s gifts are much dearer.
First and foremost, for fifty-five years now, I’ve watched him love my mother. Dad has always been faithful, always a hard worker, and always a strong provider. Yet, through the years, I’ve watched him become tenderer, more sensitive especially to Mom. He always emptied the dishwasher, knowing this is mom’s least favorite chore. But, the years have brought something more, awareness and delight in my mother. She is the twinkle in his eye. More than anything else, it is this love of my mother that has made his love of God a creditable witness.
Second, Dad was always willing to invest time in me. From last Easter’s trip, when he and Mom spent a week with Maryellen and I, to forty years ago working on a physics problem.
Finally, Dad is a man of few words, but when he speaks, particularly after a momentary pause, what he says is wisdom.
At twenty-two, I was home transitioning into my first adult job. Early one morning, walking into the master bedroom, I saw Dad shaving beside the bath vanity, and I posed this question. “Dad, what is your vocation? What is your mission in life?” He put down his razor, paused for a moment, turned and looking into my eyes, said, “To facilitate the ministry of my wife and children.”
What a remarkable thing for a man to say – my chief purpose is to serve my wife and children, supporting them in a more fruitful walk with God. Even more remarkable, for fifty-six years he’s done it. Very far from perfect, as he would be the first to admit, but fundamentally, he’s done it.
May we all live to serve so well.