In a continued celebration of my 50th birthday 7-22-15, I’m writing 50 thank you notes in 50 weeks. Here’s number nine--to my Daddy on the occasion of his 79th birthday today.
Mother always said that she was grateful to have an earthly daddy who gave her a wonderful image of her Heavenly Father. She was quick to caution us that not everyone has that gift: a daddy who loves lavishly, forgives readily, and offers reliable shelter from life’s storms. Indeed, from an early age, I was aware that having you as my daddy was a godly, precious gift.
I don’t know anyone who looks more like Jesus than you do, Daddy. It’s easy for me to imagine the kind of love God has for the children of God because I know how you love me, how you love everyone. You love so completely in that heartbreaking and heart-strengthening way of loving beyond the limits. When I try to fathom God’s infinite love, I just start with the way you love, and build on that. You form the very foundation of my understanding of God.
For example, I believe that God shows up. I believe that, because you always did. Thanks for showing up for parent conferences and band performances, for youth trips and choir concerts. Thanks for volunteering to drive the bus, chaperone, or teach. I could always count on you being there for me: standing up for me, setting boundaries for me, laughing, and crying with me. Your steadfast presence in my life teaches me about the unfailing presence of God. Thank you.
I believe that injustice affects God in a powerful way because I’ve seen how it affects you. I’ve seen injustice cause you to weep, but I’ve also seen you motivated to act in profound and purpose-filled ways. Like that time back in 1968 . . . You remember of course. You opened our home—which so happened to be the church parsonage—to an African seminary student. He spent the night with us and the next morning taught us a familiar song in his native language. From then on, with very little prompting, we were apt to break out into his translation of “Jesus Loves Me.” Much later I learned that for the next two years you would regularly find KKK brochures littering our lawn. (Perhaps having your new friend preach in your pulpit had a little something to do with that.)
I’ve seen you confront injustices so many times. Like your groundbreaking work with Alcoholics Anonymous. (Did you really threaten to become an alcoholic to join if they wouldn’t let you join sober?) In my memory, you started a chapter at every church you pastored. (Those must have been some long—and loud—deacon’s meetings!) Maybe my memory is off by a bit, but the lesson remains: God hangs out with the folks on the fringes. You taught me that, Daddy. Thank you.
Because of you, I believe God forgives us and truly forgets our transgressions. You never remind me of past sins. I literally have no recollection of you ever doing that. So when Scripture tells me that when God forgives us, that sin is blotted out completely, I get it. That’s what my daddy does. Thank you.
Something else you’ve taught me, though, is that humans are not perfect. You’ve allowed me to see that you can and do make mistakes. You’ve messed up, apologized, and messed up again. You’ve taught me that it’s okay to be human and that humans aren’t perfect. (I can’t imagine the money I’ve saved on therapy bills just from that one lesson!) Thanks Daddy.
So thank you Daddy. Thanks for teaching me how to be human; thanks for teaching me about God.
I love you Daddy-Daddy,
About work and school
Because he’s Daddy
What are some things your dad says or said?
Published September 17, 2008
“Mom, you can't go out like that.” My daughter somehow managed to express horror, disgust, and the scantest level of pity in one glance as she took in my outfit.
I looked down at my t-shirt and denim shorts. I couldn’t imagine what fashion rule I was breaking with this most basic of outfits.
“Why?” I asked, clueless.
My 14-year-old’s eyes grew wide and unbelieving; she responded as if I were joking, “Mom, your shirt is tucked in.” She shook her head, exasperated and not a little defeated, and walked away.
I untucked, but it was too late. Once again I had proved to my teenager what she already knew to be true: I am the world’s most un-cool mom. But the thing is, she’s wrong: because I had the world’s most un-cool parents. And I'm not even kidding.
Start here: my children are being raised in the new millennium. I was raised in the seventies. My children’s parents wear “Life is Good™” shirts and “Levi’s™.”My daddy (a truly wonderful human being but a product of his times where fashion was concerned) wore plaid polyester leisure suits and ties that were at least six inches wide. In the 70’s, we didn't so much style our hair as glue it into place. . .or not. My mother had a lovely and lofty bouffant and my daddy, God love him, wore a toupee for at least a decade and a half. He stopped wearing it for good after our family vacation one year. He'd stripped the thing off when we'd pulled out of the driveway, curled it up so it looked not unlike a sleeping ferret, and placed it in the glove compartment of our 1973 Chrysler station wagon. Ten days later, the toupee had permanently molded into its rodent shape. Daddy, looking not nearly as upset as a person should have been after having lost an entire head of hair to a faux ferret, never replaced it.
My children’s parents can dance. We boogied in college and two-stepped as newlyweds. We're good. My children are delusional when they say we can't dance.
It’s different with my parents. Now, in all fairness, because Daddy was a Southern Baptist preacher, he didn't get much opportunity to practice. Had his career taken a different path, perhaps he could have been the next Fred Astaire. But things were what they were and Daddy’s dance moves were somewhat. . . well. . .let’s just say unrehearsed. Once, my brother--a teenager at the time--returned from a shopping trip with Daddy ashen-faced, “I think I'm going to be sick,” he said, plopping in Daddy’s recliner and covering his face with his hands. They'd been shopping for speakers for my brother’s car. Daddy, listening to the music as they tested quality, had, well there’s just no other way to say it, Daddy had busted a move. Busted it wide open.
My children’s parents are hip too. I watch American Idol; Jay watches Deal or No Deal. We both liked the Pirates of the Caribbean flicks and if that’s not cool, then what is? When I was a kid, we did not go to many movies. One of the few I remember us seeing as a family was Song of the South. After the movie, I was consumed by the idea of meeting the real Uncle Remus. My daddy, who had always told us Uncle Remus stories at bedtime, gave me the bad news: the actor who played Uncle Remus was not in fact the REAL Uncle Remus. Once I got over that bad report, I decided that meeting the actor would be sufficient. Poor Daddy, unable to break his promise never to lie to us, had more bad news. The movie we had just seen was in the theaters for a second run—it had come out a very long time ago; now even the actor who played Uncle Remus had gone on to the briar patch in the great beyond. Totally uncool.
As for TV, when I was 14, my parents were watching The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie. Actually, my sister and I wouldn't let them watch anything else because those were our favorite shows. Remember when John-boy fell in love with Jenny? Oh I loved that one--except, of course, for the knife-to-the-gut ending: “To Be Continued.” And who didn’t weep when Mary became blind or cheer for Laura and Manly? (Okay, so my parents were pretty cool about TV.)
Here’s the amazing thing when it comes to coolness and parenting, though. My kids think it is cute when Papa dances in public. Cute! They love the stories about Papa’s toupee and can't even imagine Gangi with big hair and therefore don't really believe the hype. “Gangi always looks so pretty,” they explain to us patiently. “She never tucks her shirt in.”