I've been blessed to have a great mom and dad in this game called life. It's time for a tribute to my dad, a native Mainer, a forester, and a great guy. Get the kleenex, kids.
Here are several reasons why my dad is great.
1) Dad played all sorts of catch with me growing up. Seemingly whenever I asked, Dad would walk out to the barn where his humongous mitt lay, usually next to my tiny glove. We'd then proceed to the front lawn, where he'd throw pop-ups, grounders, and some heat at me. Over time, he molded me into a pretty solid second baseman as he coached me and my pint-sized peers on the Redwings. First season record: 1-15. We had one all-star: Gene Sneed. My buddy got hit in the eye by a monstrous twelve-year old who threw harder than Nolan Ryan, we theorized. I had to bat after him. Neither of us were ever the same as hitters.
In a quiet, simple way, Dad showed me a key part of loving fatherhood. So much of it seems to center in attention and time. Dad encouraged me, pushed me, and dried my tears when our front yard kicked up a ground ball into my nose. As a result, I have many happy memories with him that will remain with me all my life.
2) Dad was an example of faithfulness to our local church. Never seeking attention, Dad modeled steady attendance, participation in, and care for our local Baptist church. He served through the years on the deacon board and frequently helped out around the place with various projects. In this way, Dad is one example of many men and women whom you and I know who likely will never have a denominational plaque handed them, who won't get a retirement dinner, and who certainly won't ask for one. What they will get, however, surpasses each of these temporal accolades: the warming smile of He who sees all service, however lowly, and who richly rewards it. Thanks, Dad, for being a picture of faithfulness for me. You have no idea how it's impacted me.
3) This one bleeds into maternity, but both Mom and Dad made it to most every single sporting event I ever had in high school. In rain, shine, or shiny rain, they were there, and they were supportive. What an awesome way to show your kid you love them. For both my sister and I, they carved out a history of interested participation in our lives. What a blessing it was to share the swishes and hits with them, and what a help it was to draw their sympathy after the airballs and strikeouts.
4) Dad has always weighed in on my life with judicious, though limited, words. He's never tried to live out his aspirations through me. He's never tried to mold me in his own image. He poured his life into me, and brought me up well, but even when I sought exhaustive counsel, as I am wont to do, he merely chipped in with a fit word or two. As a result, I've learned to handle things for myself and to embrace adulthood.
If only I can be a dad like my own. I'm still a little surprised by the passing of childhood, and adolescence, and am taken aback by how little I now see my family. That said, what I lack in physical presence I possess in memory, in teaching, in example. That's a great gift to be given--and hopefully, a legacy to be passed on.