My father was never an emotional man. Showing love wasn’t easy for him. A pat on the head or a swat on the behind was his way of saying “Good job.” He did give occasional hugs, but I can’t remember a kiss, although as a baby when everyone kisses, I can’t say.
He went to work, bought us the things we needed, kept us fed, and built more onto the house when the size of our family grew. I guess he put his love into the tangible things in our lives. He meted out justice, gave us chores to do, and taught us right from wrong. One taboo for him was never to be late. It was always, “If you’re not early, you’re late.”
Growing up wasn’t always easy, but then again life isn’t always easy. If you are finding it is easy, you’re going with the flow and most of the time it’s the wrong direction. He took us to church Sunday mornings and evenings and to prayer meeting on Wednesday evenings. We worshipped God In a small congregation in the Clinton Church of God. My father’s fixation on being where you are supposed to be and “On Time” (Which actually meant early.) can be best described in the following vignette.
It was winter and very snowy. The roads were slick and snow covered. Sunday mornings meant we WERE going to church. All of us piled into our car and started out. I am sure it was thirty minutes early for a fifteen minute drive. There were several ways to get to church and all of them involved going uphill. Dad tried one way without success, the second way and no success, and on the third try we managed to get there. Pulling into the parking lot of the church, we opened our car door to get out and we could hear the congregation singing the first hymn. Dad called, “Kids. Get back into the car. We’re going home.”
I found out later that he was so upset with a woman at another church who would dress to kill, arriving late every Sunday and “parade” her children to the front of the church to show off her kids and herself. Another woman at the same church would bring her kids in, well dressed and ready for the church services, but she would still have curlers in her hair and an old dress. Once she deposited her kids, she would go home, do her hair, dress, and put on make-up and jewelry. Then she would return LATE coming into the church. Both women did this Sunday after Sunday. It was a reoccurring incident.
I think those two women firmly made my dad an early bird.
My dad is in a nursing home. He couldn’t stay at home and care for himself and we couldn’t keep two people in his home to help him walk. It was more than balance and it always took two people to help him.
He will be ninety years old in a few days. He says, “I was born on the longest day of the year.” I visit him about twice a week and when I leave, I always tell him “I love you.” I want him to know that I understood that he was saying “I love you” for all of those years.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.