All in this year, Dad hit sixty years old, resigns in a few weeks from practicing law for the last thirty years, and starts a (semi) new career as professor. It’s all of these things together that remind me again how much I have to celebrate about my pops.
I’ve only known Dad’s career as that of a lawyer. When I was born, he was just beginning the practice after going back to law school at the age of thirty after running the “Card Shop” which was the old Greg’s Hallmark in the mall. The decision he made thirty years ago changed the life that my brother and I both led in multiple ways, none of which were difficult.
Day after day I work with people who have lost their fathers, hated their fathers, been abused by their fathers, been left by their fathers, been distanced from their fathers, or been tormented by the lives of their fathers. The ways that these choices bleed into self-image, confidence, disposition, and relationships are undeniable.
Also undeniable are the ways that a father’s ambitions and goals influence the steps and thoughts of his children. Pursuit of power, ambition, wealth, status, image, often are found successful, but leave a great wake of cost in the lives of those trailing behind in either diapers or adolescent pimples.
And so, this year for Father’s Day, I celebrate the fact that I have no sad stories to tell about my dad, and I thank him––and Mom––for it.
I remember as a child of about five or six, Dad dressed up as a judge, Jamey as an attorney, and my split roles as both sheriff and son (costume being only that of removing the cowboy hat). We put Mom on trial for Mother’s Day with the crime that of “Being a good mother.” She was convicted, and sentenced to Mother’s Day cake and hugs by her boys.
Dad taught us great respect of what women, working or not, and mothers, and grandmothers stood for, accomplished, offered to their businesses and homes, and ultimately of how much they were worth. I never saw him demean, belittle, roll his eyes, or even yell at Mom. They disagreed, as they should, but even their disagreements modeled ways of respect, patience and kindness.
I remember only two major arguments with Dad over the years; both were in late adolescence. And while the subject matter isn’t important, the far that the arguments were about things that mattered greatly is. I don’t remember petty disagreements. I don’t remember my point of view or disagreement being met with anything but ongoing questions and pushing of insight. I do, however remember apologies. I don’t remember what the arguments were about, but I remember, and my brother says the same, that Dad would always, always, apologize when he thought he had been unfair or unkind. It was commonplace after a small argument to hear a gentle knock on the door followed by a soft, “come in.”
Dad taught us that the strength of a man is not in stubbornness, arrogance, strength, ambition, or “not letting them see you sweat.” We were taught, by example more than words, that strength is found in humility, truth-telling, apology, integrity and gentleness.
I remember Dad saying to “think of your education as a way of life, not something to finish to get to life.” I also remember him saying, “Don’t choose a job where you work for the weekends.” I’ve heard of him changing careers once for this reason, and now at sixty, he does it again. His excitement for entering this new field, and the seriousness with which he is taking it on, and the courage to make a move thirty years later have not gone unnoticed my either my brother or me.
Dad taught us to value learning, trying, becoming and doing. He offered us stability and safety so that we could try anything. He took up guitar in his fifties because he saw a sixteen year old girl playing at a Clapton festival. The regular images I remember of Dad playing air guitar behind the couch have turned into Dad playing an actual guitar, and his example now of entering a brave new world have not gone unnoticed.
I can’t hit all the things…we were taught to value experiences and people over things. We were taught that generosity is the only appropriate response to wealth and possessions. We were taught that the world is bigger than our circle of friends, and so our circle of friends should be broadened to include the world. We were taught that new ideas were reason for great excitement and careful discernment, not fear and stoning. We were taught that to be a man was to honor all women, stand up for other men, live generously, choose carefully, and act thoughtfully.
As a child, I must admit, I was bothered by how different my parents were. How we didn’t make decisions and spend money and value things like many others did.
As a young adult, I couldn’t be more grateful. The more I learn about what it means to seek first the kingdom, and to live in kingdom ways, I’ve had no better example, and I now have no excuse.
Thanks, Dad. Happy Father’s Day.