Note to My Readers: from mid-June to mid-August (6/18 - 8/20), I will be taking a summer break from posting new articles for my Thursday and Friday slots. This will only affect my Thursday series on the global growth of Christianity, and my Friday series, the "Theological Bestiary" of birds, both of which will resume in late August. During the summer, I'll be dusting off some of my best essays from the first few years of this blog (a decade ago), as well as my verse play "Thus Ends the World," and re-posting them in the Thursday and Friday slots. All other weekdays will continue to feature new material throughout the summer.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
How I Learned to Be a Dad
I remember you telling us bedtime stories--
Fanciful stories, with fairy-tale characters all mixed up together.
We loved them.
You taught me how to whistle and snap my fingers.
When I decided to walk along the outside
Of an upper-story balcony railing,
You ran across the yard like a crazy man
And made me climb back to safety.
I remember you holding me down
While Mom poured noxious, agonizing medicine in my ears--
Parents being forced to inflict pain on their child.
But you did it faithfully,
Because you loved me.
When I had my last ear surgery,
You brought me a stuffed animal snow leopard.
I thought I was too old for stuffed animals.
But I loved that snow leopard.
And I still have it.
I remember going with you to prayer meetings,
And singing next you in the church choir.
But what I loved best of all
Was those times in church,
Every now and then,
When the words of a hymn struck you so deeply
That you had to stop singing.
In those moments,
I wanted a faith like yours.
I only remember one time
When you got in my face and raised your voice.
I deserved it.
But what strikes me now is that I only remember that one time,
When I'm sure I deserved it many more.
And every now and then you came up to my room
If you thought you'd gone too far.
I remember when we got put together
In the same canoe for our Brigade trip.
I was glad I got you--
Even when our canoe was sinking.
You got a job at my high school
When I was halfway through.
Not every kid would've been wild about that idea,
But I loved it.
I think I liked you
Even when it wasn't cool
To like one's parents.
I remember that you were proud of me,
But in such a humble way
That it taught me to be humble, too.
You encouraged my strengths--
Like letting me take long hours
On our lone family computer
To write my juvenilia.
And every so often, you nudged me forward
In areas that needed a little work--
Like when you made me go to prom
After my friends showed up
To kidnap me there.
When I went off to college,
You prayed for me.
Even when I went to serve
In some of the most dangerous places in the world,
I never heard a word of dissuasion from you.
And when our home pastor left for other fields,
You put me in the pulpit first,
Before I'd ever preached a sermon.
The very first time you met my future wife--
On a weekend where you met many of my friends--
You told me that she, she specifically, was great.
I wasn't about to take romantic advice from my dad.
But you were right.
Later, the first time I brought her up to meet the family,
You told me right away
That it was OK if I wanted to marry her.
That time, I knew you were right
Even before you said it.
You treat my wife like a treasured daughter.
You treat my kids like just about the greatest thing in the world,
And again you're right--
Because that's exactly what they are.
Now I'm a dad--a good dad, I think--
But as I sit here and remember,
I know how lucky I am:
In the school of fatherhood,
I was apprenticed to a master.