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.
                     Thanks, Dad.

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.
                    Thanks, Dad.

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.
                    Thanks, Dad.

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
And apologized
          If you thought you'd gone too far.
                    Thanks, Dad.

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.
                    Thanks, Dad.

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.
                    Thanks, Dad.

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.
                    Thanks, Dad.

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.
                    Thanks, Dad.

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.
                    Thanks, Dad.