Thanks Dad!

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
–Proverbs 22:6

1978.

We had recently moved from New Jersey to Miami.  Our dad had bought a few chickens, and  was in the backyard, with a bunch of wood and other materials.

He calls out for me to come out.  He says he needs help.

“Son – come over here.  I need some help.”

He is standing there with a box of nails, hammer in hand.

“We are going to build a chicken coop.  Stand there and hold this box of nails.”

It is now three hours later, and I am still holding a box of nails while my dad is hammering away.  During those three hours, I have asked several questions about the chicken coop – how we were going to build it, where it was going to go in the back yard, which chickens would live there.  Yet during the entire three hours, I have done nothing but hold a box of nails. Suddenly I am not getting the whole “we” part of the equation.  Not feeling very helpful, and fidgeting about as frustration grows, I start to complain.

“Papi, I am not really helping here.  Can I go play?”

Dad is not pleased.  He gives me one of those looks that says I am venturing down the wrong path with my words or actions.  History tells me that this look is usually proceeded with consequences for continuing my bad behavior.

I stand quietly for the rest of the afternoon.

1982.

My grandfather has passed away, and we are at the funeral home.  My dad’s father was a very well loved man, and it is standing room only as we mourn his passing.  My father is a strong man.  I see him greeting people as they come in.  Many hug him, offering their condolences.  This is my first funeral, and it is confusing.  My grandfather helped raise me, and the loss is so hard to deal with for me, yet I see my father walking around like it is no big deal.  Sometimes I even see him smile and laugh with others as they engage in small talk.

Then it is time for the priest to say a few words.  I don’t remember what he said.  I just remember everyone standing around the coffin and praying.  My grandmother and aunt are crying now.  Then the coffin is closed, and my father finally breaks down.

“No!  I can’t do this!”

I see him run to another room, and we all look around at each other.  Before I realize what is happening, my brothers, my step mom, aunt, and a few others are in the other room, and we are huddled together around him, all sobbing and coming to grips with our loss.

It was the first time I can remember seeing my father cry.

2010

I am getting married.  This is my second chance at a covenant with God.  My first wife passed after a long bout with Diabetes and Kidney disease.  Throughout our battle with the disease, my dad was always there, offering whatever help he could.  But now, I had gotten a second chance at marriage with a wonderful woman.

My dad steps to the altar, and begins to read.  We had chosen John 3:1-17 for him to read.  I know that this is one of his favorite passages of the Bible.  Throughout the years, it had also become mine.  What a comfort it is to know that the man who led me to follow Christ many years ago, is present to remind me and those around us what being a Christian is all about.

The day I spent holding a box of nails was one of the most boring in my life.  I really did not understand what the point was.  What was this torture my father was putting me through?  What was the point of standing there with a bunch of nails?

There was a point.

He was teaching me obedience.  Through my obedience to my father, I was learning patience and humility.  I was learning that sometimes, we don’t have to understand they why’s of life, but that if we simply stand there and obey our father, we just may learn something, through patience, through listening, through observing.

The day of my grandfather’s funeral still plays out in my head.  We all miss him so much, even today.  He was such a great example for all of us.  That day at the funeral home, my father taught me more than he knows.  He taught me strength.   He taught me how to be strong in the face of trials and tribulations.  He taught me love.  His love for his father came through in a way no one could doubt.  It is the same love I hold for him as well.  Finally, I  learned how important family is, how valuable it is to have a family you can call upon at a moments notice.

The day I was married, I had both my mother and father present to view it.  How valuable it was to  be married in the presence of the two people who are responsible for making me who I am.  Hearing my dad recite the way to salvation confirms what Jesus was really about – love.  When I was young, I did not understand, so I put my trust in my earthly father.  His unconditional love for me guided me through a path in my life that led me to the unconditional love of my Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ. Throughout the years, when I have needed him, my Dad has been there.

No he is not perfect.   Part of growing up is coming to understand that our parents are human.  As we become adults, we learn to have adult relationships with our parents, and part of that change is understanding that our parents are sinners.  We all are.  Yet there is strength in that understanding.  When we realize that our parents are not perfect, we also realize that they too have gone through the same trials and tribulation that we may be facing.  It is that wisdom they have from experiencing life that continues to benefit us as we go through this life together, as brothers and sister in Christ.

Thanks Dad, and Happy Father’s Day!

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