Today is Father's Day. A day of cologne. A day of hugs, new neckties,
long-distance phone calls, and Hallmark cards.
Today is my first Father's Day without a father. For thirty-one years I had
one. I had one of the best. But now he's gone. He's buried under an oak
tree in a west Texas cemetery. Even though he's gone, his presence is very
It seems strange that he isn't here. I guess that's because he was never
gone. He was always close by. Always available. Always present. His
words were nothing novel. His achievements, though admirable, were nothing
But his presence was.
Like a warm fireplace in a large house, he was a source of comfort. Like a
sturdy porch swing or a big-branched elm in the backyard, he could always be
found...and leaned upon.
During the turbulent years of my adolescence, Dad was one part of my life
that was predictable. Girl friends came and girl friends went, but Dad was
there. Football season turned into baseball season and turned into football
season again and Dad was always there. Summer vacation, Homecoming dates,
algebra, first car, driveway basketball--they all had one thing in common:
And because he was there life went smoothly. The car always ran, the bills
got paid, and the lawn stayed mowed. Because he was there, the laughter was
fresh and the future was secure. Because he was there my growing up was
what God intended growing up to be; a storybook scamper through the magic
and mystery of the world.
Because he was there we kids never worried about things like income tax,
savings accounts, monthly bills, or mortgages. Those were the things on
We have lots of family pictures without him. Not because he wasn't there,
but because he was always behind the camera.
He made the decisions, broke up the fights, chuckled at Archie Bunker, read
the paper every evening, and fixed breakfast on Sundays. He didn't do
anything unusual. He only did what dads are supposed to do--be there.
He taught me how to shave and how to pray. He helped me memorize verses for
Sunday school and taught me that wrong should be punished and that rightness
has its own reward. He modeled the importance of getting up early and
staying out of debt. His life expressed the elusive balance between
ambition and self-acceptance.
He comes to mind often. When I smell "Old Spice" aftershave, I think of
him. When I see a bass boat I see his face. And occasionally, not too
often, but occasionally when I hear a good joke, (the kind Red Skelton would
tell), I hear him chuckle. He had a copyright chuckle that always came with
a wide grin and arched eyebrows.
Daddy never said a word to me about sex or told me his life story. But I
knew that if I ever wanted to know, he would tell me. All I had to do was
ask. And I knew if I ever needed him, he'd be there.
Like a warm fireplace.
Maybe that's why this Father's Day is a bit chilly. The fire has gone out.
The winds of age swallowed the late splendid flame, leaving only golden
embers. But there is a strange thing about those embers...stir them a bit
and a flame will dance. It will dance only briefly, but it will dance. And
it will knock just enough chill out of the air to remind me that he is
still...in a special way...very present.