It’s Father’s Day again and once more I think back over the years and the lessons that I have learned.
There’s a Bible verse which promises, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) Now with all due respect to the writer of that wonderful verse in Proverbs, after raising four children I might add to it, “Train up a Dad in the way that he should have gone in the first place, and when he is old he will remember the lessons.” I have found that most of the lessons to be learned are the Dad's.
I sometimes marvel that I made it through those years. There were many wonderful moments but some filled with anguish, bewilderment, impatience, anger, self righteousness, hubris, and finally love. I love our daughters and sometimes they weren’t angels, but I think being the father of a son is a more difficult task, and I have a doozy, named Kevin.
My wife and I just returned from visiting with him in Charlotte, North Carolina earlier this week. We hadn't seen him for quite a while and we particularly wanted to see the new store, " Carolina Furniture and Collectables" that he opened recently. A few months ago, after years of doing almost every job imaginable, he finally settled on opening up a furniture and collectibles store and it is something to see. I was so proud to see him in that environment and delighted with all that he has accomplished.
Now I have always known that Kevin is an indomitable sort. He is innovative and imaginative. Who else but Kevin could pull this off. Having returned to the United States from my home in Kuwait for a very short visit just to get married, Gail and I were in our hotel room in Las Vegas the evening following the civil ceremony. The phone rang in our hotel room and it was Kevin calling to say Congratulations. That may not sound too unusual but he had no idea where we were staying, and there are quite a few hotels in Las Vegas, like a million!!!
While I was a little disturbed at him calling on our wedding night, I was secretly sort of proud that he was able to pull a Sherlock Holmes and find us in that maze of hotels when no one in the world knew where we were. A resourceful salesman type, like his Dad!!!!
Kevin has always been adroit and imaginative, though. Fathers’ Day tradition brought back memories of when he was pre-teen while we were living in Melrose Mass. Maybe all Dads have stuff like this happening but Kev is my only son. One day we returned home from a trip to the grocery to find a large mirror in shreds on the floor. We had left the four children there by themselves trusting Melanie, the oldest, to run a tight ship. Seeing the shattered mirror on the floor and going into third-degree questioning mode finally resulted in a confession from that self-same son!! He reluctantly admitted that he had done it, but, with an ingenious bent, responded that he was throwing a shoe at his older sister, and she had ducked!! So it was her fault. Fair enough. That explains everything!!
A few years and many other indescribable escapades later, at about age 12 he had gone to a party, a short walk 2 blocks up East Foster Street. He left home at about seven o’clock and we were surprised that he was home just after eight PM. He was obviously distressed. In full Dad Confessor mode, I got him aside and asked what had happened. He said that shortly after he arrived at the party they served refreshments in the party room in the basement. The parents then had gone upstairs and left the group of about 16 boys and girls alone in the basement. When the parents were gone, someone turned off most of the lights and boys and girls sort of paired up and started playing kissing games. WOW. Getting juicy!! I asked if he had kissed any girls. He indignantly replied “NO”. “What did you do?” I asked innocently. He said, “I ate all of the sandwiches and came home!!” TRULY his Dad’s boy!!
But the supreme example of resourcefulness might have occured one day some years earlier when we lived in Melrose Massachusetts. The family was attending a swim meet where two of our daughters were competing. The YMCA was only about 2 blocks from our house and my son decided he wanted to stay home. We gave him ORDERS not to leave the house.
Part way through the swim meet everything came to a halt, there was a bustle of activity and all swimmers were called out of the water. Amid much seeming confusion, we observed the officials having conversations and scanning the audience with concerned looks. The meet was at a dead stop.
Then one of the officials went to the microphone and made a hurried announcement. “We just received a call and there is an EMERGENCY!! Will Mr. or Mrs. Collins call home immediately?!!” With Kevin’s face coming up on my ‘Dad Worry Screen’ I thought “WHAT NOW”, I ran down to the pay phone and called home. Kevin answered calmly. I screamed into the phone, “Are you alright? What’s the problem? What’s going on?”
Kevin nonchalantly said, “Oh Hi Dad, thanks for calling. Is it all right if I go across the street to Robert’s house to play?” Now, here I was, my heart beating fast, the officials peering down the hall anxiously awaiting word as to what could possibly have caused this emergency call, interrupting the City Swim Meet, where hundreds of people were gathered, I tried to look cool. After calming myself, deciding to postpone the kick in the pants that I promised was in his future, then telling Kevin it was all right to go too Robert’s house, I turned to the officials and assured them that everything had settled down and the emergency had passed. Still shaking my head weeks later I had to admit that the boy had all the instincts of a first rate salesman and would probably meet world famous sales professional and inspirational speaker Zig Zigler at the Top someday. He would definitely be able to get through to a CEO to make a sale with that kind of courage and creative thinking.
Over the years I have learned to use some of these experiences to examine life and its lessons more from a spiritual viewpoint. That special relationship of Dad and Son has eternal roots. It applies to daughters too of course, but in this case let me talk about sons.
Now about training up the father, being a good Dad is about doing our best, about learning love, about learning trust, about seeing through the human frailties, the errors, mistakes and temptations that would so easily distract us from our true heritage... and about forgiveness. When I see people using genealogy research to find out their family line, their human heritage, I am reminded how temporal this mortal existence is and that our true heritage is in God, the perfect Father. As a matter of fact Jesus said: “Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” But I can see how the earthly father/son relationship parallels the true eternal relationship of Father/Son… The loving, caring, respect… the guiding, the listening, the joy and trust.
I gladly relinquish the name of father to my Heavenly Father, Kevin’s real Father and everyone’s real Father, and gratefully settle for being called Dad, the Dad that loves his son and his daughters and has learned a lifetime of lessons from being blessed by their presence. Thanks Kids, for being all that a dad could ask for!!