As I sit to write this, I am not exactly sure at this time how this will apply to the overall tone of this blog, since it is a different theme. We will all know by the time I finish. I think that each reader will be able to identify with this story. I hope it brings a tear of sentiment or reminiscence to your heart.
One of my sons asked me about 3 weeks ago why I had not written anything for the blog in awhile. I told him that I had nothing to say, as I usually write what God tells me to write. He urged me to, at the very least, write memoirs that my kids and his kids can read sometime off in the future, and give them some insight into their grandfather.
I had never met my grandfather or grandmother on my father’s side, as he committed suicide when my own dad was 7. As a result of that trauma, my own father was very reluctant to ever open up. He also died without my knowing anything about him.
Each of us has parents and grandparents. Hopefully others were more fortunate that I was in those relationships. We can all identify with the pain of regret, unforgiveness, or anger towards a parent. Oh, the words that I wish that I could have taken back many times.
I never actually knew of my father’s love. He never told me that he loved me. He never hugged me. He might have never hugged my sister or brother either. I don’t know. I didn’t think that was important when I was a teenager. When he and my mother dropped me off at college, he shook my hand, the first time ever. Over the years, I figured that he didn’t really know how to express love, possibly not even capable of love at all.
I distinctly remember the event of the birth of our first child. I was totally unprepared for the concept of fatherhood. I was now a father, a parent, totally clueless as to what to do next. I was proficient in math, science, balancing a budget, listening to others, and a host of subjects that I had learned in school, but no one ever prepared me to be a father, or a husband for that matter. I still have not found a school, online or otherwise, that specializes in parenting. None of my friends have a doctorate degree in "spousing". I just coined a new word.
I also distinctly remember the abundance of love that exploded inside my being at the first sight of that little boy. That was over 40 years ago. That little boy is now 6 inches taller than I am. I don’t know where the love came from. I remember looking around the hospital room, trying to figure out how and where that powerful emotion came from. It was very much like an epiphany, or a Damascus Road experience. I just was trying to understand how he was a complete product of his mother and me. We didn’t buy him at Walmart and assemble him. We didn’t go to Home Depot and buy all the materials and tools and build him. She and I created him. He was blood of our blood and flesh of our flesh. What a miracle. He still looks like us, thinks like us, raises his children the way we did, he is truly an accurate representation of his mother and me.
I love my 4 children more than life itself, possibly the only thing more precious than my love for them is my love for my 7 grandchildren. Only those of you with grandchildren will understand that. I remember saying to myself 40 years ago, “ I know my father didn’t love me as much as I love little Bobby.” It was unthinkable, impossible. He never expressed that emotion in any way that I could figure. I had to be sure to show love to my children in a way that would ensure that they knew that I loved them. A parent never knows if he is successful at parenting until the child grows up. Now that I am a grandfather, I realize that my father did love me, he just didn’t know how to express it to us growing up. I wish that I could have spent more time with him getting to know him, understanding his childhood, learning about his hopes and dreams. I will never know.
I have dedicated my life to being a student of the Old Testament and the New Testament. I have always found them fascinating. Did God really speak to the Jews? Did those miracles really occur? I did learn a fascinating concept in the old testament, concerning the training of the Jewish children by their elders. Jehovah had commanded the fathers to prepare the sons for their turn at living life. He illustrated this concept by comparing the preparation to a tool box. Every Jewish boy was given a theoretical tool box by the father. It was the father’s responsibility to fill that tool box with every conceivable tool the son would ever need to be successful as an adult. It was also incumbent upon the father to teach the son how to use every tool that was in that toolbox. By the time the son was a man, he was very proficient in the use of every tool in the box.
Too many fathers and sons equate success solely with money. I still remember hearing the slogan many years ago that went like this: “He who is rich only in finances, is really the poorest of us all.” It was important to me and also a responsibility to teach the children that there are many other tools in the toolbox other than just the ability to “make money”. He who has the opportunity to watch his children grow up and experience their lives with them, is very rich. I loved attending all the band competitions, the orchestra concerts, the scouting trips and Eagle Scout awards, high school baseball games, swimming events, the memories will live forever. What unspeakable rewards the children provide to the father without ever knowing it. I cannot imagine putting my career ahead of these four lives that were so entrusted to me by my Father in Heaven. I was given a great responsibility, and I was going to do my best to spend the rest of my life imparting wisdom and knowledge into these children. I have reaped rewards that are deep ,abiding and fulfilling to my heart and my soul.
I will leave you with a vision that I received one night, late, while contemplating my immediate future, now that my youngest was leaving for greener pastures in Naples, with his older brother. I knew this day would come. We had spent 6 years together, good years, from 16 to 22, preparing him to become a man who could think for himself, make good decisions, and act with character and integrity. How different would my life become, when I had no more children to teach, to set examples for, to prepare for the “real” world.
I have always had an uncanny gift of seeing things that were not actually available with our physical senses. This was one of those times. I found myself walking the great halls of a very large museum, with marble floors and walls. Ceilings were 30 feet high or higher. It was an immense museum, very stately, serene, and almost haunting. I was transfixed by the original masters, Degas, Van Gogh, Picasso, Rembrandt, even Michelangelo. Timeless works of art to be sure. I had passed them all by and entered a new room. I sat down on a long marble bench, and was observing an artist putting the finishing touches on his fourth and final masterpiece. From behind, I could not recognize him. His work was good, very detailed, the oils separated at some points and blended so skillfully at other places. The colors in the paintings were vivid, yet subdued, connecting each area of the work to all the others. It was not long that he placed the brush on the palette, laid it down, and turned around. I was quite shocked to discover that the artist was me. I did not understand. I heard a voice that was unmistakable. “The artist is you, my son, and your fourth and final masterpiece is now complete. Let it go, so that others may be touched and blessed by your work.”
I was instantly freed from my own self pity of my youngest leaving home. I no longer concerned myself with the cumbersome thoughts of what was next, what do I do now that I am alone, with no one to mentor.
Peace and joy are wonderful gifts. I think that my four kids are better gifts and I thank God for them daily. My life is complete in the knowledge that they are all doing well, and still using the tools that I put in their toolboxes. I pray that they pass those toolboxes on to my grandchildren.
“I have no greater joy than to know that my children walk in truth.”
THE LOVE OF A FATHER