As a boy, rising early in the morning enabled me to spend private time with my dad. He was always on his way to work before my mom or brothers got up, so this was our time. He would make an egg and toast breakfast for me with yoke soft enough to dip my toast into it. Is there any other way to have eggs and toast? If he broke the yoke, he would take the disqualified egg.
I was an avid sports fan as a boy – a walking sports encyclopedia. If any kid had a dad less interested in sports than my dad, I didn’t know him. He preferred reading Scientific American or Sky and Telescope to playing catch. Still, he did play catch with me. And for my part, I learned how to tell the difference between DC-8s and Boeing 707s (passenger airplanes).
Despite his love for science, his “birds & bees” lecture to me was not very scientific. He simply inspired me to bring virginity to my future marriage. There was no double-standard on that score for girls or boys in his mind. Any moral standard he tried to pass to his sons were held even more firmly for himself.
Throughout my childhood, any notion that I was like my dad was lost on me. I loved him but being like him was not my dream. Decades later, I learned to take pride and joy in many similarities with him that I feared as a child. And it all happened against my conscious will.
In hindsight, I see how some similarities got passed to me. My dad read Bible stories to his sons on a regular basis. His enthusiasm for both the words and the pictures cultivated in me the two great passions of my life: faith and art! His love for church was contagious. I did not view him as a social animal but at church, his social skills blossomed. It was real. How could I not catch that love?
Dad and I have butted heads on some theological points over the years. Thirty years ago, we had a knock-down drag-out argument over the question of Christ-like headship in the family. I had the graduate degree in theology and he had the experience. I had risen above the archaic “patriarchal” notions that were going out of style and he still believed that stuff. Despite all my disrespectful presumptions and talking-points, he still loved me. It took me decades to figure out that he was right, not just about the “headship” principle but also about the “Christ-like” part of it.
After reflecting on the book of James, my dad once wrote;
We are to live every moment of our lives ready to go to the Lord the next minute. Keep prayed up, studied up, loved up, worked up and every other up we need to live the Christian life that will keep us ready to go.
My dad is a product of old-time gospel preaching and in many ways for which I am now grateful, I am a product of him. His convictions remain slightly more old school than mine but the way he holds and applies his convictions commands tremendous respect from me.
Dad is honest with himself. For as long as I remember, whenever he failed in any small way, he could admit his flaw to his sons or others. Not all dads can do this. He never allowed himself much distance from God’s refining hand. Better than most men, he never seemed to realize it. In time, I did.