Father’s Day is a time to honor and show appreciation for fathers and men. My dad Richard passed away in October 2013 at the age of 87. He was a true outdoorsman, fix-anything, kid-loving man who was a wonderful father to 6 children and almost 40 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Why was he such a great dad? The traits I’m going to list about my dad can apply to all men who want (and should want) to be the best dad in the world:
1. My dad loved his children. We weren’t a touchy-feely family and I really never heard my dad tell me that he loved me when I was younger. But I knew he loved me by the way he treated me with respect and listened to me. And he gave of himself. He overhauled the transmission of our cranky Suburban twice without charge except for the parts he used.
2. My dad put his family first. As I mentioned, my dad was a true outdoorsman.He could have gone camping, fishing, skiing, snowmobiling, golfing, or any number of outdoor activities with his buddies. But no, he took his children along instead. Whenever my dad did anything in the outdoors, such as camping, fishing, hunting, skiing, snowmobiling, or golfing there was always a child or grandchild along with him. I loved him for including me in the outdoor activities. We lived by the Snake River in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and my dad often hooked up the boat on Wednesday nights and took me waterskiing. I drove the boat while he skiied. And you could tell he enjoyed having me along!
Jack Nicklaus, the famous and very successful professional golfer, has given all men a lesson about how to be a good father or dad. Early in his career, Jack Nicklaus decided he would never be gone from home more than 14 days at a time for golf tournaments. And there was only once that he didn’t keep that pledge. When he was home, he was home. He didn’t spend his free hours at home trying to pysche out another golfer. Instead he preferred playing tickle-bug with the kids or figuring out how to put together a new bike rather than practicing his putting game. Like my dad, Jack wasn’t always home, but he just made it a point to bring his home with him. The result of my dad’s efforts, as well as those of Jack Nicklaus, was a strong family.
3. My dad was patient. Don’t get me wrong. My dad could get mad as fast and as strong as the next guy. But he was patient with us kids. I don’t know how many times I called him up late at night and asked him to come get me because my vehicle had stalled. He always came willingly to help. One experience will stick out in my mind forever. After my first year of college, my sister and I took jobs at Jackson Hole, Wyoming as dishwashers at an old west restaurant. We were lucky to get an attic room with a family. Well, we ended up washing dishes by hand for 8 hours a day, and the work was grueling. We wanted out, but we didn’t have a car to get back home. I called my dad on a Sunday afternoon and asked him to come rescue us from the slave labor. He left immediately and drive 3 hours to come get us. Then we turned around and drove another 3 hours back home. My dad never said any disparaging words, or commanded us to “stick it out,” or anything like that. What a relief that he supported us in our decision to leave!
4. My dad was a teacher who taught by example and various truisms. My dad started his career as a mechanic after returning from World War II. In middle age, he decided to change careers and became a auto mechanics teacher at a local high school. He was naturally a master teacher, and the students in his class appreciated that. At his funeral, many of his former students posted how much they appreciated my dad teaching them to become good men, not just good mechanics. I can say the same about him. He taught me to golf, to ski, to water ski, and how to be a good parent myself. One time when I was weighed down with taking care of 4 children under the age of 7 and wished they were older, he said, “Enjoy your children at the stage in life they are now, because they will never be at that same stage again.” That was a truism that helped me change my attitude and enjoy being a parent of young children.
This wasn’t meant to be an exhaustive list of what makes a good dad. Just some personal observations about my own dad. A few years ago, I composed this little poem, “My Dad is Rad,” as a tribute to my dad Richard.
My dad is rad.
On a farm in Osgood
He lived as a lad.
Better than me at math,
He taught me how to add.
My dad can fix anything,
Which doesn’t make me sad.
Around back roads of the West
My dad loves to gad.
His favorite place is outdoors
Camping and sleeping on a pad.
With fishing vest or golf clubs
My dad often is clad.
Outspoken and opinionated,
Yes, he is a tad!
My dad is a loving parent,
Which makes me glad.
And as you can see,
There is no better dad to be had!
I’ll miss my dad this Father’s Day. I loved him and know that we can be together forever after this life has ended. I’m grateful that the gospel of Jesus Christ helps me to know that.