At almost seventy years old, he still looks like the daddy of my youth. My heart still sees the strength in his arms as he wrestles the garden tiller, muscles bulging beneath his sun-darkened skin, even as my mind whispers, "He is older, frailer." My heart doesn't want to hear such talk.
I look at his strong hands, the age and work-gnarled joints, the missing fingertips where a machine planed off a slice of wood and the ends of two fingers. I see a hand always with a hammer in its grasp--building his livelihood even if not his dream, building his family. I see those hands steadying a child's foot, removing splinters and briers, holding it firm regardless of the twisting and turnings of a small body. I see those same strong hands in play, mercilessly tickling daughters who cry out for mercy between gasps of laughter. Those same hands held his infant son, raising him with the roughness of his own boyhood while wishing for more from this father-son bonding than he had experienced with his own.
I hear his smoke-roughened voice telling tales of his childhood dog, Leed, stories of his brake-less bicycle and swimming in the mill pond, memories of clearing a field and planting it with a horse and plow, remembering the hard scrabble life as the second youngest of fourteen born to the hard, wiry man and his wife. I hear the stories, not quite understanding the depth of the words, not able to read between the lines to find the then-boy in this now-man. I hear his laugh right alongside those of his grands, boys and girls fascinated with the papa he has become. Somehow, along the way, that generation has known this man deeper and better than the one who called him daddy.
"Don't ever laugh at anyone 'cause they are poor", he repeated over the years of my childhood, engraving on my very soul the truth of his raising. Not a year has passed that I do not revisit those same words with the untouched, unknowing children entrusted to me for twenty-some-odd Augusts. Each time I speak those words amid the chalk dust and math books, the tears in my voice and on my cheeks testify to the depth of my love for this man who has raised me with more than he knew at my age, for the child he was that I never knew, for the man he became in spite of the lack.
He worked, hard and long hours, tired written across his face and weighing down his shoulders when he came into the house. Gruff commands spurred us into action, vacating the sofa or the room so he could rest, but each night, his "I love you"s and hugs and kisses were the truths we held onto.
That will not change, though he is a changed man. He still labors to take care of now-grown children, worrying for what they and their children may lack (which is naught), believing we are still his to provide for. After a lifetime of living in and of the world, one heart attack and five stents opened his eyes and his heart. One glimpse of eternity and he said yes to the One Who has held him since before time began.
I have always believed that he could do anything--build a house, fix a car, right the world's wrongs. The little girl-daughter saw him as her hero, proud of him in every way, worshipped him with stars in her eyes. This woman-daughter knows more of his faults than she has ever wanted to know, loves him in spite of the failings, and yearns to know the true him, this man she is still proud to call Daddy.
Monday, June 6, 2011
knowing my end before I ever began,
You have molded me and made me more and more like You
with every trial and triumph,
My disappointments have made an indelible mark upon the character of who I am yet to be.
The successes have been Yours,
building in me not a self-confidence,
but a faith confidence
because each gain I made was directly from
You are faithful.
And I am reminded of this each time I remember those moments--
speaking before a group of women
for the very first time
and watching You move among them;
teaching children about
and seeing them look for You
on the other side of the chasm created by our sins;
writing down those moments when
You have moved in
to make me more like
My past failures and my past successes
whether I knew it or not.
You orchestrate every moment of my life,
calling me to be
pressing me on to meet
who I am destined
in spite of my wrestling,
embracing me in the same arms that stretched across the beam of the cross
Show me, Lord,
show me who I am in You.
Grow me to be the spitting image of my Father
...to create in me the desire to know You,
...to push me so I will be who You have created me to be,
...to teach me those things I need to know in order to have the character
to prepare me for my date with destiny.
Don't give up on me, my Creator.
Redeem this life, this person.
for Your Glory!