On June 21, we will recognize Father’s Day. For many, whose relationships with their fathers are strained or marked by abuse, or whose fathers are absent from their lives, this will perhaps be a difficult day. For others, who enjoy healthier relationships with our fathers, we will honor them. And, depending on our circumstances, will spend part of the day with them, sharing good times and making memories.
My family is a close one that loves each other well. God willing, my parents will mark their 60th anniversary this Summer. Hopefully following in their footsteps, my brothers and I (and our wives) will mark our 37th, 32nd, and 14th anniversaries this year.
Not only have my parents set an example for us with their marriage, but they have also set an example as parents. They have always loved and supported my brothers and me, and have always been there for us, no matter what.
Growing up, I saw my dad primarily as a provider and disciplinarian. He did both well. His gifts as a provider allowed my mom to remain a stay-at-home mom throughout my childhood. His abilities as a disciplinarian kept me on the straight and narrow for the most part.
As a child, I never doubted that my dad loved us. He enjoyed spending time with us and making us laugh, he gave us opportunities and experiences he didn’t have as a child, and he was our greatest advocate whenever we needed it.
What I Needed to Hear
My freshman year in college was one of the hardest years of my life. I was in North Carolina, about four hours from my Virginia home, and didn’t have a car on campus, so I was very restricted and not easily able to leave.
I was also a new Christian, having placed my trust in Jesus as a high school senior the previous December. My faith was tested early and often that first semester. As I recall, I was the only believer among the 12 guys in my dorm suite during my freshman year. One of my roommates was a hard-drinking womanizer. My other roommate dealt drugs and had a steady stream of customers dropping by at all hours, sometimes staying to partake of his products in our room. My long-distance high school girlfriend broke up with me over the phone early in the semester. As if all that weren’t enough, my first best college friend was killed in a rock-climbing accident the third weekend of the semester.
I was miserable. I called my dad not long after getting there, crying, wanting to come home. He told me something that, as a dad, was probably very hard for him to say. He told me to stay on campus for four weeks. Don’t leave. Stay. It was hard, but it was exactly what I needed. Instead of quitting, I was able to stay long enough for things to begin to turn around.
Relationship with My Dad Changed
Not long after that, my dad did something that changed our relationship forever. His job required him to travel a fair amount, mostly to South Carolina, as I recall. Now, however, he started taking business trips to North Carolina more frequently. When doing so, he made a point of coming to see me, taking me out for a meal, hanging out with me, sometimes spending the night in a local hotel.
I don’t know what impact it had on his work, but it had a huge impact on me and our relationship. His trips helped me make it through an absolutely hellish first year of college. And it made him my friend. Yes, I still saw him as my authority and respected him as such, and yes, he was still providing for me, but he also became my friend. We talked about lots of things, shared wonderful meals that I still remember, laughed together, and enjoyed each other’s company. Again, it was what I needed.
Journey as Foster and Adoptive Parents
In the years since then, my dad and I have remained good friends. Rarely a day goes by that we don’t talk. We talk sports, politics (thankfully, we are aligned there!), family, church, travel, food, etc. He and Mom have continued to be there for us, and our wives and children, and they have continued to love each other, and us, well.
Dad and Mom have also been very supportive of us in our journey as foster and adoptive parents. My dad was left fatherless at age 8 when his father was killed in a car accident. So, he knows what the trauma of losing a parent feels like. His mother remarried several years later, and though he was never formally adopted by his stepfather, he learned what it was like for a new dad to step into his life and love and care for him. Two of his step siblings became adoptive parents, so formal adoption has been a part of his life for many years, too. He and Mom have embraced and loved our children from the start, just as they love my brother’s biological children.
Since Dad retired over two decades ago, he hasn’t slowed down. He and Mom frequently travel, most often to see their sons or to explore other countries. They’ve done a lot of volunteer work over the years with various ministries, including Operation Christmas Child, with whom my dad has served for many years. In his volunteer work, he continues to be an example that one’s impact in life doesn’t end at retirement, nor does one’s life need to be inwardly focused.
I am so blessed by both my parents. I am thankful to God that I am able to celebrate both a loving dad and a great friend this Father’s Day.
So Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you and thank God for who you are and for what you mean to me.