Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Twenty Minutes with Dad

As Father's Day rolls around again, some familiar feelings and thoughts come to my mind. It's been twenty-four years since Dad died. He was just sixty years old, stricken with colon cancer. I was twenty-nine, a young pastor and a new father to our newborn baby boy, Sam. Losing your dad and becoming a dad simultaneously is a tough transition, a strange mingling of tears and laughter, grief and joy. Two days after Sam was born, I picked up Suzanne and the baby from the hospital and drove them to Kansas City to another hospital, so Dad could see and hold his new grandson. I have a picture of Dad in his pajamas holding Sam there on his hospital bed, but I don't look at that picture often. It's just too painful, even now.

A few weeks after Dad's passing along came Father's Day, my first as a real dad. I remember thinking, "Can I be the kind of dad to this little guy that Dad was to me? Can I give the same gift to my children that my father gave to me? Well, I can try."

Lots of water under the bridge since that Father's Day. Three kids from diapers to diplomas, learning to walk, learning to drive, learning to live. Thank God for Suzanne, an amazing woman and mother with a stubborn and persistent love that none of us could have made it without. It's been a wonderful journey, with highs and lows, mountains and valleys to be sure, but worth every step, every day, every year.

Well, I'm not twenty-nine anymore, teetering along somewhere on the upside of middle age. During the course of the years there have been a few times when I would have given anything to just have twenty minutes with Dad. Moments of crisis, bewildering times, crossroads of decision. "Lord, you've got him for all eternity, but I just need him for twenty minutes, just a little time to talk to him." But that prayer always went unanswered. My request was denied. All such conversations must wait until we are both on the same side of the curtain of death.

But what if the answer was yes? What if I could have twenty minutes with Dad? What would I want to say? What would I need to ask? What would we talk about? As I pondered these questions a few thoughts came to my mind. Here's my twenty minutes with Dad this Father's Day:

Time sure is funny, isn't it, Dad? Strange how those twenty-four years since you've been gone can seem like just a week or two and other days it seems like you've been gone forever. Must be nice to be on the other side, beyond time, no clocks or calendars, just one big now. Sounds good to me.

Dad, it seems so strange to me that you never grew old. You lived and died as a young man. Half of your children are already older than you lived to be. I remember hearing you talk about your retirement plans, lots of hopes and dreams, chapters of your life now left unwritten. A wonderful novel compressed into a short story.

I regret so much that our children know you only through me and Mom and the stories we tell. I wish they could have known you, Dad. You were such a good grandpa. And you would love our kids, Dad. Each one has a little bit of you and I'm grateful for that. You would be proud.

I miss watching football with you, Dad. I remember our last game, watching the Super Bowl in your hospital room, just the two of us and Joe Montana coming through for you. And I miss playing really bad golf with you. Every time someone shakes their head at my golf swing, I just say, "My dad taught me how to play."

I miss our sermon talks, discussing scripture, sharing stories, when I was just starting out. Just last week I was looking through your sermon file, Dad, checking out what you had preached on Galatians. I love reading your sermons, because as I read, I hear them in your voice. You're still preaching to me, Dad.

I have the sermon you wrote and preached for my ordination service, Dad. Remember what you said afterwards? I told you it was the best sermon you ever preached and you said it was probably the only one I ever really listened to. Got me there.

Thanks for letting me into your ministry, Dad, when I was first feeling God's call. Thanks for giving me a little window into your life and work, an invaluable gift for a young preacher. I guess God knew you were going home early, so He let you give me a little boost, a head start, the short course on what it means to a be a pastor. Sure, seminary helped a little, but you were my mentor, my model.

You told me it would be hard sometimes, not always a church picnic, and you weren't kidding. You taught me that ministry means sometimes doing things you would much rather not do. And I remember when you warned me that in the dark, troubled days of ministry, the only thing that will keep you going is the unshakable awareness of God's calling on your life. And, you were right on all counts, Dad. Thanks for bracing me for the hard times even years in advance.
 
I still meet folks from time to time, Dad, who knew you, worked with you, people who were blessed by your life and ministry. I love that. I love it when even those who may be strangers to me seem to know what a gifted and godly man you were. It's amazing to me to see how your influence and ministry continues to bear fruit so many years later. 

You sure would be proud of Mom. That incredible woman you married has managed to keep your family together and growing and loving each other just like you knew she would. It broke her heart to lose you, Dad, but after a few years we began to realize that maybe, just maybe, she was the strong one. She's the glue that holds it all together, just like you said. 

And, Dad, don't you worry about Mom. Whatever she needs now or whenever, we're all lined up like Christmas morning at the top of the stairs. We'll be there for her, Dad, every step of the way, until you can take care of her again.

On this Father's Day I know I am among the blessed few who can remember and honor and give thanks and say from the heart, "The finest man I have ever known was my father." Thanks, Dad. I love you. See you later. -Drew  

1 comment:

Don Wideman said...

Great post, Drew! Touching and thoughtful. You have some good memories of your Dad, isn't that wonderful? What a privilege! My dad died 50 years ago and I think of him every day and would like to talk with him, so many unasked questions (one of my regrets)! I was privileged to be a fried of Melvin. He left a wonderful legacy to you and your siblings. Our baby daughter was born two weeks before my dad died. God lets us know that he has not given up on us and He brings joy with the sorrow. Don Widemn