|Y FATHER HAS been gone for over ten years. It seems like yesterday ... I miss him still.|
He was a father from the "old school," an outdoorsman who took me out one freezing morning on a duck hunting trip. At 12 years of age, I felt honored that he trusted me enough to know I would be quiet and still along the river bank.
As Father's Day nears, memories build of little things with big consequences. Daddy loved order and strategy. An electrical engineer, he had a system for ordering 1,000 pieces by their bumps and slots, an assembly-line method for putting puzzles together. Today, my color-coded filing system owes everything to Dad.
Perfectionists to a fault, both of us, we had our fair share of rows. Particularly vivid is one battle where we locked in an argument over how to slice Mother's homemade bread without leaving any breadcrumbs on the wooden board. The battle turned into a war, complete with slamming doors and morning apologies. Funny, today ... fiercely serious, back then.
Poor Daddy. He often joked about being the only man in the house surrounded by women. When my mother took a college class on semantics and discovered an additional set of connotations and denotations for every word in the English language, she tripled the words at her disposal for overwhelming him in conversation. It was the ultimate Mars/Venus communication gap before John Gray was around to explain it.
Remembering Dad, I wish every kid had a father close at hand to create good memories.
Today, statisticians are explaining why we need fathers. The value of dads is computed in statistics of crime, risky adolescent behaviors, and economic well-being. Researchers are trying to appeal to our logic, arguing that families benefit from fathers ... dads.
Why? What do numbers have to do with explaining the longing of the human spirit? The value of my dad is more personal than that, impossible to quantify as a statistic.
If I have had any success in being a parent, I can look to my dad and the sacrifices he made to be a husband and father. When family life is tough, I hang in there because my Dad gave me a vision of tenacity and hope. When I look for strength inside, I find it because my father put it there through his affirmation of me as his daughter ... worthy, capable, and loved.
- Today psychologists and educators create classroom lessons teaching children how to be nice to each other. They are working to teach the very things my father taught me in the everyday details of living together as family for over 20 years.
- Therapists help women develop self-confidence in their abilities to problem-solve and be self-reliant. I learned this from a father who let me watch and help him fix my sewing machine.
- Spiritual leaders preach forgiveness. I learned this from a father who knocked quietly on my bedroom door and entered to tell me he was sorry. He wanted to show me his technique for slicing bread without crumbs ... but it wasn't worth fighting. And we forgave each other.
- Special funding for special programs is directed to the promotion of careers in science for women. My father showed me how to shape a wooden peg on the lathe, he taught me his system for tracking the prices of stocks and bonds, and he let me show him what I learned in an auto mechanics class ... how to change the rotor and adjust the timing on my VW bug.
- Self-help gurus write books and appear on Dr. Phil, preaching the techniques for building healthy marriages. I saw this in the daily highs and lows of married life between my parents where words spoken in anger were covered over with apologies, forgiveness, and tenderness.
Dad's encouragement ... his example ... his love can never be replicated by social programs and tax dollars. No number of psychologists, teachers, or federally funded initiatives would ever have filled the shoes of the man who loved my mother and spent a lifetime building a picture of that love in the daily details of life.
I need no research to prove the value of fathers for raising daughters and sons. The proof is written on my heart. It is honored in passing on the gift of marriage to our own children.
He's been gone all these many years. But he's never left me. My Dad.
Happy Father's Day!
A former elementary school teacher, Jane Jimenez (firstname.lastname@example.org) is now a freelance writer dedicated to issues of importance to women and the family. She writes a regular column titled "From the Home Front." Her work has appeared in both Christian and secular publications. Jane and her husband Victor live in Phoenix and have two children.
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