A man who sits near us in church has three children; two boys and a girl, all under the age of eight, with the little girl the youngest. He is a single parent. The boys are always sharply groomed, their clothes pressed, belts and ties in place. The little girl has glossy brown, shoulder length hair. Every Sunday, her hair is either French braided, elaborately done with a bow, or pulled back into a sleek ponytail, all far beyond the capabilities of a four year old.
Her dad told me once that after the mother had left their lives, he resolved he would do all he could to lessen the sting of her loss for them. That included getting instruction on doing little girls' hair from his sister and practicing long hours. That he can coax the nimbleness from his stiff welder's fingers to craft her hairdos and the starched perfection of their clothes is a daily declaration of his love.
And I believe even when her shiny brunette hair has gone softly white, that little girl is going to think of her dad and know she's been gifted with the richest inheritance a parent can leave.
Another man we've known for years has always worked hard, sometimes two and three jobs simultaneously, to provide the best living he can, allowing his wife to stay home and care for their children. When it came time for his eldest daughter's wedding and he was working several hours away on a job he needed to pay for the grand wedding he insisted she have, his employer told him he could get paid only if he worked the entire job to full completion. He agreed because he wanted his girl to have the very best, even though she assured him all she wanted was for him to be there, walk her down the aisle, and dance that father/ daughter waltz with her.
This included even working the day of his little girl's wedding. As circumstances would have it, delays that final day pushed his time of departure dangerously back. "Baby, I'm coming! I'm almost there," he assured in a phone call to her as she put on her white gown at the church. Guests gathered and the church filled. Others despaired he would arrive in time, but the bride had an unshakeable faith that her dad would make it.
"Honey, I'll be there! Traffic is backed up, but your Daddy's on his way! Get into place- you can always count on Daddy!" he declared to her in another phone call just five minutes before the scheduled start. She never waivered in her belief he would be there.
At precisely the moment the wedding was to begin, he flew in the doors of the foyer, changed quickly into his tux and walked his baby down the aisle. His tears ran freely with each slow, measured step they took to the altar, and the look on his face as he presented his girl at the altar to her adoring groom ensured there were not many dry eyes in the church.
It wasn't until later, when he took her into his arms for the father daughter dance, that it was evident he hadn't even had a moment to wash his grime covered hands, so intent was he on making it in time. But he was true in his promise to her. His oil smudged hands proved that yes, you can count on Daddy, no matter what.
I once had a twelve year old student who loved to fish with his dad and little brother. They often walked to their favorite fishing spot, fishing poles over their shoulders, because it gave them time to talk together. Railroad tracks ran near their house and they took the shortcut along those tracks, even though it included walking over a railroad bridge than ran across the creek. "Don't worry son, I'll take care of you," the dad said one time when his older son expressed fear that a train would come while they were on the bridge.
As the situation would have it, one day the winds picked up considerably while they were on the way home, on the bridge. Those winds roared loudly in their ears.
The train was almost upon them before they realized it. The last thing the older boy heard his dad say as he pushed both boys off the bridge and into the water below was, "I've got you! Take care of your brother!"
Even now, 20 years later, the echo of his father's final words still resonate in that now grown boy. Not only does he honor his dad's words by still looking out for his brother, their mom, and his own young sons, but he now also takes care of countless other little brothers and sisters as the director of a Boy's and Girl's Club. If a young person hits a rough patch, he reminds them of the family they have there at the center and tells them the story of his dad. He repeats his father's words to them, "I've got you. Take care of your brothers and your sisters," knowing from personal experience that the greatest, most rewarding love is the kind that lays everything down to serve others.
Amazing daddies are priceless. I see such wonderful examples of fatherhood in my own dad and my husband, and of course in our Heavenly Father whose extravagant love is boundless. Despite all the examples of rotten dads we read about so often, there are so many more good guys out there than bad. To all you dads and grandfathers, happy Father's Day!