In the year after my dad died, as part of my grieving, I wrote this book. I’ve waited to make it public for many reasons. But now, more than 11 years later, I want to share it. My dad was a good man. I want you to know about him and his influence. I hope you enjoy.
No father is perfect. My dad made mistakes. He admitted these to me as I grew up. He would tell me when he did something wrong. When I was old enough to have man-to-man talks, he told me he was sorry for the mistakes he made, that he had done his best job. My dad knew his flaws and wanted me to know he knew them. The worst thing a father can do to his son is pretend that his parenting skills are flawless. You don’t have any idea what you are doing. When a child is old enough to handle that truth, you have to tell them. They know it anyway, they will be reassured that you agree with them.
No son is perfect either. I apologized to my dad more in my life than he ever did to me. This was mainly because in our relationship, I was the blithering moron, not him. I took him for granted, I verbally ridiculed him and my mom. I undermined his authority. I ignored his warnings. But this is all part of growing up. The worst thing a father can do to his son is expect him to be perfect. Fathers and sons are human and, by nature, are pretty screwed up. But with age, sons come to the awareness that their dad is probably more right than they ever thought before.
The Bible contains two verses that say contradictory things about wisdom. On the one hand, Scripture says that with wisdom comes joy. On the other hand, Scripture also says that with much wisdom comes much sorrow. They are both true. Wisdom is a mixed blessing. Solomon, the smartest guy in the world, was the one who knew so much he saw that everything was pointless. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. There is nothing new under the son. At the same time, Solomon understood more and thus enjoyed more things. Getting to know your dad is filled with sorrow and joy. I can see my dad’s wisdom, how he thought things through, why he did what he did and it makes sense. At the same time, knowing what I know of him, I feel bad for him. I feel bad for all he had to put up with. My knowledge of my dad helps me love him and also gave me more reasons to despise him.
My dad was a talented wood carver. He used to carve all the time and take his stuff to shows and sell things. He was quite good. He made an osprey one time with wings extended, talons flared as if he were about to snatch up prey. It was beautiful. He had used a fine woodburner to bring out each feather in each wing. I broke it one day while dusting the living room. I felt horrible. It was a beautiful piece of work, my favorite thing he made, and I broke it! I loved the stuff my dad made. I enjoyed seeing my dad carve and knew he enjoyed it too. But then he stopped. For years I asked him why he didn’t carve more. He’d flip off some excuse like he didn’t have time or he wasn’t that good anyway.
Just a few years ago he let something slip, what must have been his real reason. He didn’t carve anymore because he didn’t want someone from church stopping over and seeing him all covered with sawdust. They would think he just played around all day and pastors shouldn’t do that. Oh man, I was sorely disappointed in my father. This was part of my dad’s awareness of other people. This awareness of others allowed him to be one of the most caring guys I’ve ever been around, but it also led him to be a wimp when it came to him. Who cares dad? You’re great at carving, you should do it. He wasn’t going to though; he couldn’t bring himself to that point.
My knowledge of my dad, knowing his talent, the dedication and hard work he put into things was great. Knowing why he stopped deflated me more than he would ever know. I don’t even know why that bugged me so much, but it did. Still does. Now that he’s gone, I wish I had more stuff that he made, but he never let himself make it. I think he was wrong. But I’m him enough to understand completely why he made that decision. But it also reveals the nakedness of my father and that hurts a son.
In all my years with my father I never felt that anyone appreciated him enough. I was always annoyed that he wouldn’t let people appreciate him. He was embarrassed by appreciation when it did come and would always downplay it. We went to a men’s rally at the Metrodome in Minneapolis once. At the end of the rally they had all the pastors come down to the floor of the Metrodome and 30,000 guys gave all the pastors a standing ovation. It was loud and kind of cool. After it was done and my dad got back to his seat I said, “What did you think of that?”
“It’s all right. Whatever. It makes them all feel better.” That was that. Again, I understand because I’m part him. I always hate fake appreciation times like Christmas, Valentines, Father’s Day. That only proves that people obey holidays, it doesn’t prove loyalty, love or appreciation. I hear what he’s saying, at the same time, he was so down so often. People would thank him for his sermon and tell him it was good. On the way home my mom would always ask him if anyone said anything to him. “Nope.” Again, I totally understand, but still. My dad earned his doctorate, but no one would know it because he never told anyone. Most people probably figured it out at his funeral when my mother finally put it in writing, “Dr. Kenneth Weddle.” I’d never seen that in print anywhere.
My dad was always about other people. Very cool and very annoying at the same time. One year we were out in Montana at a camp my parents spoke at. We always turned it into a long driving vacation and we’d take a different route home each year. I loved our family vacations because it was one of the few times when my dad was consistently happy! Being away from the drain of people liberated him. It was great. One year my dad flew back to Wisconsin for someone who was having surgery. He missed out on several days at this beautiful camp in the Rocky Mountains for this person. Not too long afterwards those people left his church because “he didn’t do enough for them.”
It was stuff like that, stuff I saw that most other people didn’t. How much he did for people, how little people cared and how much it hurt him. The worst part was that I had to give up my dad for these people who didn’t appreciate the fact that they were taking him away from me. I don’t think a son would ever be satisfied with the amount of time their dad spent with them. I always wanted him to throw the ball one more time. Shoot hoops for 15 more minutes. Go to one more ball game. Take me out to eat once more. It’s never enough. A son’s appetite for his father is never filled. Sons can deny they feel that way, but it’s true nonetheless. I could never get enough of my dad.