Back in Michigan I walked to the bus stop with the neighbor girl for kindergarten. She was older than I was and told my parents she would take me. One day she was late. I was sitting in the living room by the window waiting for her to come. She didn’t. My dad walked into the room and asked me what I was doing there. Waiting for the neighbor girl, dad. I must have said it weird or he heard me wrong, but I got in trouble! I had no idea why, still don’t to this day. But I got a spanking. Wow, where is this coming from?
After school my dad came out and talked to me and explained that he was wrong for spanking me, he thought I said something else. He apologized to me! Wow, that’s OK dad, don’t worry about it. Ha, I got to forgive my dad for once! Then he took me to the store and bought me a new truck! Oh yeah! Spank me every day dad!
This is yet another memory I asked my dad about that he did not remember. It’s weird how different things make impressions on people. How could I forget that moment? First there was the confusion of getting in trouble for nothing. I’m sure I deserved a spanking for something he never found out about, but this was out of nowhere! Then the awkwardness of having my dad apologize, it blew my mind. But that’s how my dad was. He was honest. It sounds corny but he was a man of character. When he made a mistake he admitted it. When he had a success he gave someone else the credit.
When my aunt and uncle would visit we would often play “smart” games with them. One time we were playing the new board game, Trivial Pursuit. Me and Trivial Pursuit were not the perfect match when I was young. I got bored quickly and my involvement quickly devolved into flinging the little pie pieces around. I was attempting to fling them into my dad’s cup when one actually went in it!
My dad, increasingly growing annoyed at having to play a game and then having me flinging pie pieces at him, took his cup and flipped it in order to flip the pie piece back out, forgetting that his cup still had ice tea in it! All over my face and shirt. Oh well, I deserved it. He even apologized for that! (Then there was the time my uncle was trying to see if he could get the pie piece to stick to his forehead. He managed to do it once but when it came off he had a little triangle bruise on his forehead that stayed there for some time. I do have quite the family.)
Raising a son who was legally blind was not the easiest thing in the world to do. Although my mom lived with her legally blind father, her father took care of her, now she and my dad had to care for me. How much could I handle? Was I quitting stuff or could I legitimately not see it well enough? Despite not knowing what they were doing, they did a fine job. They always pushed me and encouraged me to do new stuff.
When my Christian school only offered soccer as a sport in the fall, they told me to do it and I did and loved it. They got me playing the trumpet in fifth grade and made me keep playing it. Most kids drop out quickly, they made me do it and told me if I didn’t practice five days a week I would pay for my own lessons. Say no more. They made me play my trumpet in church and helped me adjust to bad lighting and small notes. They did what they could to help me and get me out there. I needed that and I appreciate my parent’s willingness to get me going. I was a shy kid, afraid people would make fun of my eyes like so many had before. I would have been fine sitting in my room all day. I needed encouragement to get out there and they provided it.
When I was in sixth grade I played on our church’s men’s softball team. We were playing the best team in the league and our church was getting shutout, we weren’t very good. I was up to bat and I took a major swing and connected beautifully with the ball. To this day I don’t think I have ever hit a ball that far again! I got a home run.
When I crossed home plate I was stunned. I came through the gate to the bench, and there was my dad to give me a hug. What dreams are made of. The next time up to bat, all the fielders said “Move back, this kid hit a home run last time.” I hit a weak grounder past the second baseman, I ended up with a double since they had all moved back so far. What a game and my dad was there, the guy who taught me how to do it.
It’s hard to differentiate between the things I figure out myself in life and the things my dad taught me. I suppose there’s no real way to make the distinction. My general approach to life is very similar to his so everything I observe is through the lens that he gave me. It’s impossible for me to learn anything without some sort of influence from my dad.
No matter what I learned or what I did with what I learned, I knew that no single event or accomplishment signaled my worth. My dad loved me because I was his boy, whether I hit a home run or struck out. My manhood was not dependent on an event, it was a process. It’s a process I’m still working through.