Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Dad's Birthday

December 7th, in Franklin Roosevelt's immortal words, is indeed a day which will live in infamy. But for me and my family, it will always be a wonderful day because 92 years ago, my Dad was born. Although he's been gone for over two years now, I still think about him nearly every day. Something will happen at work, I'll hear something on the news, I'll read something about some fresh new idiot doing something moronic at a church somewhere and I will think of him and imagine what he would say. I will remember his wisdom and try to channel it. I wonder what he would think of what has become of us since he went home? What would he think of Trump?

My father was a conservative sort but he was no ideologue. He carried with him a sincere affection for FDR and a life long tender hearted love for the poor and disadvantaged. But he also had no patience for people or governments who didn't live within their means. That's it. That's all I really know about my Dad's politics. Isn't that amazing? The man lived 89 years and for much of that time had an actual pulpit rather than a bully one, and I still know so little about his views on politics. The reason for this was simply the fact that Dad considered himself a minister of the gospel first and as such a citizen of the Kingdom of God, not any Kingdom of Man. Although he was very proud to be an American, it never preempted his loyalties to the cross of Christ. May we all go out and do likewise.

The last birthday we celebrated with Dad was nothing special. We brought dinner over to the house and gave him some gifts. Luckily I thought to write what follows. It was a nice memory, the sort that warms the heart and takes away some of the longing and loss that I feel on his birthday. But I have nothing to complain about where Dad is concerned. We had him for 89 years, almost nine decades of setting the personal integrity bar a mile high for his descendants.

Tonight we will celebrate my Dad’s 89th birthday. His actual birthday is Saturday, but since we will be having dinner with him, we will have gifts tonight. Dad was born in 1924 into a world that none of us can imagine. In rural Buckingham Country, Virginia, electricity was a luxury item. The leading cause of death in 1924 was the flu, followed closely by diarrhea. The most valuable fuel was kerosene and it would be over 60 years until he lived in a house with central air conditioning.

My Dad’s father was a share cropper. No one from his family had ever attended college. By the time my father was 45 years old, he had served his country in the South Pacific during World War II, fathered four children, graduated from college, and then obtained a Master’s Degree in Theology from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, all while working graveyard shifts as a Teamster, loading trucks in 100% humidity five nights a week.

He was married to my mother for 65 years, until her death in June of last year. His health has been failing him for some time now. It has been our privilege to care for him over the past 18 months. He has made it so much easier with his easy smile, gratefulness and incredible attitude. I look at him now and can hardly imagine what it must have been like to live such a life, to start out in such humble circumstances and end up with such a long list of achievements, not the least of which was becoming the patriarch of such a large and loud tribe. But, he has managed it all without the accompanying ego that usually inhabits high achievers. He remains eternally humble and thankful for every blessing that has come his way.

Happy birthday Dad!