My Dad is a text-book Baby Boomer, and I’m not referring to his being one of eleven children and having five of his own. Authority has always been a significant part of the way he operates. He’s a classic “spare the rod spoil the child” advocate. If we were out of line, his hand served as the rod on our little cushy bums as the most efficient way to get us back on track. On occasions when a verdict of a spanking sentence from Dad was handed down, the worst part of the punishment was waiting until Dad would be available to enact it.
It seemed logical to my young mind that Dad enjoyed this because he seemed to do it regularly, though I imagine my distaste of it made it seem more frequent than it really was. Our summers were often spent at one camp or another where my parents would work and we’d be staff kids. I was about ten years old and Dad, as program director, was giving a talk during orientation to the staff of high school and college kids about how he would have to discipline them if they would break the rules. My Dad, the hard-nosed authoritarian, broke down in tears and had a hard time finishing. I had him all wrong. Punishing (at least at times) really did hurt him more than it hurt us!
Another Baby Boomer characteristic flowed through my father’s veins: he was a workaholic. His favorite job was as music director for a division of The Salvation Army. Most of our growing up was in upstate New York in the Empire State Division of The Salvation Army that is comprised of New York state minus the New York City area. More than any other divisional music director, Dad travelled to each of the churches to teach people how to play brass instruments at all levels. We lived in Syracuse, but would travel for hours with Dad to help him in towns several hours away. He would often go on his own and not be home until the wee hours of the morning, then leave again before we would wake up. Sometimes we wouldn’t see him for days.
One summer we were at music camp at Camp Saddle Lake near Lake George, NY. This was always Dad’s biggest project of the year and he worked harder than ever. I was eight years old and one of the campers. On Sunday morning we had chapel in the barn. I don’t remember why I did it, but when there was an offer to go forward and pray, I did. As I was praying to ask Jesus into my heart for the first time I felt a familiar hand on my shoulder. The same hand that had so often corrected the errors in my life (and would for more than a few times after this) was there to guide me in a new way. The same workaholic Dad who was always concerned with doing a great job had dropped everything at the most important time of the year to see me through this life changing decision. What made sense to me was that whatever I was doing, it was a huge thing in Dad’s eyes.
Dad’s a victim of early onset Alzheimer’s. Mom called a few days ago to tell me he’s in permanent care in Pittsburgh for Alzheimer’s patients. Some days he’s more lucid than other. Some days he remembers who his family members are. So imagine he doesn’t remember that day at music camp in 1979, though he’s surprised me before. Even if he doesn’t, I certainly will. So, Dad, mission accomplished.
Dads, keep trying. Keep praying for your kids and struggling through those things that just don’t make sense about those God has given you. Occasionally, by the grace of God, you’ll provide a reason why God chooses to call himself “Father”.
Happy Fathers Day.