When I was growing up, I loved Monday nights. Those were our nights alone with Dad.
Mom taught a Bible study to 300 working women, and Dad made sure he was home, since my brother and I were too young to be left alone. At first, Mom made food for us, something easy like Pour-A-Quiche. But Dad—thank goodness—rebelled. Mondays became our nights for Mr. Gatti’s pizza and TV.
If you think family TV viewing is the road to perdition—well, it wasn’t for us. We discussed plots and characters, especially on Cagney & Lacey. My dad made sure we knew about The Bob Newhart Show, so we’d get the twist at the end of the Newhart series. During Kate & Allie, we just laughed.
I learned a lot by watching Dad. I learned he valued my mom’s work when he bought her a leather briefcase for her sermon notes, even though teaching the Bible study wasn’t a paid gig. I learned he valued my brother and me, because Dad actually did not like pepperoni. And I learned that he valued watching TV together, because it created a way to connect.
Dad valued fatherhood as much as work, although work didn’t give much leeway for fatherhood back then. He changed jobs more than once to allow him to travel less. He made our annual vacation to South Padre Island a priority. When I was mean to him as a teenager, he still showed up at every performance, every school banquet, even every counseling session.
I didn’t appreciate his actual jobs until I became a working adult. Want to have some fun? Discuss politics with my dad, a man who spent much of his career in that realm. He’s friends with people from both parties, and he knows how things work. I am a political junkie because of him.
Over the last 20-plus years, my husband has grown more and more fond of my dad, a man who continues to care for his mother-in-law even after my mom passed away. As we’ve faced challenges with our kids, my husband goes to my dad for advice.
I don’t know where Dad learned to be such a good father. He grew up on a farm, where survival was more important than making sure everyone’s emotional needs were met. He picked cotton. He wore clothes made from feed sacks. He still hates peanut butter because it was a government handout. The man who grew up without his birthday celebrated even once, because there were too many kids and not enough money, always remembers mine. And those of my kids.
His faith developed over the years, tentatively at first. Being married to a super-Christian like my mom didn’t make things easy. But they found their way to each other and God. This Easter, when I asked my dad, “Hey, can we come to church with you?” he was so pleased. He wouldn’t be alone in the pew.
We have a Mr. Gatti’s in town, but pepperoni pizza isn’t my thing anymore. Even my kids seem a little pizza’d out. But I thought of my dad last month when our family watched the series finale of The Office. Our daughter was the one who made sure we understood every plot point and every obscure character reference. We watched those two hours of TV together. We just laughed.
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This Sunday in the United States, people will remember fathers and father-figures in their lives. At The High Calling, we recognize the hard work of parenting and join all those who wish to say—and hear—Happy Father's Day.
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