Father’s Day is always a great day for the boys to show their appreciation with funny cards about rude noisemaking. I never stress too much over gifts for this day, or many others. Sure there are things I want, but I also have access to everyone’s bank account and am well aware of the “you can’t afford that” aspect.
It’s not about the gifts or the cards. If you really want to give me what I want for Father’s Day, mow the yard without my asking.
But, I digress.
The reason I don’t like writing about Father’s Day is simple. He’s not here.
And he hasn’t been for 34 years.
When I was a kid, I wasn’t that close to my dad. There are multiple reasons that don’t belong in this post. When I was in high school my dad wanted to be closer. But, well, I was in high school and I was an idiot.
We started “getting” each other when I was in college. The summer between my sophomore and junior year I traveled with a ministry team from Asbury University (Asbury College at the time). That summer of 1978 we toured nine states in the Eastern U.S. He had always had a dream of traveling with a gospel quartet. In part, I was living his dream.
Mid-point of our tour we had a stay in Fort Valley, Georgia. My parents, along with my cousin and his family drove up from Florida (my parents were visiting from Virginia). After that concert we had a few days of no travel, so I went back to Jacksonville with them.
When I needed to return to the tour, I took a bus from Jacksonville, Florida back to Fort Valley (or somewhere close by). Looking out the window of that bus was the last time I saw my dad alive.
Just a couple of weeks later we were in Flint, Michigan. We lead a youth rally at the church there that weekend and later sang at a camp meeting.
On Tuesday morning, August 1, we return to the homes where we had stayed in Flint and were getting ready to make our way to our next stop in Pennsylvania. That’s when I got the call.
The details don’t matter anymore. What mattered was that he was gone. He was 49.
On the flight to Virginia for the funeral I read something one of my friends from the group had given me.
Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.”
I read those words and they comforted me. The rest of the Psalm is equally wonderful, but I go back to that first verse when I need to remember where my strength is.
It’s been 34 years, and the sting should be less. And I suppose it is, except when I go out on a limb and try to write articles like this. Or in those times when I’ve got car trouble and he’d know the answer while I don’t have a clue. Or those other times when you just want to say “what about this?”
The fact is, I still miss him.
The Christmas break before we went on that summer tour, I spent working in New York for the Salvation Army. Just before I came home I called and talked to him. I asked him, “What do you want for Christmas?”
He said, “You to come home.”
Maybe that’s why I don’t need a tie.