Our nation and my father share the same birthday. This seems fitting as my dad devoted much of his life to serving our community both as councilman and mayor. I woke up thinking about him this morning. Dad would have been 101 this Independence Day.
When I was twenty-five my dad was preparing to celebrate his seventieth birthday. I had a great idea. Why not write my dad a birthday present? “70 Reasons I Love My Dad” I would call it. At once memories starting dancing in my mind like fireflies on a summer night. And so I began:
Dad, thanks for teaching me to turn a screwdriver, to swing a hammer. I remember you saying, “Not up near the neck, hold it at the base, let the hammer do the work.” Thanks for pushing me to play baseball when I was young -- those sure were fun years. Thanks for coaching, for caring, for checking on me. Thanks for being firm when others were soft. Thanks for taking time -- I can never remember you saying, “I’m too busy.”
Dad, remember the bunk beds we built, the picnic table too? They both are as good as new. Thanks Dad. Dad, thanks for coming to my little league games, Pee Wee football, baseball, basketball. There may not have been many parents at the cross-country meets Dad, but you were there. Thanks. I can remember working with you at the golf course. You gave me responsibility, let me work machines kids my age would never touch. You trusted me! Thanks Dad. Thanks for a home, good clothes, a bedroom, food to eat. Dad, remember when I got that old Mustang? I sanded, you sanded; I worked, you helped. We painted it together. We repainted it together . . .
This present was going to be great! Then life got busy. My pen grew lazy and the incomplete page lay on my desk. As Dad’s birthday approached I squandered my time. I ended up trading my present of words for a couple of plastic hose hangers for the house. What a cheap swap.
Shortly after my dad’s seventieth birthday, he died. The strong father, the one who was rarely sick, the one who never missed work was taken by acute leukemia. I never did give him my gift of thanks. I never got to see his eyes brighten or sense that sigh of parental relief that says, “It was worth it all.”
Against that backdrop, let me share another piece of my life. Once, after a busy day at work; a day that began with a meeting at 6:00 a.m. and concluded about 10:00 p.m.; I arrived home to find a thank-you note lying on my bathroom counter. It was from one of my boys:
Dad, I appreciate you because you are humble, you are a great example, you are pure, you are my friend as well as my dad. Dad, I appreciate you because you love me, you care for me, you support me, you give me good advice when I don’t always want to hear it but need to; you spend time with me. Dad, you’re the best. There’s so much more, but I just want to let you know that you are appreciated. I love you.
What I failed to give my dad, my son did for me. Reading his words brought tears of joy to my eyes, the tears I like to think my father would have shed had he read my thoughts.
Now I wonder . . . what does it do for my Heavenly Father when I offer him a token of my gratitude? What kind of joy does it bring? Does he smile? Is there a tear? Perhaps he sighs, “Yes, it was worth it all!” I am not sure how God responds, but this much I do know: It pleases him! Just read the words from the Psalms:
Don’t let “thanksgiving hibernation” rob the ones you love of the joy of hearing you say, "Thanks," especially the Father who deserves it the most.