I was one of those kids who didn’t have a dad when I was growing up. I have very faint recollections of a tall man wearing a large overcoat with deep pockets that occasionally held candy. But, unfortunately, alcohol became far more important to my father than his eight children and he left us when I was about ten years old. So I’m not an expert on dads. My “dad” experiences came from television – My Three Sons, Father Knows Best, The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Brady Bunch. I had a sitcom view of fatherhood.
Luckily, I had a mother who took the time to teach us about our Heavenly Father. So, in times of sorrow or fear or frustration, I still had a Father I could turn to. But, there was no personal example here on earth.
Then I got married and a year and a half later we had our first child. A daughter.
The first view I had of fatherhood was my husband nervously holding our tiny newborn with tears of love shining in his eyes. I’m sure he was as frightened as I was about becoming a parent. But as he readjusted her in his arms so she was more secure, I realized that movement of protection and love would be repeated throughout her life and the lives of her siblings.
I got to learn about fatherhood when he sacrificed his needs for those of his children. I saw his pride in their accomplishments and his joy in their triumphs. I saw their efforts to make him proud, to want to be with him, be like him. Campouts were dad territory – dad could cook amazing meals with just a Dutch oven, some coals and a pancake turner. The vegetable garden was dad territory and weeding was accomplished amidst many groans and complaints, but everyone looked forward to the first tomatoes of the season. Lawn mowing was dad territory, although he tried to pass that skill on to his daughters and sons.
Our children are now grown. And I get to watch sons turn into fathers. I see patience and love. I see hard work and sacrifice. I see silliness and laughter. I see partnerships with their wives. And, my greatest joy, is when I see them kneeling with their children as they pray together.
And now, Dad has turned into “Poppa.” He is beloved by his grandchildren. When Poppa comes to visit or when we visit Poppa, we know it’s going to be a good time. Poppa takes us on hikes and picks mulberries from the trees and lets us taste them. Poppa makes homemade ice cream and lets us have it for breakfast, because, after all, it’s dairy. Poppa tells stories and then laughs with a deep, rolling laugh that sounds a little like Santa Claus. Poppa helps us make s’mores over campfires and pulls burning hot dogs from the coals.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not an expert on this whole dad thing. But I think what I’ve learned so far is that God must have made Dads to be His warriors here on earth to watch over and protect His most precious treasures – His children. Being a dad is a sacred calling. And those who understand that will never regret making it the most important job they ever had.