June 18, 2011

Best Supporting Role

I finally got around to digging through family pictures today, looking for one or two of my dad to share. It wasn't as easy as I expected. He was absent from so many... probably often behind the camera while my mother and I hammed it up. In others, he was there, but in the background, simply observing as we carefully documented the birthday party, the grandchildren at play, the Christmas celebration.

That got me to thinking more about my dad. I have no doubt that he was a strong leader in our home, even when we were not the most faithful of followers. However, many of my best memories involve him in a supporting role.

My dad was a wiz at math. He could calculate things faster in his head than I could on my brand new Texas Instruments calculator. He apparently passed that ability on to my elder siblings, with none left for Carol and I. So when I moved into advanced math (for me, that was Algebra 2, Geometry, and something nefarious devised by ASU called Business Algebra), I was dogpaddling in deep water. Daddy walked in on one of my homework sessions and immediately deduced that I was frustrated, and even panicked, by my inability to get through it. (I think my tears were the giveaway). Recognizing that he could not help me wade through the mysteries of tangents and cotangents, he offered what he could. He first told me that he was so sorry that he couldn't help me, then he disappeared for a few minutes. He returned with three of my favorite things: Coca Cola, chocolate, and a hug. And I got through it.

Several years later, my mother had been helping me with wedding planning. We had visited a local rental shop to check out the candelabras and dripless candles, and I was disappointed to learn that the fancy, scrolled candelabras were almost double the price of the standard candelabras. I opted for the less expensive version and moved on. A day or two later, Daddy called me at work and asked me if I'd rather have the scrolled candelabras, because he'd go change the order if I did, no matter what the cost. That really touched me, and I'm sure I was tearful when I told him not to worry about it. Now that I'm a parent, I sometimes wish that I had accepted the gift he lovingly offered that day.

I watched my dad support our family over the years, both in his vocation  -- whether farmer, insurance salesman, real estate agent, or missionary -- and by his words and deeds. When I called home, he'd always ask how we were doing before passing the phone to my mother. When his schedule lightened and my mother was still working, I was amazed to watch my father develop his skills as a house spouse. He began cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and ironing. He even shopped at Walmart (which he referred to as "The Zoo"). And when my mother's health began to decline, he stepped in even more. When he remarried a Linda after Mama's death, she then became the recipient of his domestic gifts, for which she often expressed gratitude.

As I struggled through different circumstances as an adult, Daddy was always there to just encourage me in the Lord. He didn't offer any advice other than trusting in God's faithfulness unless I asked for it. As he grew older, he often expressed his readiness to go on home to heaven -- but he continued to invest in those on earth around him.

I don't know if he heard me tell him thanks for the life he lived that last time I talked with him. But I'm confident that he's living out the ultimate reward with his Father now.