My father is a tall,lean man with an easy, gentle walk.
He rubs his whiskers across my face and laughs.
When he talks, he talks…. and talks… and I listen in…
My father has taught me many things throughout the course of my life–how to run from a headless chicken, how to clean a fresh-caught lake fish, how to shoot a gun. I do none of these today. But I so appreciate the fact that he wanted his kids to be independent and well-rounded, to love God, and to be confident. Here are 5 precious nuggets I have pulled from my daddy files:
- I am equal to everyone, and I belong at the top. Let me explain…When I was a freshman in college, my father insisted I introduce myself to the president of the school. I was attending Biola University in La Mirada, CA, and my father was waiting eagerly back in Chattanooga for me to give a report. I hemmed, “Why daddy? He doesn’t care about meeting me! What will I say to him?” Daddy came back with, “You need to do it, Tabi. The president needs to know who you are.” Finally, I walked into Dr. Clyde Cook’s office and asked his reserved and well-coiffed receptionist if it would be possible to see him. She coolly opened his appointment book, found a space for me, and told me to come back on that day. I did. The president was tall, with white hair and blue blue eyes. He sat down with me and asked me about Tennesee and why I had chosen Biola. After our brief talk, he acknowledged me by name and a warm smile whenever he passed me on campus. I learned that I was worth being known by those at the top.
- I am likeable, despite my flaws. My sister was known to have a gift for finding anything lost in the house. If you were scampering around trying to find something, she would stop what she was doing and help you look. She’d normally find it for you in even seemingly hopeless situations. Me? I would ask casually what was wrong, then go back to whatever I was doing. My father commented on this once, saying I was a bit self-centered at times. This may seem harsh, but he really didn’t say it to insult me. There was no venom in his tone, only an observation. It was in many ways a soft correction. Later, I became known for my generosity, and he commented on this as well. He also liked to chat with me, find out what I was thinking about, what I was planning next for my life. He laughed at my antics and told funny stories to others about me. I had a very tangible sense that my daddy liked me, despite my imperfections. This realization has helped me when I’ve had to work through many embarrassing mistakes and foibles.
- Its okay to be unique. I have been called weird more times than I care to remember. I used to hate being called weird. Now I understand that “weird” is simply something different, or difficult to put in a category. Dull people call interesting people weird. Un-creative people sometimes feel that artists are weird. Fearful people think bold and adventurous people are weird. Being a little different, a little outside the box, is a gift. Only those who see a little differently are able to trail blaze, to create something completely new, and to lead others with courage. My father was always his own person, unapologetically. He was a preacher who refused to wear a tie. He would sit with his family when invited to sit in the “preacher section.” He balked when other parents accused him of being too lenient on us children because he allowed us to speak our minds. He decided to become a missionary half-way across the world as a young man while living in the segregated South, and there he worked in a jungle for almost 5 years. He felt comfortable in his own skin. I will always admire that.
- Laughter is where its at! My father loves to shock people with jokes, stories, and gregarious conversations. He loves to tease and be teased. He and my mother both have great senses of humor and laugh easily in hilarious and ironic situations. I have this same tendency. Despite bouts of sadness in my life, I normally don’t lose my ability to laugh.
- There is grace in strength and in weakness. The soul remains… My father has prided himself on being strong, lean, and healthy. When he lived in mountains and forests of Papua New Guinea, he used to hike for days. He could survive in the great outdoors and has had to live off the land. He can speak another language, is comfortable with poor people, billionaires, men, women, and children. He is now 75 years old. Glaucoma has stolen much of his sight, and his memory lags. He has aches and pains now, and has lost bits and pieces of his independence. Yet I look at him, and I know he is still my crazy, fearless daddy. I sense him, that same stubborn determination, outspoken candor, love for the things of God. It still remains, though hidden at times under the wear of many years, the strangeness of a body that often betrays, the reality of living in a rapidly changing world and knowing there is more behind than in front–he is still the same man. His soul remains. And despite my own changes, the ups and downs and unexpected seasons of life, sometimes I tune back in to the girl that I have always been–curious about people, God, the mystery of existence. Excited for a novel experience. Lover of words and stories. Desiring to be fully awake and to really see this amazing world. When I’m 75 or so, I trust those same parts of my soul will remain as well, just like they do in my daddy.