Just a thought: Great results from a giving father

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Sunday is the one day a year that is set aside to recognize and honor our fathers. To all the fathers out there, Happy Father’s Day!

I had a very special father-in-law. He raised my best friend and I benefit daily because of what he poured into her. She is my wife of 35 years, Tanya. And, God willing, I would love to have 35 more years ahead with her. 

I have been writing Father’s Day columns for twenty years now. So, for a change of pace, I asked my wife if she wanted to write this year’s column about her father. Without hesitation she agreed. What follows is her Father’s Day message in honor of her father:

My father passed away five years ago, but his impact on my life continues on.

As the oldest of three children in my family, I was the first one to leave the nest. In August of 1975 I left to attend college at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. My goodbye to my father at the end of summer was very tough on him. It physically affected him in a way I didn’t understand. He lost hair in patches. I still remember vividly my mother telling me about it in my first months away from home.

It broke my heart that I was separated from him for the first time and couldn’t come home to see him any earlier than Thanksgiving.

A friend took a picture of my dad, my mom, and me when I returned home for the holiday. I saw the picture a few years ago and it is truly a treasure. The picture took me back to a spot in time I remember well. It is amazing the emotions that can flow from a single picture.

Looking at my father, he looks so young. He was in his early forties. His grin is very familiar. My dad is holding my hand with a strong and excited grip. My mother has that same youthful smile also.

I treasure the wisdom my father always shared with me. “You have as many true friends as you have fingers on one hand,” he’d tell me. I’d always argue with him, “No, daddy, I have a lot of friends,” and I’d name them on both hands. He’d remind me that as life went on, there would be only a handful that would remain lifelong friends. He was right.

He taught me how to drive. I am grateful to have learned how to drive a stick shift. I remember the whole family piled into the car and we drove down a country road with daddy telling me that the upcoming pole on the right was going to be a stop sign. I remember the whole family jerking forward and back as I learned how a clutch worked! It’s amazing they didn’t all get whiplash. He taught me enough about maintaining a car when I started to drive so that I could change my own tire if I needed to.

Dad expected me to do my best. He taught me the value of a strong work ethic, finishing what I started, and doing a job well.

Daddy carefully watched over me during my dating years, too. Any guy who wanted to date me had to face dad’s handshake. He’d apply a vise grip pressure to the young man’s hand while he’d question where we were going and when I’d be coming home. I’m grateful dad shared his opinions on the guys I dated, too. He told one of them that we would get married “over his dead body!” 

When Rick dropped to one knee and proposed to me on Valentine’s Day, I didn’t answer with a “yes.” Even at 26 years of age, I responded to his question with a question, “Have you spoken with my father?” And I was quite relieved when an eager Rick answered, “Yes, I had lunch with him yesterday and we have his blessings!” If Dad didn’t approve, I knew it wouldn’t work. 

My father grew up on a farm in Colorado. He learned life’s lessons through hard work. His father gave him this valuable advice in a letter in February of 1943: “Dear Jerry, Remember the times we have gone to the mountains, and the work we have done together. Always remember that when the going gets tough that there’s always a silver lining. And when you grow older you’ll still be my pal.” My grandfather died two months later. Dad made it through his teenage years without his own father to rely on. That had to be tough.

My father served our country in the Korean war. One of my favorite pictures of him is of him in his army uniform with a red neckerchief tucked into his olive green jacket. He’s standing proud and handsome. No wonder my mom fell in love with him! 

Dad was a man of integrity. He was old school. He believed in keeping his word. He expected others to do the same. He valued being able to look another person dead in the eye and firmly shake his hand. He worked in the banking business and treasured the many friendships he forged during his banking days. He was active in the community and his easy smile was something many people remember him for.

My hardest goodbye happened five years ago when he passed away. His memory is etched in my heart forever-and there is a daddy sized hole left in me. I’m grateful for the memories of a life well lived and loved.

I miss my Daddy, I miss his beautiful hands – his long fingers easily spanned an octave plus on the old piano that his mother gave me. I am so grateful my son has his beautiful hands...

The above words by my wife honor a man whose legacy has changed my life. I appreciate Tanya sharing about her father. My father-in-law lives on through my precious wife.

My challenge to you today is to tell your father how much you love him and how grateful you are for his investment in you. Do it while you still can. For some of you it is too late, but for others these words are badly needed to be shared. None of us were raised by perfect fathers, but most of us are a product of a giving father who sought to equip us with deep roots and wings to fly high.

Happy Father’s Day to each dad who has made this world a better place for those of us who follow behind you.

Just a thought...

Rick Kraft is a motivational speaker, a syndicated columnist, a published author, and an attorney. To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to rkraft@kraftlawfirm.org or write to P.O. Box 850, Roswell, New Mexico, 88202 - 0850.

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