As Father’s Day draws near, I’ve spent the last week or so compiling gift galleries for each of the hunting and fishing websites I help manage. The basic theme is of course consumer driven, targeting the kinds of products the outdoorsy father would enjoy. Even at a very basic level, we can all identify with the need to show our father gratitude for the time, energy and love he gave us.
I can certainly identify with that sentiment. Some of the best memories I have—the kind you keep with you all your life—are of spending time with my dad in the outdoors. He taught me how to fish, hunt and enjoy the wild of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. We’ve fished trout streams and hunted pheasant, deer, elk and prairie dogs—all together. From fly fishing Gold Medal streams to chasing down elk with my grandfather’s .30-06, my dad, my brother and I have covered some lofty ground together.
We’ve also been past some turbulent skies, through valleys dark and deep. There were long stretches—somewhere in the abyss of those teenage years—when most of the communicating we did was yelling or arguing. They weren’t his best years, and they certainly weren’t mine. I pulled some amazingly stupid stunts and said plenty of things I regret. There were wounds I never thought could heal.
But God was kind, and we’ve seen sunnier days. We’ve said we’re sorry, asked for forgiveness and mended dilapidated fences. I got married, had three kids and realized just how hard my dad worked to provide for us. It’s something you can’t understand until you’re a husband and father. But I think I get it now.
I understand more about the stress, heartache and burden of caring for your sons than I did before. It’s hard to explain; words seem to fail. I think only the act of parenting itself can make you fathom what it is to hold someone else’s life in your hand, to know their future is bound up in your provision and love. It’s an immense, indescribable thing to be a parent. I didn’t really understand until I held my own sons, fresh out of God’s workshop, with their little hearts beating in my arms.
No gift can say to the man what needs to be said: thank you. Thank you for making so many sacrifices I wasn’t grateful for and couldn’t understand, all to make my life better. Thank you for pushing me to work harder, endure trials and make it through school. I don’t think I’ve done you justice, but you gave all.
Thanks for playing catch with me in the yard until, after so many years, your rotator cuff was in worse shape than a major league pitcher’s. It started out with a giant red bat and a white whiffle ball, and it ended with you driving me across the state for tournaments. We’ll always have the memories, including the one when that chubby kid took a pitch in the face and never tried to get out of the way. I still can’t believe that happened.
Thanks for being there every night after work—even though you worked long, dogged hours in a coal mine—to wrestle with your boys. As a father I now understand the look and sigh you’d give when we begged you to play, and the Daddy’s heart that couldn’t say no. There have been a lot of days when stress from work leaves me numb and exhaustion makes me want to pass out on the couch. But when they ask, I play, and I do it because you did it for me.
Thanks for trekking with me through Boy Scouts and helping me get my Eagle. I think you deserved it as much as I did, because you were there for all of it. You were there for the -20 degree nights at Klondike, the fires (you always got up in the cold so we’d have something warm when we woke up) or the precious Mr. Heater you packed for the trip.
Thank you for loving me, even when I despised you. Thank you for always helping me, no matter how much I disrespected you. Thanks for always showing me a father’s love—the kind that never ends. Thanks for saying—not with words but with your life—it was my life for yours.
Thank you for working a job for over a decade that you didn’t love—because you loved us. You chose us over your career, and you always made sure we had clothes on our backs and food in our bellies. You were faithful to provide for us, even when we were not grateful. I hope someday I can be the kind of man you are.
I’m glad the tears I’m crying now are prodigal tears, not before but after returning home. You always welcomed me back, no matter what. You always killed the fattened calf for me, every time. You always met me down the road with a warm embrace. There’s a line in a Mumford & Sons song that gets it right: “It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart, but the welcome I receive with every start.” Your constant welcome changed my heart.
Not only do I hear our heavenly Father’s voice in these words, I also hear yours:
For the mountains shall depart
And the hills be removed,
But My kindness shall not depart from you,
Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,
Says the Lord, who has mercy on you (Isaiah 54:10)
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thank you.