A Good Man...
A Wise Man...
A Strong Man...
I stood there in front of my wife and son, and those words stood out from the simple Father's Day card - and for one brief moment, I was paralyzed by a tear. It took a second for me to realize that my son had never really seen me cry much before, and my wife could see the tear glisten in the corner of my eye. But those words were from a sweet, thoughtful card single-handedly chosen by my son. I couldn't help but think of when I always told myself what I wanted to be if I ever had a son, and those three descriptors are the very words I used in my head.
Now if you have never met my son, and actually get him to say a few words, you'd eventually come to the conclusion that he is one smart cookie. You'd also come to realize that he is his own man, and doesn't really care much about what other people think about him. He is happy in his own skin, and when he tells you something about the way he feels, you can pretty much take him at his word. Oh, and another thing - he has always been able to pick out the perfect card for any holiday occasion. So when I saw the same three words I used to picture in a future description of me as a father, after having my own father to look up to all those years growing up, emotions kind of got away from me. I composed myself, and wrapped my son in a hug and thanked him for the card. But my eyes went back to the small gold plate stuck to the top of the front of the card.
Good. Wise. Strong.
My dad was always the most ethical man I knew. He taught me to tell the truth. He taught me that it was wrong to fight. He taught me to treat other people how I wanted to be treated. He taught me to not be a braggart (and I am not bragging about this in this post; just sharing an emotional moment that made a lasting impression). He taught me to love Jesus. He taught me to share things with my brothers (ok, that one was tough). He taught me what it was like to be the leader of the family. He was always what I thought to be just a good man.
My dad always fixed problems. My dad gave me a lot of advice that I could always look back on after my mistakes and wish I had listened. My dad was a man who other people would come to with problems, from other men in the neighborhood to men in the church, and they would ask my dad what he would do in this situation or that. My mom counted on my dad for the big decisions in the family when I was growing up, and my dad always seemed to take careful measure about every financial decision I remember him undertaking. He was always what I thought to be a wise man.
My dad could lift me up over his head when I was a kid, and I thought he was Superman. I watched him working in the yard sometimes when I was little, and I remember wondering how he could pick up those big bags of mulch, or carry all those bricks he used to layout on our patio. As I got older, I discovered how to gain strength slowly but surely by lifting weights that my dad bought for me right after my twelfth birthday. And I tried almost on a monthly basis to see if I could take my dad in arm wrestling. When we first started this little contest, he would toy with me and act like I was competing with him, and then turn it on and slowly guide my wrist back the other way to a slow and painful defeat. As I got stronger, I finally got to where I could keep us in a dead heat for a while, before I guess his 'old man strength' would kick in, and he'd outlast me. I think I was 19 or 20 years old before I could finally beat my 'old man' in arm wrestling, and by then I had to get bigger than him to do it. Yep - my dad was always what I thought of when I tried to picture being a strong man.
It's funny as the years go by, looking back on the way you saw the world. But I think it is safe to say that I learned a few things from my father. After all, something made my own son pick out that very Father's Day card with those same words. Something made an impression on my boy along the way that somehow, if not for a moment, made him think of his own 'old man' when he saw those words. Am I being a little melodramatic? Sure, but then again, I once knew another good, wise, and strong 'old man' who, once you cracked the tough outer shell on the outside, could sometimes write a letter to bring you to tears.
If you are a father, and you took the time to read this - please don't take those times with your children for granted. Make the most of them while you can. I know I certainly will try, and I had one hell of a role model to set the example. Happy Father's Day to my 'old man', and to all the other good, wise, and strong fathers out there.