Sunday, June 21, 2009

How to Know a Father's Love

I have heard it said: A man does not know how much his Father loves him until he has a son of his own. I would edit this bit of wisdom by saying: A man does not know or understand a Father's love until he has a son of his own. With my son due to be born in about 7-9 weeks from this Father's Day, I never could imagine I could love this boy as I do. After 40 years, I am beginning to understand how and how much my Father loves me.

One of the greatest gifts my Father gave me was those things he taught me. I remember learning things like how to mow grass, how to hammer a nail, fix a car engine and, in my Father's profession as an electrician, how to wire a light switch. I remember vividly the words he said to me after I killed my first animal. To take a life is a startling experience. My Father talked to me of life, death, respect and thankfulness. Two incidents in particular are ingrained in my mind. Once, when we were dressing some doves I had killed, the knife slipped and I soured the meat with the birds own bile. My Father was furious that this bird's death was now in vain. The second was when we were killing and dressing rabbits we raised to sell. In my fear, I hesitated, and the death blow was not true. The rabbit was only injured. My Father quickly took over and finished the deed. I was punished for my hesitation and causing the animal pain. It was bad enough the rabbit had to die so that others could eat, let alone that he suffer too. Modern sensitivities may find the whole thing objectionable, but it is the circle of life, a sacred circle.

The greatest lessons were the tidbits of wisdom and even the lectures about life. Loyalty, friends and first loves were all topics of conversation. These lessons of life were taught with varying emotions that I might see the full range of human experience. Sometimes, it was taught to me in anger and disappointment when I had disobeyed. At times, it was taught to me in fear, when I came home late, wondering where I had been and if I was well. The relief in his face after a car accident or the trip to the hospital when I suffered a late hit from the back in a football game snapping my neck. The fracture was hairline and the muscles only strained. Sometimes, the lessons of life were taught with sadness when I failed to make the team or felt like my life was over when the pretty brunette broke up with me. At all times, the lessons were taught with another underlying emotion, that of love. My Father always loved me. He loved me when he did without so I could go to camp, have a car or go to college. I didn't always know or understand it. I also understand that because he loved me he did all those willingly. I understand that now, because I am about to be a father of a son and I would do the same things. Is it because God gives the gift to all men? Probably not, or 40% of our nation's children would not suffer the fate of never hearing from their own fathers. Is it because our culture celebrates the role of a father in families? Unfortunately, I'm not sure culture even knows what to do with the role of father, let alone the one who is to fill the role. Most certainly, it is because my great-grandfather loved my grandfather and my grandfather loved my father and my father loved me. I only hope that my great grandson will continue to know the love of his father and the love of his grandfather, my son.

Happy Father's Day to my Father. No one else could do the job. Thank God that Billy E. Nicholson did.

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