Father’s Day is a mix of emotions for a lot of people. Marvin Webster is the name of my earthly father, he’s an enigma to me. A heart attack ended his life some years ago, but his legacy lives on.
When many people are introduced to the concept of God being our Heavenly Father they quickly connect to their relationship to their earthly father. Fortunately, I never did that; perhaps because I was saved so young, I knew that God, being perfect, would always be far better than Marvin.
My Dad was a carrot-topped red-head, and he had the stereo-typical quick temper that came with it. My Mom never saw that part of him until after they were married (he was fixing a piece of farm equipment when it first evidenced), her Christian morals led her to stay true to her marriage vows.
The important things in life came rather easily to Dad: he proposed to my Mom in a letter he wrote to her while he was serving in the Army; he helped a neighbor on a nearby farm as he was growing up, that man sold that farm to Dad rather cheaply; and he drove with his Dad for a while as he started his family. I think all that led him to live a rather shallow life with his own offspring.
He shared stories of hunting and fishing from his youth, but he never did either of those with us. One year we even bought him a fishing license so he wouldn’t have his pat excuse for not going… he still didn’t share that experience with his children. Working on the farm was good enough for him, I guess; although we seldom were able to share any conversation while the equipment was roaring. I struggled with older male relationships for years because of this lack of any depth in this crucial model in my life.
Dad was good with numbers. He was the Head Sawyer at the lumber mill in White Cloud; that meant he ran the main saw that cut the logs into boards. He could rattle off the exact fraction of an inch measurement he would need to start the final set of cuts so the last piece would be the same size as all the others (taking into account the saw blade cuts), even more than a decade after he left that job.
Marvin was inspired to run for public office by his Mom. He started out as a trustee on the local township board. He was later voted in as the Supervisor, this allowed him to use his gift with numbers to be the local tax assessor (a position he held even after he left office because the next Supervisor didn’t pass the state exam to do that requirement of the post).
The single thing I admired most about my Dad was his left ring finger. His fingers got thicker as he aged, so his wedding band was firmly embedded into his finger. Even as a boy I knew the significance of that symbol of commitment. I was assured that he and Mom were inseparable, that grounded me.
Dad was quick to help out anyone in need. Being a farmer most of his life meant that he had a pick-up truck before driving a pick-up was cool. Anyone who owns a pick-up will tell you it’s only a matter of time before somebody will ask you to help them move. We had a neighbor that took advantage of that situation by having us help him move away from the area to a nearby town. He said he didn’t have any money to pay Dad at the time, but that he would pay him on Wednesday when he got some money. Well, time went by with no word from our former neighbor. So, somebody asked Dad if he was ever going to try to get the money from him. Dad would simply reply, “well, he never said which Wednesday he was going to pay me.” Dad never pursued that money. Years later, when we were tight for money (as we usually were with up to nine mouths to feed) somebody would often suggest that maybe this would be the Wednesday the guy would finally come through with that money. He never did.
I only remember Dad coming to church once. That was the day I gave my first sermon at our tiny country church, I never got any feedback from him as to his thoughts about it. He didn’t come to the second one I gave (I can’t say that I blame him for that. I was so monotone in my delivery then that I’m surprised anybody showed up for that one). We’re all guessing as to whether he ever accepted Christ as his Savior.
I was living at home when Grandpa Webster died of a sudden heart attack; Dad was devastated. I had to take over the day-to-day operations of the farm until after the funeral. When my Dad died I lived about 100 miles away. I didn’t take any time off work until the funeral service day. My father-in-law died a few years before that from a lingering bout with COPD from a lifetime of smoking, he had poured some of himself into me in the short time I knew him, the tears came freely at my father-in-law’s visitations and funeral; I didn’t cry until taps were played and the nine-gun salute eulogized my Dad’s passing, and those tears were few.
God did not bless me with the call to be a father, so I don’t have any first-hand anecdotes to pass on to any fathers reading this. The only thing I can tell you from my heart at this time is this: Practically any man can become a father. Far too few of those individuals take the time to be a real Dad. You only have a short time to impact those lives God has entrusted to you… please, BE A DELIBERATE DAD.
I’ll see you later. Wade