Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Tale of Two Fathers

I decided to come out of the woods today to share my thoughts about Father’s Day. You know Father’s Day, the day that is lost in the shuffle between Mother’s Day and the Fourth of July. The holiday that sees more neckties given as gifts than at any other time of the year (That’s a joke. I don’t think I’ve ever been given a tie as a Father’s Day gift, and I’ve got six kids!)  Father’s…the protector of good table manners, lovers of fine art, and those who would never teach a child how to “pull my finger.” Those are grandfather duties, and I’m looking forward to passing those lessons on to my new grandson.

Father’s day has always been a difficult day for me because I struggled for years with my own father. My father was a hard man, abusive to his wife and children, never holding a job for any real length of time, constantly moving the family and seemingly unconcerned about his children’s education, either in public school or church. My life with my father can be summed up in this statement:

He threw me out of his house on my sixteenth birthday.

If I stopped telling you my story here it wouldn’t be all that different from my father’s story. He too grew up under difficult circumstances. And it wouldn’t be too different from the story of so many others in our very troubled world.

But my story doesn’t end there.

Two weeks or so after my sixteenth birthday I found myself without a mother as well…it certainly seemed bleak. But that afternoon a car pulled into the driveway of my mother’s house and took me to a place that would become home.

My second home was the home of the family of AJ and  Shirley Munnerlyn. I had met the Munnerlyn’s through church. Their youngest son and I shared the same birthday, separated by only a year. AJ and Shirley decided that I  would come to live with them. Since that day they have treated me as one of their own and they treat my children as their grandchildren. They shepherded me with a firm, but loving hand and encouraged me to work hard and to believe in what God wanted me to be.

AJ is a quiet man, but there is and was no doubt about his leadership in his family or to the strength of his character. He showed me how a man loves his wife and family with love and respect, that discipline is necessary for success, and that love overcomes a myriad of shortcomings. AJ loved me when I didn’t even know if I could be loved and didn’t love myself. What I have become is in very large part due to his effort and influence. The proudest day of my life was the day that he told me that he was proud of me. I have spent the rest of my life trying to live up to, to be worthy of, that respect. He has become my dad.

Dad is in his eighties now and for the first time in my memory, he seems to be aging. But his spirit is still strong and his smile is still quick. I hope that he’s still proud of me and that I am a man like him when I grow up.

I love you dad.