June 17, 2018
MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey
Honoring—and Remembering—Our Fathers on Father’s Day
Today we celebrate Father’s Day and even more, we celebrate fatherhood and the role of the father as head of the family. Indeed, it is a bit surprising, given all the current radical feminization of our culture and the denigration of masculinity, that we are even permitted to celebrate this day traditionally, that we are allowed to call it “Father’s Day.” No doubt, we shall see in the future efforts by the dominant politically-correct culture to make this day more “inclusive” and less “oppressive to women and minorities.”
In all the commercial hoopla now associated with this day, we sometimes forget a deeper meaning that is attached to and undergirds it. Still, we are yet able to observe it, and to recall, to remember days long past, family events and meals, holidays and trips, wisdom imparted and passed on lore, and at the center of it all there are—and were—our fathers.
My father passed away back in 1999, a few days shy of his 91st birthday in June. He had been with our entire family the day before—we had all dined together and given thanks for the many blessings we had received. That night my dad crawled into bed, and early in the morning the aneurism near his heart distended, and he died a peaceful, tranquil death.
He remains with me—his memory, his words, his good counsel, they are with me every day. I can close my eyes and see his face; I can hear his voice. And if I am about to make a bad choice, I can faintly hear him asking me if I really wish to make that choice, if I really want to turn my back on the fifty years of good counsel and example that he gave me.
At my father’s funeral, I had the opportunity to speak, but I could not, emotionally. Instead, my sister made some remarks—a kind of eulogy. And in memory of my father, and in honor of all fathers, I transcribe her remarks here:
“Several weeks ago as you, mom, and I sat chatting at lunch our conversation turned to what you and mom wanted to be done at your funeral. I look back on that time ironically today, because I never thought that I would need to put into practice what we talked about so soon.
“At that time you told me two things that stuck in my mind. One was that ‘How Great Thou Art’ was your favorite hymn, and the other was that you wanted someone who knew you well to talk about you as a real person. I promised you that I would. And, so, Daddy, I will give this my best shot.
“I never knew you as a young man, but judging by the photographs I will bet you were the heart throb of many a young lady. You were the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome—that is what I would call you. I know also that in high school you excelled in both basketball and baseball, even were scouted by the majors, but your life didn’t turn in that direction. You had more important things to do.
“What I remember most is your many stories. You were a master story-teller. The whole family could sit and listen for hours about your experiences, and they were indeed extraordinary and memorable.
“I do not believe anything defined your life more than your experiences in World War II. I believe it was a terrifying and transforming event for you that shaped the way you lived the rest of your life. It was a clear cut case of good against evil, and you fought a powerful enemy for what you believed in and won. And we all won, because of men like you.
“You were a man of the earth. You knew all the trees and their names, and you taught me how to identify poison ivy and poison oak. You taught me the difference between a good snake and bad snake. You taught me how to whittle a bamboo stick and make a whistle of it. You had the wisdom to turn me loose in the woods and let me find my way back home on my own—only years later did you admit you were following close behind to keep me from any harm.
“I cannot remember any summer that you did not have at least two, if not three gardens to tend: the ‘upper,’ ‘middle,’ and ‘lower’ gardens! I remember so clearly following you down the rows of tomatoes, picking a ripe one, wiping the dirt off on the seat of your pants, and eating it like an apple. There was hardly a day that went by in the summer when you were not outside until dark, tending to your land.
“You were the original ‘man of steel’! At the age of seventy you took my husband, a city boy, out in the woods and taught him how to split wood.
“You were a man of deep religious conviction who served the church we are in now for many, many years.
“You were a man with a great sense of humor! You loved a good joke, Disney’s Pluto the Dog, and sharing a good laugh.
“You believed in family. You were always there to help us out. But you also had the wisdom to let us make our own mistakes and learn from them.
“You were a wonderful husband. Your constant concern and love for mom is a testament to sixty-two years of happy marriage and the love you shared.
“You were a hero. I watched you save the lives of three people: one little girl who was drowning and two ladies from an overturned and burning car. I will never forget that accident scene. Everyone just stood there and watched, while you pulled those women out from underneath that smoking car. I was terrified, but you were amazing. Then, you just got back in your car and went to work. I’ll bet you never even spoke to anyone about what you had done.
“You were a good father. All the good that there is in me I received from you and mother. You taught me that it is wrong to lie. You taught me how to treat people with dignity and grace. You taught me that a fair weather friend is no friend at all. Sometimes I fall short of your lessons, but I try.
“I am confident that mother, Boyd, and I—all of us—will see you again one day. In the meantime your spirit, your memory, your love, and your goodness will abide with us and will continue to comfort us.
“Anyway, Pop, I promised I would not make this long, so I will stop. I hope everyone has a good idea now of who you were.
“Hope you earn your wings soon!”
My sister summed up my sentiments and my love so very well. I can add little to what she said.
Our memories—those memories of who we are and of family and of events in our lives—always remain with us, even as they become more distant. That love, that affection, never dies, it never goes away.So, today I honor my father, his memory, his love and his presence. And I hope you will do the same for your father.