Saturday, June 20, 2009

Celebrating Dads and Grandads

The one and only real dad of mine recently completed chemotherapy treatments for pancreatic cancer. At 80, he's a trooper--still working part-time and constantly on the quest for something to eat. He's probably the one I inherited my sense of adventure from, and he's still vitally interested in all the ongoings in the world, be it news, financial, cultural, or culinary (NOT that he cooks, my mom's area of expertise). He cultivated my thirst for travel by planning the most extraordinary sightseeing vacations for our family. His faith in the Lord has not wavered as he's faced the diagnosis of his cancer, the difficult surgery and recovery, and the grueling routine of chemo. I am probably my dad's second greatest admirer, the first being my mom (even when he exhibits curmudgeonly behavior, which happens more often than he'd like to admit).

My grandfathers were great dads in their own ways. Dad's dad served as county court clerk, inspiring and encouraging my dad to work hard and fulfill his dream of becoming a doctor. "Pop" worried about me reading too much, afraid it would warp me.

Mom's dad was a gentle man, very handy and most attentive to my grandmother, my mom (an only child), and my brother and me. "Grangie" was always creating new ways for us to play, learn, and enjoy ourselves at his home, such as hanging the amazing "Tarzan" rope swing in their gigantic willow tree, pointing out the crawdads in their holes in the wet side yard, and driving us to the airport simply to watch planes land and take off.

My great-grandad, Papa, (Mom's grandad) who lived with "Ma and Grangie," brought my brother and me surprises from Woolworth's 5 and 10 when we spent the night on Fridays. He served as a local mail carrier for years. I remember clearly the ride he gave us in the back of his musty truck with a wooden tailgate and heavy canvas flap. After he retired, Papa took the bus downtown frequently to visit various businesses where he knew everyone and loved to talk politics with them.

I met David Phillips while dating his son, Steve. From the time Steve and I became engaged, David and Steve's mom accepted me as their daughter. He made everyone feel welcome, shooing them into the house with a grin and the words, "Get in this house." A handy fellow, he repaired lawn mowers as a hobby and built bookshelves into the wall in our son's room--still standing--as well as various toys for our kids, even a sandbox and a wooden structure with a ladder, monkey bars, and a slide. His pleasant disposition made David one of the easiest people to be around I've ever known, and that part of him definitely rubbed off on his son.

A young woman named Cherie came into our life through Key Club, the high school service organization for which my husband volunteers. At a transitional time in her life, she lived with us and became like a daughter to Steve and me and like a big sister to our young children. The man she married, Tim, ironically shares our last name. We know he's a great dad by the unspoiled and unselfish behavior of their four children, who adore him and follow in his footsteps as he follows Jesus.

No matter how mad they might get at their parents at times, our kids know they have the best of all possible dads. Steve is the voice of reason and the sense of humor in our home. He points out the pros, cons, and possible consequences of every important choice, maintaining an even temper no matter how he may feel about the situation. The kids still indulge him by laughing at--and shaking their heads over-- his corny old jokes. He's the Sunday School teacher example, but with a mischievous streak--for example, the time we sought a lost tooth for a visiting child in our pool area and he couldn't resist the sight of my kneeling figure to push me in with a splash. I see the respect Eric and Emily hold for him, yet no one can make them burst into such irreverent laughter. I praise God for giving me Steve to be the father of our children.

Thank you, Lord, for the dads in my life, the ones I've mentioned and the others too numerous to name, for the positive influence in making me the woman I am today. Guys, I couldn't have done it without you!