Friday, April 29, 2011
...Like son, or so the saying goes.
The picture goes back quite a way - to the mid-1970's in fact. I was serving my first church appointment and dad came to Missouri to attend my ordination as a minister. Up to that point he thought my calling to the ministry was a whim and just a passing fancy. I think the reality of my decision hit him when he saw me ordained. Dad was not an openly spiritual person - often he was working on Sundays and did not attend worship services. Fact is, there was a point in which I asked him why I had to go to church when he didn't. I don't recall his answer but his relationship with God became more evident in his last months of his life.
Today I continue to wonder why dad seemed so down on life. He wrote a form of autobiography and in it he seemed to dwell on the failures in his life. I think he always strived to make a million and that seemed almost a passion with him. When he did not achieve the financial success he craved, he felt that life had cheated him and in his estimation he was a failure time after time. In the book he wrote he kept blaming the negative things of life on his "overpowering" ego.
The sad part is that in a great number of ways he was an amazing person. Creative in many ways. A visionary in some ways. And though he would never admit it, he was a person who saw opportunities and did something about them. He struggled with the state of Army leadership early in his career after graduation from West Point. In a sense he shared the concerns for the future like General Billy Mitchell who ended up court-marshalled for his beliefs, but later proved to be valid during World War Two. In many ways dad underwrote progress and was disappointed time and again because many people did not share his dreams which were stalled or opposed. He was a great artist - had gifts in photography, drawing and painting, and business acumen. He was head statistician for the World Champion Army football teams in the mid-1940's. To this day I keep wondering why he felt so disappointed with life when in actuality he accomplished a great many things far beyond what most men do. If I sound proud of my dad, I am.
I guess the differences we shared are that, like him, I have never gloated about the things that have happened in my life. However, I've rejoiced at different things that happened and just kept moving through doors in life to the next opportunity that came along. I don't dwell on negatives, and have celebrated life where I have been and look forward to the next exciting chapter.
But when dad was laying in his hospital bed, life slowly ebbing toward death from esophageal cancer, he told me something that has stuck with me for years. He said, the last time I saw him, "I guess this is the last time we'll see each other this way". I had no glib answer or ministerial response. I just nodded my head and then he grinned and said, "But we will meet again". And I believed it and know it will happen.
My dad was a disciplined person all his life - wrapped up in projects. Sometimes he was not an easy person to understand or respond to. Especially when I was a teenager. But I will always say that he never was the failure he thought he was - He was caring and an example of creativity and sponsor of things that were beyond most people's understanding, and in doing so, he made his and our world a better place.