I like to believe my life is not dictated by a calendar, but as of this Father’s Day, I find myself finally writing a story about my dad, and one which I had planned on penning before this period of the year arrived.
When I was little, as in shorter than my dad (and it isn’t hard to be bigger than him,) I had a little man’s appreciation for the world. I saw everything as an extension of a Disney movie, where danger and a willful lack of respect for it ultimately led to the prince getting married to a mermaid. Reality and fantasy were often the same, partially because I had a healthy imagination, and partially because I hadn’t experienced reality for myself. Not that my dad didn’t do his best to teach me.
Perhaps ironically, it was the lessons rooted in reality that helped me even better appreciate fantasy. And one of the first lessons was how to build a fire. And as most of my good friends can attest, I love fire. I like the smell of wood smoke, possibly due more to nostalgia than the actual scent, I like the snap wood makes as pockets of superheated air and moisture are released, and I love the way a superior burn can make or enhance a mediocre story, and bring a small community together. But it’s still dangerous. A lack of respect for this ancient element can raze entire cities. And it was here I remember some of my father’s sage wisdom; an insight into reality. “When building a fire, only make it as large as you can control.”
|Me controlling the third element of Captain Planet.|
Recently, I went for a jaunt into the wilderness, another remnant of my dad’s influence. From an early age, my father reveled in taking his whiny children into the relative isolation of the forest and leaving us there, only with slightly more supervision than the parents in Hansel and Gretel. And we grew to love it. My brother would probably live out of a tent if he discovered it was feasible to raise a family this way. Roasting ‘mallows around the fire, listening to my dad embellish a story of his childhood, and doing it all under a night sky where the band of the Milky Way was visible, is an experience I wish was available to every kid. Chiggers be damned. And again, this can be dangerous if you don’t have respect for where you are. If you forget your tools, if you neglect your clothing or your equipment, if you even neglect obvious necessities like water and food, your hike could turn south in a very short time. Dad made sure we were prepared. And to this day, the lesson stuck.
|Me enjoying how prepared I was by taking a picture with my iPhone.|
My dad was an Eagle Scout. I was in the Boy Scouts for about a month. I learned almost nothing from this experience. In fact, I’ve probably learned more about survival watching Bear Grylls eat a monster sized caterpillar and praising its protein content than I did during my stint with the Boy Scouts. But with my dad it was a different story. He was always prepared. Even if his only prize for being such a forward thinker was having to carry everyone else’s water because he was the only one who brought a backpack, he never left without planning ahead. Because again, reality has a way of sneaking up on you, and this can be dangerous.
|Me beholding the, uh...danger.|
Sometimes, tragically, reality is unavoidable. I’m sure everyone would love to exist on this earth in the prime of their health for as long as possible, but there is probably no greater fantasy. People get old. People get sick.
My dad is sick. He has a disease that eats away at his muscles, and the doctor sounding term for it is mitochondrial myopathy. Planning and healthy living could not have mitigated the impact of this genetic abnormality.
I love my dad. I had the fortunate advantage growing up to have a dad who stayed with my mom his whole life, and did so joyfully and diligently. But even perhaps more importantly, my dad loved his Dad, and it was because of my earthly father that I learned of my heavenly Father. There is no greater introduction than this. I like to believe my Dad in heaven orchestrated this first love.
When I was young, I pursued fantasy in this world without regard for reality. My earthly dad taught me this reality, so I could better understand the fantasy. But when I grew older, I almost lost this fantasy, because as time and experience seemed to repetitively intone, fantasy was an extravagant joke. It was untouchable. It was fantasy for a reason. But my Dad pursued me.
Like my earthly father, by heavenly Father wouldn’t let me get lost so easily. He taught me the benefits and dangers of fire, and also how to enter into the wilderness prepared. As I exist here in the world, the line between fantasy and reality occasionally blurs, and the reality beyond this one is revealed. I have seen this in my dad. Though he is weak, his strength is revealed to be not of this earth. My dad is not flawless, and though I cannot say he is the best father in the world, his faith is not his own, but given to him by his Father, and this gives him an infinite type of strength.
|Me, Jesus loves.|