Sunday, June 15, 2008

Doc the Rock

I've known some great fathers in my day. Was raised by one of them, whose presence looms largely over my life and this blog. I'm married to another of them, for whom I daily thank God, for whom our children daily thank God. But on this Father's Day, I thought I'd write about the man who made the Beve the man he is. And, of course, impacted the lives of our children, my father-in-law, Doc-the-Rock. I call him Grampie.

I've always called Grampie a 'roasted marshmellow'--crispy on the outside but soft and sweet on the inside. He's the most generous person in the world with his time, hospitality and service but that's clothed beneath the skin of a good Scot who was raised in the depression, who never left a piece of food on the table and couldn't bear to spend a penny more than is needed. Recently he's given up his car at 84, and when others might be whining about the inconvenience after a lifetime of independent driving, he's raving about how riding the bus from one end of the county to the other for a mere .75 or hitchhiking rides from anyone leaving his retirement complex, thrilled by all the money he's saving on gas and insurance. By his preoccupation with thrift, one might think that Grampie is on the edge of being in the poor house, but he and Beve's mom were prudent enough along the way that he should never worry about money! But by the way he talks, you might be tempted to lend him a dollar or two, just to help him out.

Grampie is a great dad, the neighborhood dad, really. The Beve talks about how when he was really little, he would come into the house crying because Grampie was outside with on the bottom of a pile of neighborhood kids, and he couldn't get near his own dad. Kids flocked to him, who loved to play. Grampie was a jokester in those days and he passed that on to his kids. The Beve learned well from his dad, that's for sure--sometimes I might like all of them to be more serious, but if you want to laugh, those lumbering giants are the ones you want to be around. Later, when the Beve was in high school, playing basketball, Grampie would wait up for him to return from the long bus rides (where we lived every away game meant a long bus ride!), fix him a full-fledged meal at 1am, to talk over the game and be with his son.

He is the kind of dad who is always--I mean literally, always!--there for his kids when they need it, but doesn't tell his kids what to do, no matter what he thinks of their decisions. His kids haven't always chosen paths Grampie might have chosen, but he listens and keeps his own counsel. There have been times when I've wanted him to tell one of them a thing or two--see, I come from a family where advice is dished out, asked for or not, wanted or not. Grampie struggles, hurts and grieves for his kids. Wants the best for them. Calls the Beve and me up and asks me what we think. I tell him--like I say, I come from a long line of 'Dear Abby's'. But then he ponders and waits, and finally, when he's suffered, he might carefully speak to his adult son or daughter what turns out to be wise, wise words.

And he absolutely loves every one of his nine grandchildren. He's just plain crazy about them. He'll call me up full of excitement about something one of them has done--the artistic talent of one of the Finnish granddaughters or the computer expertise of the youngest grandson or the great career potential of our oldest child, and anyone listening would swear that child was his favorite. He just raves about these kids. He's awed by them, and doesn't care who knows it. He never told us how to raise them, never complained to us about their behavior, just enjoyed them. When they were little he let them crawl all over him, found great projects for them to do at his house, and took them on great outings. This from a man whose own father refused to come in from the backyard when Doc came home to visit with his family of four children because Doc had two more children than the old man thought were appropriate.

In large part, Grampie's to thank for making the Beve the father he is, and I honor him for that. He learned nothing about being a dad from his own father, but somehow he became the kind of dad and Grampie that every man should be. He's elderly now--confused enough that he tells the same stories over and over, loses things by the hour, drives us all crazy. You live long enough, and dementia hits just about everyone. We tell our kids that if I take after my mom and the Beve takes after his dad, they'll be calling each other up daily, saying, "What are we going to do with them now?" But Grampie's still a man of integrity, goodness, and humor who taught his children and grandchildren those values.

It's not a hard step to get from Grampie to Father God. The way he'd do anything for his children, the way each of his grandchildren is his absolute favorite, the way he lets us all make our decisions without telling us what to do unless we seek his advice but then is so wise. No wonder the Beve and his siblings came to Christ so early, they'd already known a father like that. I am sooo glad. Thank you, Grampie--have a happy father's day.

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