Seeing Fathers, Being Fathers: 3 Vignettes

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.
Psalm 103:13

I love this man and I don’t know why
Except I’ll need his strength until the day that I die
Color Him Father” — The Winstons

The above pop song by the multi-racial group The Winstons based in Washington, D.C., was a big hit in early summer, 1969. To be honest, the lyrics seem a bit stilted, but the emotions of the writer, Richard Lewis Spencer, come through loud and clear. I will leave it to you to catch the “aha” moment, toward the end of the song.

We have lived in our neighborhood for 14 years. When we moved from downtown Kansas City, Mo., to our current location, it was partly to be in a convenient spot to get to the airport for my wife, and to Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, for me. We also loved our west view into a beautiful, forested area.

What was troubling in the beginning was the lack of families and children. Residents were mostly middle aged and older individuals who moved here when the houses were completed in the early 2000s. There was little joy, simmering distrust and anger among some of the “neighbors” and little outward reason to celebrate life and love.

That has changed in the last decade. We now have many, many children and, happily loving and engaged parents. Most notable to us, many dads are stepping up and walking with their infants and young boys and girls. Better yet is when mom and dad and kids walk before or after supper, oftentimes with dog on a leash. They are talking, laughing, and stopping and looking at the “small things” along the sidewalk. This activity is imprinted on the kids, and I’m certain those youngsters will do the same when they have a family.

Certainly, there are problem days, unhappy days, angry days, but, hopefully, those households which show so much love and attention to each family member along their walks are able to come to a resolution when issues arise.

My first car was a 1956 Kelly green Ford station wagon, with “three-on-the column” manual transmission. My dad spent $100 so I could have something to get to and from high school. I learned on standard transmission, but our family car was automatic. The station wagon was not. I remember driving back home from the dealer, with my dad encouraging me through the gears, replete with the scraping noises, until he told me to pull over about a half mile from our house.

“I’m walking the rest of the way. You’re on you own now.”

I pushed that clutch, ground those gears, and cursed all the way home, but I made it, with a sense from my father that, I will get you to point X, but you’re on your own after that. Noting the psalmist, my dad had the compassion to not solve my problem, but to finish the task he opened up for me. That lesson has stuck since that warm August afternoon in 1963.

As dads, we ideally get out of the way, and try very hard to not impose our wishes and dreams on our children. But we trip up sometimes, trying to smooth the way for them and, as we know, that plan falls short throughout life.

If this year your dad is gone, celebrate as best as you’re able, and live out the good he did; I am confident he tried to do so every stumble-filled day.

Our best hope is to not try to be “perfect”; that is a fool’s errand.

Dads, let’s be compassionate, open, and loving as best we know how.

Our Lord will have compassion for you and me, through eternity.

Happy Father’s Day.

Michael Throop