This summer out of the blue I thought of the Conway Twitty song “That’s My Job.” The song is about a boy and his father and ends with a type of eulogy to the father. I listened to that song probably on average once a day from early July to August. I made me think what I would say about my Dad when he passes away. So here is my eulogy to my still alive Dad.
Growing up and older has many advantages, and one of those is moving past the stages in your life where parents give you guidance and worry about you, and you settle into a time of just talking to one another. While they still care for you and want to offer guidance, you mostly just talk. One day my Dad turned to me and told me how proud he was of me with my kids. He praised how at ease I was with being a father. He said, “You know I woke every morning so scared.” Now my father grew poor, one of eight boys, and with a father whose love was evident but was often expressed in time with him in the woods or on a bank of a river than words. My father was trying to navigate being father to two girls and a boy who did not care much about the woods or the stream. As I grew up, he had made his living selling insurance. He knew that each check was dependent on him going out and selling insurance to provide for a life that he could never had imagined as a child. He took around the country and around the world. But I also knew that the “sacredness” that he felt wasn’t just simply finances or family. Even as my dad hit his seventies, and we kids had kids, My mom would tell how he didn’t sleep well especially during the legislative session when bills effecting the people of his district would be up. I realized that this “sacredness” wasn’t fear; it was concern.
Those who know my father know that he could talk to anyone. One time my dad asked Ronald how the preacher was doing on Sundays. Mind you that dad only knew Ronald from the name etched in his belt, and we were just passing through Sheridan, Arkansas, but that didn’t stop him. (By the way, the preacher was doing just fine. He was half through his series on Paul’s letter to Colossians.) He told every waitress or waiter across the state of Louisiana about going to Northwestern, and in a crowd of people, he could walk up to the biggest celebrity and talk as if they were only ones there. But those you really knew my dad knew that he often preferred silence. From sitting on the back porch or casting a line from a fishing boat or riding in his car, my dad enjoyed the space to think. My dad and I would often return from one of our many trips to see the Demons play football. My mom would ask what we talked about. My dad would say, “Rose, we didn’t talk about anything. We just enjoyed riding together.” My dad would often give generous gifts to us, and Mom would say that he had been thinking about it for a while. One of the closest moments that you can share with my dad is a moment of silence just enjoying the presence of each other.
I think about my dad now lying in bed filled with concern, and I think of the silence, that still silence that comes before feet hit the floor or nowadays before thumbs hit the home button. I think of the concern that he woke with, and I want that. I want to begin each day not with the thought of what I will do, but who I will do it for. So each morning I pause, and I pray, and I hold onto that silence and enjoy his presence in my life.