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Just dropping by ... Dads who do it right

Yevet Tenney for Progressive Dairyman Published on 09 June 2017
A child and their father

Over the years, I have seen many dads come and go. I have met great ones and not-so-great ones. I’ve seen dads who dote on their children and dads who completely abandon their little ones.

Then there are those who live in the Twilight Zone, not recognizing they are dads, ducking in and out of the man cave for a sneak peek to make sure Mom is doing it right, but totally hands-off and responsibility-free.

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There are all types of dads. I know it is hard in this society when the media makes Dad look like a half-wit bungling guy who caters to the wisdom of his all-knowing children, and the distractions are plentiful. You must make a consistent effort to be tuned into people, let alone your children.

I was blessed to be raised in a time when Father Knows Best was in vogue. Of course, we didn’t have television until I was in high school, and then it was at the neighbors’. I was almost out of the house before my dad ever sat down to watch a television show in his own home, so Dad didn’t get advice from the current television sitcom.

He learned parenting skills from his father, who learned it from his father. Fatherhood skills were passed from one generation to the next by example. My forbears espoused the Judeo/Christian principles of our Founding Fathers and were successful – not perfect but successful.

When my father was a little guy, his mother taught him a poem that became the theme of his life. It went like this:

It matters not what you do
Make a nation or a shoe
He who does the honest thing
In God’s pure sight is ranked a king.

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Integrity was woven into every fiber of my dad’s life. Is it right? Is it true? Is it kind? These seemed to be the questions of every decision. Once someone wronged him in a business deal. Instead of taking the man to court, where he would have won hands-down, he said, “Someday I will stand before my Maker and will answer to Him about what I did. I don’t want this on my conscience.”

He backed away from the decision to prosecute and went about life as if nothing had happened. He picked up the pieces and moved on as he always did when faced with explosive situations that might turn out bad for someone else.

Family and personal prayer happened every day in my home when I was growing up. We all knelt in the living room and said a family prayer. One person being the voice and the rest listening and verbally saying “amen” when the prayer ended. I don’t remember when I said my first prayer, but I am sure it was almost before I could talk.

Those prayers engendered feelings of love and unity. I always knew my family was my anchor and support no matter what I was facing, and prayer was the first answer to every problem. My dad made sure prayer happened, and my mother made sure it happened if he was not there.

I don’t remember family scripture study or reading the scriptures together as a family, but I knew my father was a scholar of the scriptures. He read them daily and could quote them at random. If anyone had a scripture question, they went to him. He helped them find the answer.

Many Sunday afternoons were spent discussing the scriptures around the dinner table. I learned to love the stories of the Bible because my dad made it a priority to teach them to his children.

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My dad was a seven-day Christian, not just a Sunday-go-to-meeting kind of guy. Oh, we went to church every Sunday, but it didn’t stop there. There was never a question on where he stood on any given day. If someone needed help, he was there.

I have many memories of Daddy stopping by the side of the road to change a flat tire or seeing him climb under the hood of a car to fix someone else’s problem. I remember phone calls or knocks on the door in the middle of the night asking if he could give a stranger a ride into town.

His charity extended to his family as well. He worked at a paper mill where he changed shifts, often working the night shift. He would sit and help me with my homework – and fall asleep in mid-sentence. Back then, I thought it was funny, but now I understand what a sacrifice he was making to help me when he needed sleep so badly.

There were other sacrifices I took for granted. He always made sure my car was running properly, and if I didn’t have a car, he made sure I had a ride, even at 3 a.m. With six kids, he was always making sacrifices.

Compassion was his hallmark. Once he was unloading hay to feed the cattle down on the range, and he found a nest with a mouse and babies tucked in the hay. He gently took the nest and the clump of hay with the nest and put it under a tree for safety, then continued unloading the hay.

Once I was rough with my horse, yanking the bridle and yelling like a banshee. Daddy said, “You don’t want to jerk the reins that way; you will ruin the horse.” He didn’t scold or try to make me feel bad, but, in his gentle way, he helped me realize my actions were unkind and would have natural consequences.

My dad has never been a complainer, though he has had many things to complain about. He has been through debilitating accidents, a stroke and two major heart attacks. After an operation on his skull, which had been damaged by a fall, he was put in a rehabilitation facility that was less than professional.

He would ring the bell, and no one would come to his aid. The food was horrible, and the physical training was way beyond the capacity of a 90-year-old. The family could tell he was suffering and not being cared for, but he didn’t complain. He just said, “I want to go home.”

I took matters into my own hands and made the arrangements, and we took him home. Even through all of that, he was kind to his caretakers and expressed appreciation for what they had done for him.

Though my dad wasn’t wealthy in terms of money, he was always willing to give the “widow’s mite.” He always paid 10 percent of his income to build the Kingdom of God. He used his own hard-earned wages over the years to send five young people on Christian missions, paying their full expenses for the entire time, and partially supported 12 others. Then he generously gave time and money to build a church that had burned.

He has never made his charity common knowledge. I only know because I am his daughter and I saw the sacrifice firsthand. His philanthropy shaped my attitude about finances.

I have never needed the trappings of the world. I am content with what I have and am willing to share whatever I have. Those lessons were not taught by a lecture or some elaborate reward system. He simply lived what he expected me to do.

Growing up with a dad like that, it is hard for me to watch the decline of fatherhood in our nation. I see young people living together in wait-and-see relationships expecting to jump and run if things don’t work out. I see young women being left alone to raise children in fatherless homes.

Little faces look up for a hero to show them the way, and all they have are the television heroes who wouldn’t even be welcome in our homes if they knocked at our door.

I see fathers with faces glued to cellphones while their toddlers clamber around their knees for attention. I see dads who spend more time with the sports page than they do helping children with homework. Yet there are some rare and few dads who wrestle, hug and teach their children the Hokey Pokey dance.

Dads who share happy memories and sings songs with their families. They take them to church and make sure they learn from example the beautiful Christian principles taught in the scriptures. end mark

PHOTO: Photo by Thinkstock.com.

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