Pope John XXII once said, “It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.” A few weeks ago I was invited to speak at the induction of the National Honor Society at Lake Norman Charter School. I spoke to many of the parents there, who beamed at the success of their sons and daughters. Having parents that are involved with their children, serving as mentors, and showering them with love are the greatest gifts you can give a child.
My brother, sister and I had parents who did just that. Father’s Day is a chance to say thank you – thank you for picking me up when I was down. That no matter what crushing blow I felt, I would always get past it.
A dad shakes his head at your mistakes, hoping you learn, as he takes your hand, and pulls you up. He’s there to teach you life’s lessons…and in my case, sometimes over and over again.
I was born and raised in Rock Hill (SC) and my father’s family owned a farm where he still lives. When I was five, my parents purchased me a black and white pony that I appropriately named – “Dynamite.” That little fellow lived up to his billing as he seemed to take great delight in throwing me time and time again. Dad, simply picked me up and put me back on the horse, sternly counseling me, “You have to show him you’re not afraid. You have to show him who’s the real boss.”
Between sniffles I pointed out I was afraid and there was no doubt…he was the real boss. But dad simply sat me back up in the saddle, put the reigns tightly in my little hands and off we went. In truth, just about anywhere that pony really wanted to go which was usually to the barn! Many including mom and Grandmamma Russell were not real happy with dad’s insistence.
Looking back though, I’m not sure who suffered more – my backside or dad’s ears. Mama really took dad to task and to this day, none of us have forgotten those Sunday afternoons with “Billy breaking Dynamite.” “But at the end of the day, it was an important lesson. Life will throw you time and time again, but you have to get back up in the saddle, hold on tight, and ride the rough out of it. It’s okay to be a little afraid but never, ever give up.
Dad was there when I lost my first election running for president of my college fraternity. He shared the first time he too had lost an election, but the next time out, he won his race. He pointed out that in retrospect, he was perhaps a better leader learning from the earlier setback. And once again, he was right.
Dad was there to help with my homework. He tried so hard to help me master the ground ball. He tied my first tie and walked down the aisle with me the first time I said “I do.” Mom and dad both were there to hold me when my world seemed dark and stood on stage years later when the world was so right.
Former North Carolina State Coach Jim Valvano, a life lesson himself, said of his dad, “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”
And perhaps the greatest gift a child can give to his or her parents is simply to say, “l love you both! Happy Father’s Day, Dad.” And while I’m at it – I love you too mom, both of you!!!