Question: If your children followed in your steps, where would you lead them?
Dad wasn’t much of a church goer before I reached the age of 9. Mom went sometimes and she took us to Sunday School in Westbrook village, sometimes. What I remember most was being loaded into my uncle’s station wagon with as many cousins as it would hold to attend the Sunday School with my grandmother (Dad’s mother) at the Free Methodist Church in Odessa. Grandma always rewarded us with gum she would buy in Florida and everyone was happy.
Dad would go to church when invited by his children to special “events” like Father’s Day and the Christmas program. Then, our lives were changed forever, when an evangelist came to our church. God touched Dad’s heart when the evangelist asked, “If your children followed in your steps, where would you lead them?” Raising his children was serious business to my Dad.
Dad loved Jesus with all his heart. Tears would stream down his cheeks when he gave his testimony of what Christ had done in his life. And again, he rejoiced with tears when someone else shared how God had changed him.
Staying home from church for us was not an option. It was inspection time when we got to the car where Dad would already be waiting. He would check to make sure we were “presentable” and we would be sent back to the house to clean behind our ears or wipe away the residue of breakfast before setting of for church..
Mom never knew how many or who would join us for Sunday dinner — she just prepared “enough” since Dad would invite people home after church. Sundays were special family days as I was growing up and I remember when I went away to college, this was the only day of the week that I got homesick.
Dad always saw to it they we went to kid’s camp — Orland CYC Camp, Light and Life Camp, Echo Lake Youth Camp, Wesley Acres Camp. Throughout the summer our family would make the rounds of Camp Meetings. Later he sponsored church children whose parents couldn’t afford or didn’t sense the need to send their children to camp.
Dad loved sports and most of my siblings participated in soft ball in the summer and ice hockey in the winter and Dad would be in the crowd of spectators when his kids were playing. He particularly enjoyed sitting behind the opposing team’s bench to rile the opposing team with some jabs from time to time. Dad enjoyed watching Hockey Night in Canada. After a while, he would doze off and Mom would switch the channel to Lawrence Welk. My Dad would wake up and say to my mother, “Joan, I was watching the hockey game” and she would turn the channel back until he fell asleep again.
I don’t ever remember as a child going to a restaurant as a family but after baseball games, Dad would often take us to get ice cream. There was a regular ritual — Dad would ask each of us what kind of ice cream we wanted and probably as many flavours of ice cream were named as there were people in the car. We all knew we would get butter pecan which was his favourite. And sure enough — butter pecan.
He taught us the value of hard work and we all had chores to do, whether in the field or in the barn or in the house. He taught me to drive the tractor when I was 5 years old. He would set it in gear, release the clutch, jump back and away I would go — I could only steer since I could not reach the pedals and when it came time to shut it off, I would push the choke on the dash to bring the tractor to a stop.
Dad had a huge garden. As Dad brought in the vegetables and berries I would help Mum get it ready for canning or freezing. I sliced beets and cucumbers for pickling, shelled peas, husked corn and snapped beans. Dad’s favourite early harvest meal was pea potpie.
Dad’s cattle were prize winners and he encouraged my younger siblings to enter calves in the Kingston Fair and took them to the Ottawa Winder Fair.
Dad’s word was his bond. He used to tell us, “Always tell the truth and you won’t have to remember what you said.” We learned at an early age how important it was to tell the truth and we learned that Dad could be trusted — he never made promises he could not keep.
I learned the power and release of forgiveness and reconciliation. As I grew older, my brothers drove the tractor and most of my chores were in the house but one late summer, my brothers were at camp and Dad enlisted me to work in the field as the grain harvest was beginning — my job — to put the cut grain into windrows. It was apparent that I had never done this before and Dad was having a hard time following the crooked line that I had set for him. He started to yell at me for my poor job until finally, I shut off the tractor and walked home. I had no idea what would happen but when he got home he didn’t say a word to me about it. We went on like nothing had happened. until the day I was riding with him to the cemetery to bury my mother. He said quietly, “I’m sorry.” Puzzled, I asked why and he referred back about 15 years to that day. He had been carrying this burden in his heart all that time.
Dad, you never forgot that question – “where will you lead them” We are following right behind you.