My People

My People
My matched set of grandchildren - Oliver and Cosette

Sunday, June 19, 2011

a patriarch

Today, for Father's Day, I want to talk about patriarchs... the true, solid, Godly, head of the family type patriarchs. More specifically, I want to talk about our patriarch, my daddy, aka Pop, aka "Mr. Jim".

First, you should know, that he was not trained in advance as to how to be a patriarch. His father was out of the picture before he started preschool. His maternal grandfather had passed away more than a decade before was born. I don't know if there was any contact with his paternal grandfather, but I am doubtful. He had, I believe an uncle or two... a boy scout troup leader... a sunday school teacher... Godly men who patterned a Godly life that he would aspire to. And he had a house full of Godly women who practiced tough love with him, who raised him to be a Godly man.

You should also know that he started young. My dad was 16 when my brother Jim was born. I look at Austin's friend Logan who will become a dad in December and I think, "wow... that's what we had to start with... " Yesterday I bought Logan a combo birthday present/father's day present: a bib that says, "I love my daddy". I think he was more impressed with the yugioh card holder that he bought for himself. Just imagine... pick any random 16 year old in your life... imagine THEM becoming a father. That's where we started.

So daddy became a father to Jim... and 22 months later, a father to me... and then 7 years later a father to Michael... three years later came Bryan ... and four years later... our little David.

And from this little village where he was raised by Godly southern women... came this man who had watch over the physical and spiritual well being of four young men... and me. First in a series of small (but very clean) apartments... and then into our first house, the house my parents still live in and maintain... in a modest neighborhood on the southside of Atlanta. A house with no air conditioning, one bathroom for seven people, a lot of books and a lot of laughter and tears.

Our childhood wasn't perfect but it was precious... daddy got up and went to work every morning... driving his old volkswagen station wagon until it gave out... and then upgrading to a 2 door Ford Escort that wouldn't even hold the whole family! Around that time Jim started driving and so if we went anywhere (like church) as a family, mama and daddy took the "little boys" and me and Jim rode together.

Daddy worked hard in the church, always serving in whatever capacity he was asked. He was intelligent, witty, reliable... and over the years he has mellowed into a real sentimental guy. He was a deacon, a Sunday School teacher... he sang in the church choir... he has a beautiful voice and he loves to sing... loudly... as a teenager I would sing duets with him in church and although my voice is not nearly as good as my daddy's and my brothers' ... I love to sing and was always so proud to get to sing with him.

Over the years I've watched my dad mellow. He used to be a little short tempered... now, he seems like he has more patience than the rest of us put together. He taught me that you "catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar" and that has helped me curb my sharp tongue.

He's never been extravagant. My parents live simply. They work hard and live within their means. But they are generous. They have never allowed any of their kids or grandkids to do without the things they need.

When the NIV version of the bible first came out, I really wanted a copy of it. We couldn't afford one but there was a "pack a pew" contest during revival and the prize was a really nice NIV bible. I was SURE I would win, I worked hard inviting people and was heartbroken when several didn't show up. Daddy went out and bought me that bible... and it's still a treasure to me now. When my daddy heard my bible was falling apart, he offered to buy a new one - and when I wasn't ready to give up my treasured bible with all my notes in the margin and highlighted passages - he bought me a sturdy cover for it.

When I turned - 12 or 13, I'm not sure - I asked for and received a beautiful cross necklace from my parents for my birthday. I was going to the local baseball park to watch a ballgame and my parents told me to leave the necklace at home so I wouldn't lose it. I disobeyed. I wore it... and... I lost it. I came home sobbing in grief and shame. Daddy went out and bought me that exact same necklace - and I'm sure that was a financial sacrifice for them at the time. He gave it to me with a note that I still have around here somewhere - and I can't remember it verbatim so I won't try but the context was that they were extending to me the same mercy and forgiveness that Christ gave at the cross.

My dad has bailed me out more times than I care to remember - not from jail, fortunately - but from some really tight places. He encourages me. He believes in me. He's actually proud of me, I believe. And I'll be honest with you... knowing that my daddy loves me unconditionally gives me the courage to keep moving forward on days that I might otherwise have given up.

From this fatherless man came four amazing fathers: Jim - who is a loving, patient and kind father to Jamie and Sarabeth. Michael - who adopted his stepdaughter Tiffany into his heart from the minute he met her mother and who is raising two of the most beautiful, kind, well mannered boys I've ever met - Cory and Matthew. Bryan - who although he doesn't have any human children, is a big sap with an open wallet when it comes to making sure his cat Shadow has everything he needs. And David - who also embraced a stepdaughter, Elizabeth and then added Caleb, Madie and Joshua. David is also an incredible, hands on father who works hard to make sure his kids have a happy, secure life.

And my kids... Pop is their male role model. He's the one they go to when they need to know how to tie a tie... or when they need help with just about anything. He has loved those grandboys and sacrificed to give them the best life possible. He has coached their little soccer teams... gone on overnight campouts with the boy scouts... he baptized Austin...

When I broke my toe a few years back ... and was alone... and the roads were iced up... it was my dad who came to take me to the ER. When things fell apart so tragically in Jacksonville, when I opened my eyes and looked around the hospital room, there were my mom and dad, standing guard over me.

My dad is not perfect but he is consistent. He is stable. He is unselfish. He is compassionate. He is generous. He is faithful. He is respectable. He is honorable. He is Christ-like. He would do anything for his family. He has stood in the gap for me more times than I can count. He is quick to commend and slow to criticize. I trust him. And I love my daddy more today than I ever have because the longer I live, the more I see of his character.

Our family has faced struggles. There has been dissention in the ranks. We have rebelled, we have reunited, we have accepted some things that will not change. But whatever happens... we are stronger than we ever would have been if not for a Patriarch who leads, guides, and exemplifies who we should be. His eyes are on the cross so when we look to him, he points us toward the cross.

Happy Fathers Day, Daddy! I love you!


Jim Gant said...

Thank you...

And, yes, I am proud of you.

lisa said...

quite a beautifully written tribute.

Red*Hot@52! said...


life with bobbi d said...

You are blessed to have a wonderful father like that.