This past Sunday was Father’s Day. I spent it, as many as you did, with my Dad. We went to the church that I grew up in, where my parents still attend. In his sermon, the pastor mentioned a song that always makes me think of my dad: “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin. For those of you who have never heard the song, it’s a story about a father and son. When the son is a child, the father is always too busy to spend time with him. When the son becomes an adult and the father has more time, the son is too busy to spend time with his dad. Here’s the irony of this story: That song reminds me of many wonderful father-son times spent with my dad.
The reason “Cats in the Cradle” makes me think about Dad is because he and I enjoyed Harry Chapin’s music. There was a particular album he kept in his car (first a cassette, then later a CD). It was a live performance of one of Chapin’s concert, and it contained several of his songs, including a particularly fun one about a truck crashing with 30,000 lbs of bananas, making quite a mess. (Actually, all the songs on the album make me think of Dad; however “Cat’s in the Cradle” is the song that makes it on the radio periodically.) My story with my Dad was very different, though, than the father and son in the song. You see, we’d play that album in the car as we were spending time together.
Dad always made time for me. In the second verse of the song, the son asks his father to teach him to throw a ball. My Dad did show me how to throw a baseball and a football, how to shoot a basketball, how to ride a bike and how to hit a golf ball. Dad and I studied karate together. We went to Syracuse Chiefs baseball games (AAA team in the International League) and Syracuse Orangemen (NCAA) basketball and football games. We played Sega basketball and football, catch and H.O.R.S.E. More importantly, while we did these things, we’d talk. We’d talk about what was going on in my life, about school, about my friends. We’d talk about college and my dreams for the future.
Since Dad’s job took him on the road during the week, a couple weeks each summer once I was old enough, Dad would take me on the road with him. I got to see Dad at work and how he’d interact with his customers in the mornings, then in the afternoon we’d do fun things like ride go-carts. (In one now famous story in our family, the first time I drove a go-cart, I got turned sideways making a turn too quickly, and Dad, unable to stop in time, t-boned me with his cart. My cart did a flip. It was AWESOME.) The first two rounds of golf I ever played were with Dad on those trips. Also, on those trips, I was introduced to two of my favorite movies: Major League and Lethal Weapon.
More importantly, on those trips, I learned my Dad’s work ethic. I saw how he would take great care of his customers. (Dad sells pool products to pool stores across the country.) What struck me was how he carefully took the time to sell those stores quality products that would meet their customers’ needs. He also carefully took care to back up those products with quality service and personal attention. Years later, when I went into sales myself, I remembered the things I saw Dad doing and it made me a better salesman.
The most important thing Dad taught me was how to be a man. Dad taught me how to treat a woman by the way he has always treats my Mom. Dad taught me to work hard by the way he works. When I was 14, Dad gave me a part time job at his company doing data entry a few hours each week, giving me a chance to earn some extra money (rather than just handing me money) all the while expecting me to do my best. When I was 16, he taught me responsibility by buying me a car. Unlike other parents, who handed their child the keys to a nice, new car and paid the insurance and gas, Dad and Mom bought me an ’86 Ford Escort, handed me the keys, and told me it was up to me to pay for that car’s insurance and gas and repairs. I had to get a part-time job at 20-30 hours per week (instead of the 5 hours per week I worked for Dad’s company) to keep that car in repair. It was one of the finest lessons Dad taught me: That freedom meant responsibility.
I don’t want you to think Dad’s and my relationship is sunshine and roses. We’ve had some arguments that would frighten Tommy DeVito from Goodfellas, largely because we’re so much alike (especially in stubbornness). Yet when Dad and I finish our arguments and make up, we always give each other a big hug and tell each other that we love each other. When I was a kid, I got in trouble (deservingly so) and Dad would have to yell at me. There was something Dad did, however, that I will always remember. I won’t remember the yelling or being in trouble. What I remember was what Dad said after the yelling was over and my punishment was named, Dad would give me a big hug and he would tell me, “Son, no matter what you do, I love you.” I always knew that Dad was angry with the thing I had done, but that he loved me and that I was still a good person to him.
We live in a world where fatherhood is under attack. Liberals are trying to tell people that fathers aren’t necessary by replacing the father with government as a provider. It’s time we stand up and say something for the father’s that do what God intended them to do! I’ve been blessed with a great dad. Someday, I hope I’ll be a dad, and if God chooses to bless me in that way, I’ll have a great example to take my cues from. Dad, I want to say thank you for all you’ve taught me and for all you continue to teach me. Thanks for being my Dad.