Ugly Christmas Sweaters and Predictable Dads

There’s an old Chet Atkins song called “I Still Can’t Say Goodbye”, a song about missing our dads when they’re gone. And there’s a part of the song where he talks about climbing up in the closet as a young boy to retrieve his dad’s hat…..because he wanted to wear his hat and be just like his dad.

I lost my dad back in May. Among the many other things he was to me, he was one of two people in this world (the other being my wife) that I’d go to in those moments of “Hey, I really don’t know what to do in this situation”. And he was the rock that I, along with all of our work family, leaned on in our family’s business.

As our first Christmas without him has approached, I’ve been reminded somewhat of how he was a creature of habit. But I’ve also had my eyes opened to the ways that many of those habits were driven by deeply held values. He had to be one of the most predictable men on the face of the earth. You always knew where he was going to be at certain times. And you always knew exactly how he was going to respond in certain situations.

And on the last day our store was open before closing up for Christmas Eve and Christmas, we could always count on him wearing two things: 1) An old Christmas sweater (that may have come from Baker’s Department Store in the 80’s) and 2) A Christmas hat of some sort that had the distinct look of “One of my grandkids got me this hat at their school’s Santa’s Secret Shop”. And as that last work day wore down we could count on him doing a couple more things: 1) Asking me, “Well son, did we get everything done that we needed to get done?” and 2) Hand delivering an envelope to each employee before they departed for the day.

In the envelopes were Christmas bonuses. Not a life-changing amount. But always enough to make a difference in the families of our employees. My dad was a generous man. And he was a humble man. It meant the world to him to be able to provide employment to others, to provide an opportunity for others to put food on their tables year after year. So much so that, as far back as I’m aware, he basically didn’t pay himself from the earnings of our business. He simply worked faithfully six days a week, year after year, to build something stronger for the future and to provide wages for his work family. A servant’s heart.

I do still long to be like my dad. I don’t try to fill his shoes. They were too unique. But I am wearing his Christmas hat today (no sweater-I don’t own one). And I’ll be passing out Christmas bonuses soon, just like Dad.

And I’ll be thinking of all those things he valued deeply that made him so adorably predictable: love of God and family, honesty, generosity, kindness, and consistent hard work.

And I’ll have a greater appreciation in those moments with my own four kids, when one of them responds to something I’ve said or done with a big grin and, “Dad, I knew that’s what you say”. And I’ll know that, if I value the right things, my kids (like me) are being richly blessed by having a predictable dad. And I’ll be blessed in knowing that I really am like my dad in some way.

Merry Christmas

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