“Dad, do you want me to butter your toast?”
It was no great act of service on my part. My dad was lying in a hospital bed recovering from pneumonia. I knew it wasn’t easy for him, with some vision problems, to locate all the utensils and condiments scattered around his breakfast tray.
“Yeah, that’d be good, son.”
As I stood over him buttering the toast, I had one of those moments. Maybe it was deep gratitude for his loving and steady presence throughout my life. And maybe it was partly a realization of how fast life passes us by.
It would have been almost 35 years ago, but it really does seem like only yesterday. When my brother and me were home from college in the summers, we lived with Dad. And we got up and went to work with him five days a week. Of course there were no smartphones then, but I didn’t have an alarm clock either.
My dad was my alarm clock. I slept in our basement. Each morning, the light switch at the top of the stairs would flick lights on and off a couple of times and I’d hear a ring on his finger banging hard against the wall. This didn’t just mean it was time to get up. It meant breakfast was ready.
What was for breakfast? Usually cereal. Basic stuff, no marshmallows. Sugar Smacks, Frosted Flakes, or Rice Krispies. And always……toast. Not from the toaster. Dad toast. Slices of bread spread out over a cookie sheet with chunks of stick margarine scattered randomly on top and broiled on the top oven rack for a couple of minutes.
Looking back at those days, I don’t think it was ever stated what the penalty would have been for giving in to my teen instinct to just roll over and go back to sleep instead of coming up the stairs for breakfast. I just knew it was time to get up because he said so.
Dad has never excelled in the area of giving clear instructions. But he lives his life in a way that makes it clear what is expected of his family and employees: Show up, treat others well, try your best, finish your work, and tell the truth.
What he has communicated well has been his love for his family. From those early days of reaching up to hug his neck and feel his rough stubble against the soft skin of the face of my childhood to those college days where I could now look him in the eye, I’m grateful for just how many days ended with, “I love you son”………”I love you dad”.
My oldest son finished college last week and will start working alongside me in the coming days. I may remind him of these details, but I hope I’ve lived my life in a way that, like my own dad, shows them to be true: Trust God, show up, treat others well, try your best, finish your work, and tell the truth………and things will work out fine.
I can’t remember the last time I fixed my son breakfast. And I don’t think I’ve evere had to drag him out of bed for work. But I do remember the last time we ended our day with “I love you son”………”I love you dad”. And I know that’s a big deal.
Things are different now with my dad and me when we part ways. His health is not good. Instead of two men leaning in for a hug, I’m now leaning down to kiss the top of my dad’s head as he sits in his recliner. “I love you dad”……..”I love you son”.
And I walk away overwhelmed. Gratitude. I’m thankful that my dad is my dad. Renewed purpose. I want my wife and children to always have that same adoration for me that his wife and children have for him. Not because it’s adoration I seek. But because it’s the fruit of a man leading his family in a way that’s pleasing to God. The impact of a godly father carries on for generations.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” Matthew 6:19-21