A Father’s Love: Father to the Fatherless
Guest Post by Thad Nelson
I was on a construction jobsite a few years back listening to a conversation between two of my co-workers about how terrible their fathers were and I interjected quite insensitively how awesome my own father was. This stopped the conversation and Charlie says to me, “Hey stop it. You’re spoiling our pity party!” It was at this point in my life that I really stopped and took stock of who my father is and what I had learned from him. Peacemaking, patience, joy, sticktuitiveness, self control, frugality, gentleness.
My dad never had an opinion when it came to eating out. He is generally not a picky person but it’s not like he doesn’t have favorite things:
I would say that I learned patience from my father from countless hunting and fishing trips, but it would not quite be accurate. At least not in the sense that I typically think of his patience. He is patient with people. He was patient with me and my sister and my mother and our stray cats and all our shortcomings…
Although he has just retired, I know that my dad will not stop working–ever. I have accused him of being a work-aholic but I know that he is not, he just experiences joy even in the midst of work. He will be an eternal putterer, and I suspect that if all the small tasks and large goals around the house were ever finished, that he would begin to tinker.
That being said, he is always ready to set aside his home projects in order to play, whether it’s tennis with his adult son or laundry basket spaceship with his grandkids or baseball with the neighbor kids who live with their mom. Play has always been on equal footing with work, but the projects always get finished eventually and are not usually as important as they seemed at the time.
When it comes to stick-to-it-iveness I could just say “the pool” and leave it at that. Maintaining a pool is like a bird nesting eggs. In the winter everything has to be winterized and my dad would literally stuff the pumphouse full of insulation to keep the pipes from freezing. Then in the spring it takes weeks to fish out all the leaves and debris from a PNW winter. Filters had to be backwashed, chemical levels had to be monitored multiple times a day and, of course, the holes in the bottom of the pool liner had to be patched with glue. Dad would put on a weight belt and take a deep breath and swim down to the bottom with a patch and glue. (My job was to ring a bell in the water if he was down more than two minutes).
When it comes to self-control there are many ways he modeled it for me but the one that stands out in my memory is vocabulary. He never, and I mean never, hit his finger with a hammer and swore. “Cotton-pick-it!” was about the closest I can remember. It turns out that it only took me twice biting down on a bar of Dial soap to realize that I too could control what words came out of my mouth—a truth that I am attempting to relearn now that Julie is about to repeat everything she hears me say.
The ability to live frugally is usually the ability to save. Some researchers did a study I read about where they offered young children one marshmallow now or two if they waited until the researcher did an errand and came back. They logged the results, then followed the participants through their adult lives. The kids that had the ability to delay gratification almost without fail turned out to have happier lives with better marriages, jobs, and relationships.
My father taught me to live within my means.
When I was maybe 8 or 9 we decided as a family that we wanted a boat for waterskiing, and both my parents took the time to teach my sister and I the process of saving money, ie: what we were going to give up, what lifestyle changes we were going to make. I am very grateful that they included us in the process, not only was the lesson of saving invaluable but we really felt like we had ownership of the boat and all the good that it was used for. I suppose I would be remiss if I did not include a shameless plug for God here. We prayed for just the right boat and we got a smokin’ deal on this boat because we were willing to wait. The people that owned it lived on a reservoir and could not access the boat ramp for 6 months out of the year because the water was too low. The guy selling the boat had just finished telling 20 different parties that he had already sold the boat when his buyer backed out because he decided he didn’t want to wait to get it out. Then my dad called, and bam, God came through for us. That boat ran forever and when it finally did die 20 years later my father-in-law was gracious enough to have it resurrected for more service.
A soft word turns away wrath. I could not figure out why all of the animals we had growing up loved my dad but would run from me like I was on fire. It may or may not have had something to do with how perfectly shaped a cat’s tail is for pulling. My father exudes gentleness and animals and children can sense that he is safe and come for a ear and chin scratch or a horse ride. I aspire to have this temperament but generally fail. I do however feel that enough of it has rubbed off on me to allow me to hesitate sometimes when I am about to fly off the handle and do something that I know I will regret. My new work motto for this year has become, “No one will remember what I built, but everyone will remember who I was.”
Thanks Dad for being so great.