One of the first video of tapes of me that exists is this scene . . . it was the front yard of my parent’s house. I was tiny, maybe 3 years old. I wore cowboy boots, shorts, and a baseball cap (I guess I have always been aesthetically challenged). There was a miniature baseball mitt on my left hand.
My shoulders were slumped over and my knees bent, as I crouched waiting for baseballs to be hit my way. My next door neighbor and lifelong friend, Boone Benton (he is six years older than I am), did the hitting. Though I was thrilled with life at that exact moment, there were no smiles. I was the definition of focused intensity, at least for a 3-year old in cowboy boots and shorts.
Cards on the table; most of the balls went around my glove and through my legs, but I clearly loved it nonetheless. I would chase the ball down from behind me and throw it back to Boone with every bit of strength I could muster up. I didn’t mug for the camera. I just went about the business of honing the skills of a middle infielder.
The video is grainy and jumpy, but my memory is not.
Thinking of that video, two things come to mind about my youth. The first is superficial, while the second has impacted my life for the good well beyond my temporal comprehension.
First, I LOVED playing baseball (and football) growing up. It was my life and passion. Since I have chronicled some of this already (CLICK here), I will let this rest.
Second, my Dad was no doubt the one holding the camera and coaching me in my fielding technique (the video camera didn’t have sound, so I’m not completely sure).
In a world where fathers are often vacant, either physically or emotionally, mine was always present. He was always there for me.
My Dad did a lot of things well in raising my sisters and me. However, I don’t think anything was more important than his consistent, steady, and stabilizing presence.
Dad worked hard at his job. He was good at it. Dad had many friendships which he valued and for which he sacrificed. Dad was a good son to his aging parents. However, our family was always his priority. This was never in doubt.
As soon as I was off to college as the last child, the golf clubs came out and the trips to Florida became more frequent. This was never the case when I was a kid, though. There just wasn’t enough time for everything. Hobbies for him were non-existent for that stage in his life. Looking back, he chose his time wisely, and for this I am eternally grateful.
Now I have the joy of having two brothers-in-law whom are tremendous dads to my eight nieces and nephews. Like me at their age, I’m sure they don’t see this now, but Bill and Kevin are also always present. I’m proud of Bill and Kevin for many reasons, but none more than the simple fact that they have always prioritized their children. They will never regret this and neither will their kids.
Dad’s birthday is next week and I will miss it again. By my count, this will be the 11th birthday of his I have missed while living overseas.
In a way, I honestly believe the blessing of my father’s presence is one of the many factors which has enabled me to move out in faith towards my chosen profession. His presence provided me with the confidence and emotional security to work and live in the situation I have here in Asia for much of my adult life.
It is often said that we perceive our heavenly Father, God, in light of how we view our earthly fathers. While I have my fair share of struggles, doubting the presence of God is not one of them. No matter the situation, location, and/or perceived danger, I always have confidence in God’s presence with me. Even in personal pain and other such areas, I know God is with me. No doubt, this is one of the legacies of my earthly father always being present in my life. I look forward to seeing how this factor will manifest itself in the lives of my nieces and nephews (sorry Becky and Betsy!).
I’m certain that my living overseas is hard on Mom and Dad. I know it is on me. I can only imagine what it is like for my parents. While I was fielding grounders in the front yard, cowboy boots and all, I’m certain it was not their dream for me to move 12,000 miles away from them. I’m sure this has been a painful “letting go” for them.
However, on this my Dad’s birthday, I am grateful for his simple, yet profound presence in my life. Though is looks different now, it is still as important as ever.
Thanks Dad. I love you.
Have a great birthday and I owe you a breakfast at the Hickory House when I am next home!
(In this post, Epic birthday surprise, I explain the picture of Dad and I hugging at the beginning of this post.)