August 2nd is a special day in our family. That’s because Janet’s Dad celebrates a big birthday today – he turns 90. That’s pretty special – especially when you consider that he is in fine shape!
Janet’s parents, John and Nancy, are celebrating this occasion with their three daughters at a resort near Charlottesville, Virginia. It is a “nuclear” celebration – no son-in-laws, grandchildren or friends allowed. So Janet left last Saturday morning for Williamsburg, where her parents live, and everyone headed to the resort yesterday morning, after the week-end in Williamsburg. Therefore, you guessed it, I am bachelor guy this week – Janet will return home on Friday evening.
We have known that this event was going to happen for some time; and I find myself in the odd position of defending my father-in-law. Many people have wondered why the whole family isn’t involved – but I understand completely. And if I was in John’s place, I would only want my nuclear family as well. So before I get cards and letters on this topic, let me explain. To start with, there’s an old adage that says, “A son’s a son till he takes him a wife; but a daughter’s a daughter for the rest of her life.” And that’s true.
As much as I appreciate that our daughters are married, there are times that I would rather be with just them. Nothing against Jimmy and Tom, our son-in-laws, but sometimes it is nice to just have the girls around. And Andrew, our only son, maybe doesn’t feel as strongly about it right now, but perhaps someday he will understand. And we only have two daughters – John and Nancy have three. So, I back John on his decision all the way – I would do the same thing.
And John is a great guy. I have known him since I was a little boy – Janet’s folks and my folks were best friends. And, oh, the memories. Each year, the four adults would spend New Year’s Eve together – for many years – and I remember that New Year’s Eve was the only day of the year that we were allowed to have soft drinks. So when the Boyds came over to celebrate the New Year, my brothers and I were elated.
And when I was old enough to get lawn jobs and mow grass for extra money, my father in-law hired me for $1 per week to cut his grass – eventually raising me to $1.25 which included sweeping the walks. And that was big money to a kid trying to start his first “company.” When I started working at the Huddle, a local clothing store at age 16, John would stop over at our home and see what the trends were in the clothing we sold. I remember he would look through the closet and we would discuss what was new. I don’t even know if he remembers this, but it was sure nice of him to care enough to engage me in conversation. And when my Dad wanted to get out of a chore, or have some time away from home, you could bet that he had headed over to the Boyd home on Hamilton Avenue.
Eventually, Janet and I married, so you can see that John has been a part of my life almost from the beginning. In fact, and this is just amazing to me, I have know my father-in-law more than twice as long as I knew my own father! I was calculating it yesterday, and when I do the math, I knew my Dad 25 years before he died, and I have now known John for 53 years. And as memories of my own father fade away, I am still creating new memories with John. That’s hard for me to fathom – but it’s a great blessing.
He was there when I started one of my first businesses – painting numbers on curbs for emergency vehicles. He was a customer. And when I went into business with my Dad, after his cancer diagnosis, John rented an office with my father. Although it may have benefited both of them, it was a real act of kindness on John’s part. Because Dad was really struggling.
After Dad died, and Janet and I moved to Indianapolis, John encouraged me to start a temporary staffing company – the same business he was in. Although the companies were not connected in any way, he gave his time and energy to coach me through the start-up years. When I went to seminary, and was getting out of the corporate world, John even put me in touch with the gentleman, an old friend of his, who bought what was left of my company. During the tough transitions of my life, John has been there – and there were many times that I wanted fatherly advice and my own Dad wasn’t still alive to consult. I’m still not so sure that John ever understood my decision to attend seminary, but we have come to a level of mutual respect as a result of all our years together.
Now I’m not naive enough to think that John cares for me the same way he does Janet and her sisters. But he’s been a stand-up guy and has been fair with me my whole life. It hasn’t all been a bed of roses. I was young, arrogant and headstrong – and John was the Alpha male in the family – something no son-in-law wants to admit – just ask my own son-in-laws. But the reality is that dads and daughters have a special bond, and it is not for me to interfere in that relationship. In fact, I am so glad that Janet can still enjoy her parents – one of the things I wish I still had with my own family.
The verse tonight is from the Psalms. As I sit here tonight, I realize how fleeting life is, and how much life John has lived. And it’s not nearly over yet. But I bet it has gone fast for him. And those sentiments are reflected in Ps. 39:5, “You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath.” But what an impact John has had on so many lives.
So my encouragement tonight is to realize that we all have a chance to change other lives, just as John has changed and enriched mine. And my prayer is that those folks whom God has chosen to reward with long life; those people we admire and look to as mentors, will continue to impact the world for Christ and will also use their talents, and their time, to leave this earth a little better than they found it. Mission accomplished…..Happy Birthday, John. And many more……