This evening marks the 36th anniversary of the death of my Dad, back on June 2, 1978. I’m sitting alone in a hotel room in Evansville pondering this reality and remembering some of the marker events in my life with my father. If you ask my brothers, they would tell you that of the three of us, I am the most like our father, and although I do believe that he loved us all, equally, there’s no denying that he and I were more alike than any other two people in the family. Mom seemed to connect more with both of my brothers and I always had a tougher time with her.
Maybe some of my special memories have to do with the fact that I was the oldest and, therefore, I was the first to experience some of the freedoms that came with being first. Sometimes, that worked against me. I was the first one who received typing lessons when I graduated from elementary school – so I could go to the office each evening and type orders, acknowledgments and invoices for my father. After all, he really couldn’t afford office help and he was out on the street selling wood products each day so it was up to me to make sure that everything was typed correctly. It was kind of a tough way to go through high school; and then college, as a commuter student.
And then, Dad was diagnosed with cancer the week of my finals in college. I gave up my dreams of graduate school and sat down to take over for Dad when he entered the hospital back in March, 1974. I graduated on March 15th and started full time in the office on the 18th. The rest, as they say, is history. And while those last four years of Dad’s life were physically very challenging for him at times, we grew even closer than we had been in the past. I learned all the clients and the woodworking mills that we used to produce the products that we sold.
I learned about all the bookkeeping and started to work with accountants to make sure that I understood everything. After all, if and when Dad died, it was important for the customers and vendors to have enough faith and trust in us that the company would still be viable after his passing. Those four years, from a financial perspective, put a strain on our lives. Janet and I already had Kristin and Jill was born five months before my father died. Unfortunately, Andrew wasn’t even born until 3 years later; and believe me, resources were thin. We lived hand to mouth trying to grow the business. I actually went door to door selling wood products throughout the entire Chicagoland area – tough times…
Now Janet and I have three grown children and I can’t help but make comparisons to the way my own nuclear family was raised. Both of our daughters are on their own and I work with Andrew much the same way that Dad worked with me. I see the way that I like to do things and how Andrew, a different generation with different skill sets, likes to do things with other tools and outcomes than I am sometimes comfortable with. Admittedly, I can get amped up about this, but then I realize that I did the same thing with my own father a generation ago. What goes around comes around!
For sure, we need to be open to advance and use technology and the various tools at our disposal to stay competitive and keep growing as a family owned business. By the way, changing tools and processes can be fine as long as we don’t compromise our ethics, morals or commitment to excellence. I just couldn’t tolerate that deviation from the way I was raised. Come to think of it, neither could Andrew. We are very much alike that way.
So are our daughters. Each member of the family subscribes to high standards even though we are all in different areas of expertise. And this goes all the way back to my grandfather and Dad. There’s something gratifying about carrying on the legacy. But everything wasn’t roses growing up. There were difficult years and differences in the things that Dad and I found important. How does the saying go? “The older I get, the smarter my father becomes…” How true.
And anyone who knows our family knows that my mother and father were strict disciplinarians. That didn’t sit too well with their children but I do believe that they thought they were doing what was best for us. And here I am, 36 years later, with both of my parents gone, and I can still remember most aspects of my upbringing like it was yesterday. While it’s true that some of the recollections of my father are starting to fade into the background, I am grateful for the way my parents raised us – even if it didn’t seem so good at the time.
The verse for this evening is from Hebrews 12:9-10, “Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” My encouragement this evening is that God only wants the best for us – even if it might not always seem that way. And my prayer is that you will take God’s pruning to heart and that when the end of your life is at hand, you will have fond memories of your life and the way that you turned out; including being proud of your children. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…