Today is a rather famous day in history. Babe Ruth retired on this date in 1935, Queen Elizabeth was crowned Queen of England in 1953, the Civil War ended in 1865, President Grover Cleveland married the daughter of his former law partner, 27 years his junior in 1886 and in 1978, my father died. It’s difficult to believe that his death occurred 41 years ago today – of course, I remember it like it was yesterday.
He died at the age of 55, several months after I turned 25. I could always remember Dad’s age because he was 30 years my senior. And as I sit here writing this evening, I am already eleven years older than my Dad was when he died. Our youngest child, Andrew, has had me around almost 13 years longer than I had my own father. Of course, it’s even longer for Jill and Kristin.
My father used to love to play with Kristin who was almost three when he finally succumbed to cancer – and Jill was just 5 months old when his life ended. Andrew never met my Dad. Sure, I have told them all countless stories about my life growing up, but it’s not the same when you weren’t around.
I remember one night when Dad and I were at his office and I was typing orders, acknowledgments and invoices for him. I got paid .25 per page and .01 for each envelope. Anyway, there was a quiz in the newspaper and it had a list of 10 musical groups from the mid 1960’s. One of the names was made up, but the other nine were legitimate. Dad asked me if I could correctly identify the fake name. Of course, given that all the groups were current – names like the Beach Boys, the Cowsills, The Mamas and the Papas, the Rolling Stones, etc., I got the quiz right. Dad was amazed and lamented that he really had only heard of one or two of the groups.
Fast forward to yesterday. I was watching Fox News and they were talking about a new song by John Rich and the Fox News Five titled “Shut Up About Politics.” The song is apparently very popular and I was curious if the song was making it to the top of the iTunes downloads chart. I looked at the lists of top songs and albums and barely recognized any of the names at all! Suddenly, I was reliving that night back in the 1960’s when Dad couldn’t name the current groups. It never occurred to me that some day I would be as “clueless” as Dad was that evening.
In many other ways, though, the older I get the more I appreciate the wisdom of my father. I still balance our bank statements the same way he showed me years ago. Yes, I know that there are apps on our smartphones that keep current balances and that perhaps we never need to manually balance a bank statement again. But I like knowing that each of our accounts is correct – month after month, year after year. And yes, I am a dinosaur – I balance to the penny each month…
Or when Dad taught me that “when you are out on the street, things happen…” You don’t make your money behind a desk, but by meeting people and doing deals on the street. I used that method of selling to keep going when I was tired and scared – and landed one of the largest accounts I ever sold during a cold call when I was in my early twenties. It saved our family business at the time…
Or when Dad showed me a sign that said, “THINK, and then, more importantly, ACT accordingly…” How many times I have remembered that mantra when I am confused about which way to go or become unable to reach a decision about what I should do.
And I wonder what life would be like if Dad was still around. Every so often, I run into a friend who still has their parents. What a blessing that is. That’s so far in the past that I can hardly imagine what it would be like to have a phone conversation with Dad or Mom.
I always respected my Dad. And now, I am the elder statesman. It’s difficult to believe that I am the patriarch of the family for now. Someday, that will change. And I hope that as the years go on, my successors in the family will try to be as respectful and diligent as I have taken my role, the stewardship that was entrusted to me by my maternal grandfather and my Dad.
Our verse tonight is a simple one and highlights the way we are to treat our elders… The apostle Paul, in his teaching of young Timothy, says in 1 Timothy 5:1, “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers…” As the years have passed, I have seen the wisdom in this verse. I look at the world differently than I used to.
My encouragement this evening is that we should all respect our elders and learn from them to the best of our ability. Even when we don’t think we need to respect them, as we are older ourselves, we need to heed the words of Paul. My prayer is that we will all set great examples for our families and younger people as it is our responsibility to carry the legacy of leadership until the next generations take over. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…