Usually, when people write about Father’s Day, they do so prior to Father’s Day and reflect on what impact their dad, or grandfather, or some other significant male, had on their lives. This reflection is a bit different and deals only with the reality of the day itself … that is, the Father’s Day just past.
I am a great-grandfather now, so I have been around a few years and have left enough progeny to assure that at least some of my genetic code will move on into the future. Hopefully, enough of them will have been impacted spiritually so that a legacy of Christian faith will also survive into the generations ahead. But that is not what this reflection is about. It is about the day itself.
The day, of course, was Sunday as Father’s Day is always on a Sunday. And, as always, my wife and I were in church where I serve as the rector, or pastor. I delivered a sermon on “The Perfect Father,” which had nothing to do with me but did look to God as the supreme example of a loving father.
It was a special moment, later in the service, to see my oldest son, Jason, celebrate Holy Eucharist, or Holy Communion. A 20-year veteran of law enforcement, he is a priest who is assuming more and more responsibility in the life of the church.
Present in church was his wife, Jessica, and daughters Eliana and Rebekah. Their son, Isaac, recently honorably discharged from the Marine Corps, is back on the worship team and is, once again, our drummer. Their oldest daughter, Victoria, “Tori,” as she is known by all, and her husband Joshua, joined with us after attending the early service at their Lutheran Church.
After church we all piled into the El Ranchero Mexican Restaurant in Peachtree City for a Dad’s day meal. Later in the day, our son, John, and his wife Kelly, came by our house to bring me their gift — a rack of smoked beef ribs, which my wife stole a few of even though she isn’t a father. With them were three granddaughters, Peyton, Cassie, and, the baby of the grandkids, Isabella.
A bit later they were joined by grandson Sam, his wife Rebecca, and their new baby, Henry (and my great-grandson). Eliana (Ellie) came down to join them a bit later. It was a grand afternoon of just being with each other. Not all of my family could be there as some are scattered about the country.
When I was a teenager, and even as a young adult, I didn’t realize how much such moments meant to fathers and grandfathers. I suppose I saw the day as an imposition where I had to do my duty and give at least lip service to Father’s Day. I truly regret that now. The simple fact of knowing that your kids and grandkids, and their spouses, care about you in your later years is a source of comfort, strength, and joy.
In recent years, I have written articles giving honor and tribute to my father, grandfather, and other men who served as guideposts along my life’s journey. Sadly, most of those tributes came after they died and I can only hope that they knew that they were loved and deeply appreciated. But I don’t know that they knew, and that has given me many regrets.
Later in the evening, sitting on my porch, I reflected on the joy of serving as the patriarch of a family. I also thought of my dad who died almost 25 years ago and one of the hardest working men I ever knew. He was also a man filled with integrity. I miss him still.
I thought of my maternal grandfather who spent many hours with me fishing on the river bank or the lake shore and letting a child dream dreams without ever telling him that those dreams were silly or improbable. I wore my Marine uniform for the last time at his funeral when I was 24 years old. That was 46 years ago and I still miss him, too.
I thought about my paternal grandfather, whom I never knew very well, as he lived in another state. Yet, he too, was a patriarch with eight children who spread out from Hawkins and Sullivan counties in northeast Tennessee to California and Florida and places in between.
I thought about other men who served as father figures in my life, men like The Rev’d Fred L. Austin, Coach Cecil Puckett, Rev. Clarence Cope, and several others. I realize that not everyone has had the benefit of a good father or of good father figures. Those of us who have, are truly blessed.
It’s not easy being a father. We make mistakes, we have regrets, and we nearly all wish we had a second chance to do it better. But, in the end, we do our best and hope and pray that it was enough. And that, we too, will be remembered fondly by those who come after.
[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). The church is open at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays but is also live streaming at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life). He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]