for release Friday June 10, 2005
by Melodie Davis
A Father’s Legacy
Our 23-year-old daughter was checking out a rental house which she and three roommates were hoping to share in a fairly upscale suburb of a large city. She was a little surprised to see that the plugs didn’t have the grounding hole common in most modern electrical wall sockets. After the tour was finished and her roommates had asked their questions, she asked the real estate agent, “So, is the electrical wiring up to code in this house?”
The look on the real estate agent’s face first registered bewilderment, and then he turned defensive.
“Well, it was built in 1978 so no, it is probably not” he finally sputtered. She asked it not to be a smarty but out of genuine curiosity, and knowing that our house, even though it had been built in the 60s, was rewired thanks to her hard sweat helping her father one long hot summer. She had also toured dozens of houses with us when were looking for houses, and had heard this question posed many times by her father.
She decided that all the hours, sweat and agony of the “summer we re-wired our house” was worth it to see the surprised look on the 50-60-year-old’s face. As the oldest child, the “helper” jobs first fell to Michelle. She was also delighted that summer when her dad let her do more than fetch him pliers and electrical tape and taught her how to actually install a simple socket.
This is just part of the legacy passed down from father to daughters. All of our girls have complete tool sets which Dad enjoyed getting them for Christmas one year. The set would probably be the envy of most men they eventually might marry: a dowry of sorts.
But there’s an even more important legacy he’s giving them, one that I hope they will carry with them: a character tool set.
He’s taught them, by example, that faith is important, and that keeping Sunday (mostly) as a day of rest takes priority over all the other projects around the house that are begging to be done.
He’s taught them, again by example, that getting the lawn mowed and weed-eated at church often takes priority over getting our lawn mowed and weed-eated.
He’s shown them his love by working on his feet all day in a warehouse, often getting up at 3:40 a.m. as needed to afford Friday night pizza and take them on summer outings.
He’s shown them the importance of taking time for other people—eagerly helping out those who need a hand with a project, even at the expense of things that need doing at home. He has a way of making people feel good, important, and like their ideas are valued.
He’s attended more choir and band concerts, back-to-school nights, freshman orientations, football game/marching band half time shows, parades, Christmas and spring programs, and recitals than ever bargained for when he said “I do.”
He’s battled more bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shavers, body bath, exfoliating buffs in the shower than he reckoned for.
He would have liked to have had sons—at least one. Instead God saw fit to give us daughters. People tell me, “Oh there’s something special about the connection between a father and daughters. And a mother and sons.”
I tried to analyze that: what is it? Is it because instead of having one woman to love who also loves him, he has four girls/women? I would say he has grown closer to them as they got older for which I am very thankful; having had little experience with babies (himself the baby of his family of three boys), he felt very awkward and worried about handling them when they were tiny. He interpreted any cry or fuss for Mom as inadequacy on his part, or that they didn’t “like” him, instead of looking to distract or entertain them. He did not take kindly to diaper duties (who does?) but stepped competently up to the plate when I had to travel on business or go to meetings. In fact, I always thought he grew closer to them while I was away. For our youngest daughter, he was the stay-at-home dad during part of one year when he worked an evening shift, and his “baby” skills grew by leaps and bounds during that time.
I never hear him talk about that old natural wish for sons anymore—instead, I only hear laments and soft, almost inaudible sobbing as he looks at a large family photo by our bed from when they were all under the age of six: “They grew up so fast.”
Their father is not perfect just as I am not perfect. We disagree on many things. The daughters could all list their issues and “hot spots” that we avoid to keep the peace. But this I know: he’s shared his faith, love and hard work. But the greatest of these is love.
What legacy has your father given you? Post responses at www.thirdway.com/aw/conversation.asp or write to me at Another Way, Box 22, Harrisonburg Va. 22802. (Please include your paper's name in your response.)
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 858 words; end material = 105 words
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