In a priest’s talk on fatherhood a few years ago, he’d said, “What a father is, his children will become. He will live in their memory, and his legacy will endure in their lives.” Indeed.
For the first time, I connected a father’s love for his children with that of Christ for His flock.
I think often of my father, who at 85 went to eternal life six summers ago. The longer he’s gone, the more we realize how he fortified us for the struggles of life. We still implore him.
Dad was the first to prepare a place for us, our home. It was a daily refuge like no other. “… I go and prepare a place for you … and will take you to myself” (John 14:3).
Respect for Mom was mandatory, or we’d answer imminently to Dad. “… it is a disgrace for children not to respect their mother” (Sir 3:11).
He disciplined us consistently, regardless of others’ opinions. “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline … for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov 3: 11-12).
He personified a tireless work ethic and generosity. An engineer managing heavy construction projects, he drove to the site at 4 a.m., leaving us a fresh coffee, a quick omelet, and our school lunches packed. “The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of the eternal mountains” (Gen 49:26).
As his only daughter, there was no escaping Dad’s old-world modesty standard. It wasn’t always well-received, like the afternoon I didn’t see him at a traffic light, as I cycled by in my favorite short-shorts. A raucous horn-blast almost sent me over the handlebars, followed by his command to get home and change. “A daughter keeps her father secretly wakeful, and worry over her robs him of sleep” (Sir 42:9).
He inspired us with everyday closeness to God. Dad would leave the job site at 6 a.m. for daily Mass, then return to work for a long day. He kept his Roman Missal and Pocket Summa in the car, and rosary in his pocket. “And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love Him with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Deut 30:6).
The sweetest recollections were of bringing him our failures and humiliations. That’s when we took great solace in Dad as our port in the world’s storms. He consoled, forgave and reaffirmed us. “… while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).
Caring for him in old age was a small return for his gifts of a lifetime. “… help your father in his old age, and do not grieve him as long as he lives” (Sir 3:12).
His sacrifices were many, like encouraging my discordant piano practicing, and my brother’s jarring drum solos. He didn’t leave home or lose himself in hobbies. Dad’s favorite pastime was us.
CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s Editor.