Reflections for Father’s Day

Albert, Prince of Belgium, visited the farm.

President of his high school senior class. Officer in the Halls Community Club. With his father, a productive dairy farmer whose farm was selected as a TVA test-demonstration farm for the education and improvement of farms not only locally but also nationally and internationally. Successful small businessman as a local brick mason, known for his honesty and work quality. Deacon and Sunday school teacher.

This is a worthy resume for any man. But one other entry that could be added to those achievements is much more important to me: that man was also father–my father. Daddy.

Daddy was not a perfect man. No man is. But he was a godly and dependable man. If he said something, you could count on it. If he told me that I’d get spanked if I disobeyed, I knew–from experience–that it would come to pass even as he had said it would. (Yet, I got far fewer of his spankings than I deserved.) If he told a client that he would do a job for a certain price, that’s exactly what he charged, even if he had to “eat” expenses that pushed his costs beyond the stated amount. He refused offers of additional money to push one client’s project ahead of a project of another client on which he was already working.

Daddy was not only a man of his word but also a man of the Word. Although he was not a good reader (his mother had to read his high school reading assignments aloud to him or he never would have finished them), he read his Bible faithfully. (His pastor, O.V. Edwards, wearing a black jacket in the photo of the church project to the left, taught him to lay brick while constructing their new church building. Daddy is to the far left in the photo.) From his own Bible study and the preaching and teaching he received in church, Daddy accepted Christ and developed his doctrinal beliefs and convictions. And he was firm in those convictions, come what may. He sometimes faced opposition over those convictions, but he stuck to them, even at the price of loss of friends. Although those former friends disagreed with him, they secretly admired and respected his commitment to his convictions.

Daddy was not without humor, although it was often dry or bent toward good-natured pranks and teasing. He once told a laborer who had forgotten his jacket on a chilly morning to stuff scraps of fiberglass insulation into his shirt sleeves. The uninitiated worker quickly became initiated by the itching that the insulation produced. Daddy also loved to tease his children when they were young and especially his grandchildren. But teasing was his way of showing people that he liked them. If he didn’t tease a person, it was a sign that he was ambivalent toward the person.

From the time my brother Dale and I were old enough to get into trouble at home, Daddy made us go to work with him, where he kept us so busy carrying bricks, mixing mortar, and either building or tearing down scaffolding that we didn’t have time to get into trouble. If we didn’t have anything to do, he found something, even if it was cleaning out the tool box in the bed of his truck. At home, he kept us busy mowing the lawn, weeding the strawberry patch, removing pruned grape vines, or hauling off wheelbarrows full of our garden’s greatest crop–rocks.

Occasionally, Daddy would find time to “pass ball” with us, throwing a baseball back and forth–on the ground, in the air–to help us hone our skills. He even tried to teach us to throw a knuckleball, a skill that Uncle Homer, a part-time St. Louis Cardinals scout, had taught him when he was a child. His knuckler was easy to see (because it rotated almost none, the seams were clearly visible as it came toward me) but hard to catch. When I did catch it, it stung my gloved hand as much as a hard fastball did. I never did master that pitch, but it increased my appreciation for the skill of such great major league knuckleballers as Hoyt Wilhelm and Phil Niekro.

Other boys might have had fathers who were easier on them, letting them do whatever they wanted and not spanking them when they did wrong. Others might have had fathers who sought to buy their affection with material things. And others might have had fathers who taught them by their example how to get ahead in this world and to gather to themselves wealth or fame. But Daddy gave us kids something much more valuable. He taught, by his example, a love for God and His Word and the character qualities that befit someone who claims the name Christian.

I will forever–on not only this Father’s Day but also every other day–be grateful that God gave me him as my daddy.



Remembering My Dads

Dad“Still waters run deep.”

That proverb describes Ralph Peterson, my Daddy. He was a quiet man. He said little in public, preferring to listen silently, taking in all that was said by others in a conversation.

But Daddy thought. And he knew what he believed. He held strong convictions about those beliefs. And he lived them; he did not merely profess to believe them. He acted on those beliefs, and that was evident in his life.

Those beliefs included honesty, hard work, self-reliance, and devotion to his wife. Those beliefs were the foundation of his life.  He was honest in his dealings with the people he served through his brick-laying skills. As a kid working with him during summers and on Saturdays and school holidays, on more than one occasion I saw him make a mistake and watched as he tore out the incorrect work and replaced it correctly–at his own expense. If he pledged to do something for a certain price, he did it–even if it actually cost him more than he had quoted. And, in the end, it paid off with more work and the respect of those for whom he did it.

He worked hard. I saw him labor from the break of dawn until darkness prevented further work. He got up early to dust the garden with Blue Dragon, then he put in a full day of bricklaying, but he came home and worked in the yard or garden until darkness overtook him. He built our house himself after his regular work day as he had time and money, sawing boards from the timber that he had felled on the property. He made many renovations to improve the house as the family grew.

And Daddy loved Mother. We kids regularly witnessed his kissing Mother goodbye when he left for work in the morning and hello the minute he returned home–and many, many times while he was home. Hugs and kisses between the two were a common occurrence, something that we took for granted. They held hands in public. They didn’t keep their affection for each other private. Although I don’t remember his demonstrating outward affection to us kids in the form of hugs and kisses and words of endearment, we knew without doubt that he loved us too. He made us obey. And woe be to the kid who ever disrespected Mother with a sassy comment!

Most importantly, Daddy taught his beliefs to us kids. Just as he was honest, hardworking, and self-reliant, he wanted us kids to grow up holding those same values. Underlying all of those beliefs, however, was his firm foundation in the Bible and its teachings. There could be no honesty, work ethic, independence, or true love apart from that foundation. Although Daddy is in heaven now, having passed before he could enjoy more than a couple of years of retirement, the truths he believed so firmly live on.

DSC_0009By marriage, I obtained a second father, of sorts, in my father-in-law. In many respects, Charles Dietterich has been what Daddy was not. Mr. Dietterich is gregarious and outgoing, always ready to strike up a conversation with even total strangers. Whereas Daddy was a good listener but seldom offered advice after I became an adult, Mr. Dietterich has been more than willing to suggest alternative ways of viewing problems or overcoming disappointments whenever I’ve sought his input.

With only an eighth-grade education, Mr. D joined the Navy toward the end of World War II and saw action during the kamikaze attacks off the coast of Okinawa and witnessed the signing of the surrender papers in Tokyo Bay. He returned to the States, worked hard, and became first a contractor and later an architect. He and his bride reared a family of four children and was heavily involved in church ministries, especially chalk art.

Mr. Dietterich and Daddy shared and lived the same biblical values of honesty, hard work, self-reliance, and devotion to ones spouse. By example, Mr. D taught me the necessity of being in the Word daily, of living what one learns from it, of giving God His due and then paying yourself first after that. He taught the importance of investing wisely and the importance of giving ones time and talents for others. And he listened, just as Daddy did so well. But Mr. D went a step beyond and offered insights and suggested possible solutions and food for thought.

Although Mr. D retired from his drawing board nearly 25 years ago, he has remained active, practicing that ingrained principle of hard work. For the past 13 years, he pastored a small church in Florida, having begun as interim pastor–“until they could find someone else,” which they only recently did. Now he’s retired again–to become the assistant pastor at the church! At the age of 89, he keeps living those beliefs.

One is fortunate, indeed, if he or she can celebrate a loving, godly, and exemplary father this weekend. I, however, have been doubly blessed in having had two such fathers–my biological father, Ralph Henry Peterson, and my father-in-law, Charles Edward Dietterich. They both have earned the honor I offer them on this Father’s Day, 2016.