The Words My Pa Gave to Me, Before He Died

I wasn’t always so great at talking to my Dad. Especially during those teenage years, you know, it was so very awkward. I would have these things I needed to tell him though, some struggles I was going through, and so I would tell my Mom first. And then she’d have me and Dad sit down together in the living room, and somehow, we’d stumble it out. I’d tell him my hard things. And he’d challenge me in some areas where I was stuck.  And give me advice.

Good grief, it was excruciating to work through.

I hated it. And I loved it. And now, I’m so glad my Mom had us do that.

At some point, a few years ago, I decided to call my Dad on Saturdays. Because it was always easy to talk to my Mom. I’d call and we could talk for an hour, no problem. But, I realized after years of this, that I never really talked to my Dad. Except, “Hi Dad! Is Mom around?” But, that’s not really relationship. And I so wanted to have a relationship with him.

I realized that all this time was going by, and I wasn’t getting to know my Dad, like I wanted to. So, I thought, I’d just push through the awkward at first, and I’d tell my Dad that from now on, I was gonna call him on Saturdays. Because that’s what you have to do, if you want relationship. You have to push through the awkwardness.

So, I called my Dad on Saturdays. I missed some. Because somewhere along the way, I developed this fear in my little girl heart. The fear that told me I would somehow be bugging my Dad. Like, “What if he’s busy?” Or “What if he doesn’t want to talk?” But, on the days when I was brave and energetic enough to push through that fear, I’d make that call.

And always he’d answer. Or he’d text and say he’d call back later.

We talked about the weather. Every time. And it wasn’t trivial, like you’d think. It was just that the weather very much affected both of us. If the weather was nice, Dad could golf. (Or after his COPD developed, he’d imagine golfing again.) And I could go outside and sit in the sunshine. But, if the weather was cold and grey for days, we’d both get a bit depressed.

We talked about who he met down at his tire store. Which customers came in that we both knew and how they were doing. We talked about church. His new found friends. We talked about house projects. And I’d tell him funny stories about the kids.

And always at the end, there was, “I love you, Pa.” And “I love you, too, sweetie. Give those kids a kiss and hug from Pa.”

I count that a major blessing that I got to hear my Dad say, “I love you,” so much. Some folks never hear that from their fathers.

A couple of years ago, we almost lost my Dad. And so we began naming every day after that, a bonus day. Which then ended up being a bonus year. Which ended up being two whole bonus years.

And as those days passed on and his COPD progressed, I realized I didn’t have enough of Dad’s stories. I didn’t have enough of his thoughts. So, on Saturdays, I’d ask him to tell me stories. What he did when he was little. How he got to be a mechanic. What his mom and dad were like. What he used to do with his best friend in high school.

I needed to get my questions in. Because that’s what you do, when you want relationship. You ask questions.

And then, when Dad was too weak to talk, and since I was still afraid of bugging him sometimes, but desperately wanted to know him, I’d text. “Dad. What’s your favorite color?”  “Dad, who was your mentor?”

Now, it’s almost too painful to go back and read those texts. Almost. But, I’m glad I have them. I need to figure out how to save them, forever, somehow.

When my Pa went on to heaven, my Mom told us kids to look around and find any special things we wanted to keep, to remind us of him.

I found my Daddy’s handwritten words. Well, they were God’s words, that my Dad had scribbled down on the back of some cards. But, I am a word’s girl. I scribble words down all day long. Words are how I come to understand my life. And I’ve saved every single thing my Dad has ever written to me. So, these meant so much.

When I showed my Mom what I had picked out, she sighed and said, “You know honey. A lot of people don’t know this about your Dad. But, he carried those Scripture cards around in his pocket at work. He had hated his job for so long, (it was such back-breaking labor) that he decided instead of hating it, he would begin thanking God for his job. And he would use that time to pray.”

So, here I am, over here, in my own struggling along life, and I’m treasuring the words my Pa left me. He grew to have a relationship with the Word Himself–the Jesus Man. Jesus, the Living Word, who went to work with my Pa and whispered into my Dad to adopt some kids (that’s how me and my little brother got here.)

That relationship that my Dad had with God, helped my Dad become his truest, freest, most beautiful self.

And so I’ve got some of his stories to nourish me. I’ve got some of his words. “I love you, sweetie! Give your family a hug and kiss from Pa!”

I’ve got the Word that he’s passed on to me. These life-giving, life-changing words that he intentionally worked into his life.

And I’m clinging to them.

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