My dad was a captive, in a sense, of the times in which he lived. His generation, the "Greatest Generation," according to Tom Brokaw (see my blog on this by clicking here), lived through some of the most horrific seasons in modern history: the Great Depression and World War 2. Those experiences shaped my dad and others in his generation, and some of that "shaping" left them broken in ways that hurt their children. Thus I and others in my generation have our share of "father wounds." But the older I have gotten, the more I have come to realize the reasons why Dad is the way he is and, more importantly, the legacy he has given to me in spite of his own wounds. You will glimpse some of that legacy, I trust, in my letter to him.
I was going through my journal the other day and found my entries where we were all realizing that Mom’s time of departure was near at hand. One thing that struck me deeply after her funeral was discovering my letters to her in her Bible. I found myself wishing I had written more of them to her.
It’s strange how we sometimes fail to tell those who are most precious to us how important they are to us, but I don’t want to make that mistake with you. And even though historically you have thought it a sign of weakness for people to need “an Attaboy!” I know that you really do need to hear encouragement from others just like all the rest of us. So I want to write a few thoughts telling you why I think you are a good man, a great man. You probably don’t know this, but one time when Mom confided in me about your relationship, she described you (more than once, I think) as “one man in a million.” That moment has always stayed with me, and as I have grown older I have come to realize why Mom said that, and why I believe she was right. Here are a few reasons.
First, you are a leader. From your stories about almost walking off the edge of the ship to the ones about how you started the business to a thousand other stories, it’s clear that God destined you to lead. You spent decades leading a company through good times and bad times, and you did so with a caring heart for your employees and a true commitment to ensuring that customers could count on Wymore’s doing things right. You led in other areas as well, serving on the board at church, serving as scoutmaster, taking the lead in caring for the Blue Angels during their training season down here, and many more. That leads me to the next point.
Second, you are a servant. If we didn’t know that before, watching you care for Mom during her final years proved that beyond any shadow of doubt. And you served in many, many other areas as well. Every time you drive by the First Christian Church building you see evidence of your servant’s heart. You and John, Claude and a few others took the lead in seeing that facility constructed and it stands today as a testimony to your servant-heartedness. And think of how many members of the Blue Angels got to experience not just good barbecue but good hunting and good friendship from you as you served them. I could write more, of course, but you get the picture, I think. You also served your country as part of the Greatest Generation—something I appreciate more and more each time I meet a WWII vet or read about the Great War. You also served us as best you knew how. Many of my friends never had a dad who taught them how to fish or hunt or work or fix cars, but I did. And I realize now that your taking me hunting or fishing or having me work for things instead of just giving them to me was your way of saying “I love you” to Rich, Marla and me. Thanks for serving and loving us, Dad.
Third, you are remarkably generous. I learned how to be generous and hospitable by watching you, Dad. And of all the things I am proud of you for, this one may be the one I mention the most often to others. I trace my deep commitment to generosity to my learning it from you. It seemed to me that every time I turned around I was watching you give to people—that marked me deeply, Dad, and I will always be grateful for your example in this!
Fourth, you put your very strong mind to good use. None of us can take credit for how God made us, of course, so the fact that some folks have strong minds is simply a gift from God. But we watched you put your mind to very good use, and you taught us to do the same, challenging us to think things out, use initiative, etc. You also modeled good reading habits, and I owe my love for history directly to you, I am sure. I saw you reading history so much that I caught the desire to read it myself.
Maybe this is enough for now, Dad, but I can think of many, many more things. Happy Father's Day, Dad! Thanks for being a good man, a Christian man, and a dad who loved me!
Tom, one of Abba's little boys