Father’s Day is coming up.
When you write, the temptation is to use a subject to display your writing. It’s real and powerful. And deadly to the soul. It’s the reason I have not written on some subjects and been careful when writing about others. So. Please believe me when I say that my desire to honor my Dad with a post each week is simply because of my respect and the joy of many memories where he is featured.
When I told my parents I was writing a book, they were not surprised and of course, wanted to know more. So I sent them the actual proposal sent to the publisher, along with the first chapter. A few days later, my Dad looked at me and shook his head in a way I have seen him do many times before. Actually he has two versions of this. One is the disappointment I saw after every report card. It was usually a few days after I got the report card because we always got them on Thursdays – too close to the weekend. So I waited and would watch him shake his head on Sunday night. After he’d been working all day as a pastor. Brilliant Matt, brilliant.
But here I saw another kind of shake of his whitened head. He shook it like you would a “no.” But it was coupled with a wry smile telling you the opposite of the motion. This is the undeserved but far too common, “I’m proud of you shake of the head.”
He said, “You are a great writer.” And then I was told they could not get over I had written it. They have always been easily impressed by me and my brothers. Especially by my brothers. And then my Dad – the man of a thousand pitches in the backyard - proceeded to tell me what I had written meant much to him. “My life is very mundane now. I cannot do much.” And he thanked me.
About 2 weeks before September 11, 2001 my father suffered a heart attack while playing tennis – the game he taught me to play before I can even remember playing it. During his bypass surgery, he had the first of many strokes. And these strokes have done their damnedest to do him in and break his spirit. But his kind heart and sharp mind still fight tooth and nail. And I mean damnedest in the theological sense. His sight is failing him miserably and his memory worries him. His smile charges on with the power and speed of a train bent on its destination.
He is one reason I write…why I cannot help myself. His poems are legendary for being part of our family gatherings. He used poetry to celebrate people and memories and times and places. And while not Donne or Hopkins, Dickinson or Whitman, they are made of fireside warmth and irresistible smiles. The way a Hobbit would have done song. You just won’t catch him with a pipe or pint.
My parents were always glad to read my painful poems. And buy me books and encourage me to read. They never questioned me and made me embarrassed about all the poetry I would read and write as a teenager. Their love for me has always taken the form of encouragement and the structure of praise. Even though I threatened to fail my classes and be a raving success at day-dreaming.
So these posts are for my Dad. I ask you to bear with me for the next month as I tell a few stories and give you a glimpse into the goodness of Robert D. Redmond. Dad to me