Here’s the song reference.
An aside – no, I do not still call my father “Daddy.” We prefer “Dad” or “Grandpa” these days.
Grandpa – my Dad – will be 68 in a couple of days. I’m always at a loss for what to do for his birthday, because there really aren’t many material things he needs or wants. In recent years, we’ve settled on giving him shirts lovingly handprinted by the grandchildren, a couple of books he really wanted, a homemade pizza, things like that. He delights in our simple gifts.
This year, as it happened, one of his all-time favorite country singers gave a concert here in our little town. When I saw the concert announcement, I called and asked him if he would like to go to the show for his birthday this year, since the date was only three days off. He enthusiastically agreed that this would be a wonderful gift indeed. Plans were made, tickets purchased, and the countdown to the big day began. We decided that, since Manie loathes country music, and there’s not a single member of the tribe that could handle the heat and experiences that attend a Hank Williams, Jr. concert in Virginia in July, this would be a straight-up father-daughter outing.
He could not, however, resist being Grandpa, and insisted on treating the tribe to a snack at Big Yellow M before the show. No visit here would be complete for him without hugs from the grandkids, with perhaps a touch of grandparental spoiling thrown in for good measure.
After our snack, Manie took the tribe over to hang out with Deedaw, while Grandpa and I headed for the concert. As it happened, the promoters were a little optimistic in their estimation of what time the show would start, so we found ourselves with some time to wander around the grounds and see the vendors and exhibitors who had set up pavilions around the lawn seating area. After checking out the various food and beverage offerings, we chanced upon a pavilion manned by some fine young members of the United States Marines.
There was a pull-up bar in front of the tent, and a strategically placed placard advertised little prizes to any man who could do certain numbers of pull-ups, or women who could pull-up and do the bent-arm bar hang, chin above the bar, for certain numbers of seconds. Grandpa eyed the bars speculatively, whereupon the young men began gently teasing him.
“Come on, give it a try, if you can do just one I’ll give you a lanyard!”
Grandpa gave the young fellow the “you gotta be kidding me look” that I have known well for 42 years, confidently approached the apparatus, and climbed up.
The young men were grinning, somewhat incredulously, and while their words were encouraging, they seemed to doubt his prospects.
They’ve never met my Dad before. Their facial expressions were quite different a moment later.
Alas, I lack the photographic evidence that I earned my own lanyard. I guess I always have been kind of a Daddy’s girl.
My Dad taught me the same lesson he has taught, consistently and gently, for all forty-two years of my life, in a time of my life when I needed the reminder that along with the science, math, and English lesson plans, there’s something my kids need to know that they’ll learn from my life, not from their textbooks. Sometimes, things are hard. Sometimes, people will laugh at you, either to your face or behind your back, at even daring to try. But you do try. You take the challenge in your hands, hold fast and hold tight, call on the Lord to help you, and use every ounce of strength you’ve been given. Sometimes you fall flat on your backside, as Grandpa did on his first attempt at the pull-up. Instead of sitting around complaining about how the bar is too high or the people around you aren’t responding the way you think they ought, you get up, brush the dirt off your pants, and try it again. If you make it, you make it. If you don’t, at least you know you gave it everything you had, and you walk away with your head held high and a prayer in your heart that you will listen to the Lord when He leads you where He wanted you to go in the first place. You don’t blame the people who scoffed, you don’t blame the bar, you don’t blame the ground – really, you don’t blame anyone or anything. You either do it, or you don’t, and you keep living and eagerly anticipating the next opportunity you’ll have to accomplish something. You choose joy.
Lord, thank You for my Dad, who even in his darkest hours, has loved me. Thank You for using him as Your instrument to teach me that I am nobody’s victim, that I am beloved by You even when the world ridicules or despises me. Thank You for the young men whose faces reminded me that I should approach the worthy endeavors of others, no matter how trivial or foolish they may seem at the moment, with an encouraging word and, perhaps, a silent prayer to You. Please help me teach Your blessings that You are our strength and our hope, and that when some worldly endeavor ends badly, we should take the time to listen for Your wisdom, and that instead of clinging bitterly to past slights, injuries, and failures, Your will for us is that we move forward, shining Your joyful light upon whatever we do.