Saturday, June 14, 2008

Gifts for Father's Day

I watch Father’s Day ads on TV and think about how many years it has been since I’ve bought a gift. My dad and father-in-law both died in 1990, so my husband became the recipient of Hallmark cards and aftershave. Of course, during his nursing home years, I usually bought Jim NASCAR or Kansas City Chief tee-shirts for all special occasions.

As the big day for dads nears, I began to think about what these three special dads have taught me. My dad, Robert Capps, passed on his work ethic to all eight of us kids. He taught us to give a full day’s labor for a day’s pay. He encouraged us to stay in school and get an education so we could have a better, easier life than he and Mom. My dad wasn’t a religious man, but he taught us honesty, compassion, self respect, unselfishness, and ethical behavior. He always wanted a better life for us kids. He said, “It’s as easy to love a rich man as a poor man.” My two sisters and I never listened to that. In the first place, we didn’t know any rich men, and living in the Ozarks, we weren’t in danger of ever meeting any. Maybe that was his point. He also wanted us to be independent.

My father-in-law, William Howard “Bill” Fisher, taught me to laugh and find humor in unexpected places. His personality was totally different from my dad. Bill played music and his idea of a good time was to have a jam session with his family and friends. Their extended family could usually be found in a campground alongside a creek with good fishing. The Fishers traveled, moving from house to house, state to state. Bill was sentimental and somewhat superstitious. He saw life as mysterious and intriguing. I once lost a contact lens, back in the days when they cost a lot of money. Bill had a dream and knew exactly where to look for it the next morning.

Jim inherited good qualities from both his parents. He was happiest when he was driving down the road and taught me to love travel. Jim was the most generous person I ever knew. Jim would not only give someone the shirt off his back, he would give away his last $10 if someone else needed it.

I came home one day to find Jim digging in his mom and dad’s yard.

“What on earth are you doing?” I asked.

He leaned against his shovel, wiped the sweat off his brow and said, “I’m going to build Mom and Dad a house. That trailer is falling apart, and they can’t live there anymore.” Our mobile home was in better shape, and we had barely begun construction on our home. We put our house on hold, and built a small, solid house for his parents.

Most important, Jim taught me about true and enduring love. Jim was generous with his love, and family always came first. I knew that no matter what, he was always on my side.

I have no father to buy presents for this Father’s Day, but these three fathers left valuable gifts behind. On Father's day, I will pause and cherish their legacies.

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