“The father of a righteous child
has great joy; a man who fathers
a wise son rejoices in him.”
Proverbs 23:24 NIV
Nearly 30 years have passed since my father left this world. This weekend a reminder on Facebook posted a picture I used five years ago to honor my father on Father’s Day. It’s a picture I keep close to the guest room door, on top of the bookcase that once belonged to his mother. I think I’ve learned more from him in the past 30 years than I did in the first 30 that he was physically with me.
As children, we adore a father’s love and the times are special, especially if your father, like mine, worked a job that kept him away from home at long stretches. Recently I’ve shared with friends a favorite time with my dad when he’d come home from a rig — tired, smelling of oil and eager for family time. Until I was 7 years old, we lived in New Orleans on the last block before the levee bordering the Mississippi River. The first thing I wanted to do when dad came home was to return to the place I loved best — time alone with my father.
He started it — and I’m sure often had regrets, but just for the physical exhaustion he felt, which at the time I didn’t understand. I wanted to walk the levee to look at the river, talk — and ride on daddy’s shoulders. We would head out from the house and he’d ask, “Are you going to walk today, cause daddy’s tired. I don’t think I can carry you on my shoulder this time.” And of course I would say yes, both knowing that was not going to be the case. As soon as we crested the levee and could see the ships and the water splashing on the shore, I’d have to ask, “Daddy, can you put me on your shoulders?” He always did.
Teenagers can be so clueless, but certainly in my case. I thought I knew better than my parents, especially my dad. He was so seldom around, how could he know things that I was feeling. He still saw me as his little girl, evidenced for years with the continued 25-cent gift for no reason. Really dad, what could I buy with 25-cents? I didn’t realize it at the time, it was more the gesture than the amount. I didn’t realize a lot of the advice he was giving me would be invaluable as I aged — without him. I can still hear his voice, all these years later, and more importantly, appreciate the wisdom he imparted — even if I rejected it at the time. I truly was listening. I just had to try things out on my own terms first, before I realized, he had been right all along.
Wish I had known that then. Wish I had said so many things I didn’t say. Wish I could still go for a walk along the levee and tell him about things I was doing. I’d understand more about his life. Time has amplified his wisdom that he imparted to me, more than I ever expected.
VICKY BRANTON is Teche Life editor of The Daily Iberian.