A Father Like No Other

In honor of my dad who is in a better place now, I am presenting this story and poem.

Anyone who knew my dad would have to agree: He was "different." He worked as a pipe-fitter for the Canadian Pacific Railway for nearly fifteen years. He was scoffed at by his fellow-employees; yet he never let that bother him. Whenever any one of them had a problem, it was to him they turned. His nick-name was "Preacher Splane."

My father taught me to trust in the Lord at all times. He taught me that money is not important, that faith is. He taught me to hide God’s Word in my heart.

My father passed on to me, generosity, faith and perseverance. He taught me that “where duty lies, or danger, be never wanting there.” One time when I was working at a summer job, the whole family was going to do something fun, but I had to go to work. I suggested that maybe I could take a ‘sick day.’ That’s when my father quoted me that line about “where duty lies, etc.” Reluctantly I went to work and have never regretted that I was spared from lying to get out of work, just to do something pleasurable.

I inherited some traits from my father that I could have done without, but one thing I wish that I had gotten from him was some of his “daring.” He never would back down from things that were scary or dangerous. He never lacked the courage to do the seemingly impossible.

My father taught me love. I never once doubted my father’s love. He would have died for any one of his children, if the need had arisen. ‘Personal comforts’ were not in his vocabulary. He sacrificed in order to send us to a Christian high school and Bible school. He went without himself, in order for us to have an education, and the essentials of life. I do not remember my father ever saying, “I love you.” He didn’t have to. Actions speak louder than words. In the days when I was growing up, being verbally expressive about love was not as popular as it is today.

My father was a great disciplinarian. His word was law. For breaking his law there was always punishment. He was sometimes rash in his judgment, and I can remember one time in particular, when I was six that I was punished for something of which I was not guilty—stealing. My only sin that time was that I was six and forgot that something wasn’t mine. It wasn’t in the “rules” to try and talk our way out of anything. Dad would sometimes punish first and ask questions later. For that I never held a grudge. We talked about it after I became an adult, and he admitted that he was sometimes too harsh. But I am thankful that Dad loved us enough to discipline us. Whenever punishment was administered, it was done in love. Then he would always pray with us afterwards.

My father was generous to a fault. I used to think that he was too generous to other people and not quite generous enough with my mother. But she never complained. She was just as generous, but with a bit more judgment. I wish my father had taken more notice of special days, like birthdays and holidays, but he was such a hyper man that he could never take any time off for himself, so didn’t expect others to, either. But one thing I do remember about ‘fun’ things that we used to do, and that is that he loved to go on picnics. On the spur of the moment, he would say, “Let’s have a picnic.” And with Mom’s guidance and help, even though she herself didn’t like picnics, we would scramble together some bread, butter, and maybe cheese or hard boiled eggs, and jump into Dad’s old jalopy and head down to the river, where we would spend a few hours picking Saskatoon berries and dipping our feet in the water.

Although my father was rather “slap-dash” in his ways, and would often be careless in how he did things, he was not sloppy. He believed in keeping things neat, as neat as was possible in the humble home in which we lived.

I will never forget this about my father. I used to have very bad nightmares. I would be afraid that Jesus had come and I was left. I would stand at the top of the stairs in the middle of the night, afraid to go down, for fear that Mom and Dad had been raptured, and I had been left behind. Finally I would get the nerve to call timidly for Dad. He always heard me and came up to my room, kneeling with me and praying, until I had the assurance that Jesus had truly saved me, as I had asked Him to do, at the age of 8.

My father had a great big heart! He would literally give the shirt off his back to help out his fellow man. He would pick up hitchhikers and bring them home, feed them, sometimes sober them up, preach to them, give them a bed for the night and send them on their way with a little red, “Gospel of John.” He once invited 21 people from a slum area, when they were about to be flooded out, to come and stay in our basement until the danger was over. They stayed 3 weeks and left a trail of devastation behind that we all, including Dad, had to clean up.

I held a great respect for my father. He was one of a kind. He was either liked very much by people, or extremely disliked. He would do eccentric things, and many on-the-spur-of-the-moment things, that would sometimes make us--and Mom cringe. We never questioned his judgment as children, but often, as we became older we wished he would be “like other fathers,” but none of us ever dared to express it. None of us ever talked back to Dad—at least not out loud. We wouldn’t dare--until we became adults.

My father respected all of his children. My two oldest sisters both became missionaries, and that was due to his influence. I became a writer and wrote a family story, from notes I had gotten from him. He was still alive when I was working on the manuscript, and in his senility, when I read him parts of it, he said, “That is exactly like it happened. How did you know?” He had forgotten that he had given me the information on his and mom’s early married life.

Dad was proud of me. He also raised a son that went into mission work in this country. His second youngest daughter was/is an amazing mother, and his youngest daughter is a fantastic pianist.

Dad raised four other sons by a second wife, after our mother passed away.

My father was easy to talk to about doctrine, or the Bible, or missions or things like that, but there were some topics that he never discussed, and that was anything to do with the ‘facts of life. In our days, talk of ‘sex’ or ‘facts of life’ was a ‘taboo’ subject.

I am glad that I had the father I had. He was like no other.

      And he had a GREAT BIG HEART.

      His ways were unconventional, and sometimes he was rash.
      He built his house quite crudely; he didn't have much cash.
      He wasn't very handsome, and he wasn't super smart.
      But I can tell you one thing: he had a GREAT BIG HEART.
      He drove an old jalopy, with speeds not very swift.
      He'd stop for weary travelers and offer them a lift.
      Sometimes he'd bring home drunkards, or folks who were in need.
      He'd share with them some supper, and then their souls he'd feed.
      He'd talk to them of Jesus. He'd tell them of God's grace.
      "God sent His Son to free you. Your sins He will erase."

      Sometimes he'd house a stranger for days and days on end.
      He treated down-and-outers just as he would a friend.
      In times of great disaster you'd find that he was there.
      His home, although not fancy, with families he did share.
      His wife was just as generous. She'd shuffle things about.
      They'd make room for the destitute; they'd not turn one soul out.
      Quite often on a Saturday you'd find him in the slums.
      He'd play his sax for children. He'd preach Christ to the bums.
      He took them cast-off clothing, gathered from his neighborhood.
      And from his family's larder he took the poor folks food.

      It wasn't in his nature to leave one in the lurch,
      So in his beat-up Chevy he'd transport folks to church.
      To him it didn't matter if their bodies weren't too clean,
      Or if the congregation frowned, or didn't seem too keen.
      He never thought of weather, he'd battle rain or snow.
      If a need arose at midnight, he'd jump right up and go.
      He noticed neither color, nor culture, race, nor creed.
      His life was lived for others, for anyone in need.
      Sometimes we'd be embarrassed by the funny ways he had,
      But--I speak for his ten children--we're glad he was our dad.

~ Helen Dowd ~
Copyright © 2006

[ by Helen Dowd Copyright © 2006, (helendowd@shaw.ca) -- submitted by: Helen Dowd ]


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