Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Father to His Son

Spring comes today and the words of the Hymn of Promise come to mind:
In the bulb there is a flower, 
in the seed, an apple tree;
in cocoons, a hidden promise:
butter-flies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter
there’s a spring that waits to be,
unrevealed until its season,
something God alone can see.

Just as there are seasons in nature’s patterns, so there are seasons on this trail of life:  infancy, childhood, school years, adolescence, young adulthood, middle age, and finally maturity (some say old age, but I refuse to use that term).  Last night we attended our son’s 50th birthday celebration.  His birthday was back in February, but the party was delayed until the threat of snow had passed.  Wouldn’t you know—it snowed last night!

It was a wonderful party.  We enjoyed meeting Paul and Helen’s friends, neighbors, and  colleagues.  Some we had met previously, some we knew as they were growing up, and still others we met for the first time last night.  As always, it was special to be with our grandsons, Austin and Nick.  They are great guys and it is always a joy to hear the little pieces of their lives they share!  And Helen, Paul’s wife and the mother of my grandsons—well I just can’t say enough about her! As Paul’s dad, I was deeply touched by the celebration.  This morning my mind travels back over the years, remembering, cherishing, and celebrating.   I am ever so grateful for the gift of Paul—for the gift of our daughter, Rachel—and our youngest son, Luke—and our grandchildren—and for our first great granddaughter. 

I can’t find the words to express what it means to be a dad, or a grandad, or a great grandad!  I can’t find the words I want to say to my son, Paul.  If I were a poet, like Sandburg, perhaps I could.  So, Paul, the best I can do is quote Sandburg’s poem:  A Father to His Son.

A father sees his son nearing manhood.
What shall he tell that son?
'Life is hard; be steel; be a rock.'
And this might stand him for the storms
and serve him for humdrum monotony
and guide him among sudden betrayals
and tighten him for slack moments.
'Life is a soft loam; be gentle; go easy.'
And this too might serve him.
Brutes have been gentled where lashes failed.
The growth of a frail flower in a path up
has sometimes shattered and split a rock.
A tough will counts. So does desire. 
So does a rich soft wanting.
Without rich wanting nothing arrives. 
Tell him too much money has killed men
and left them dead years before burial:
the quest of lucre beyond a few easy needs
has twisted good enough men
sometimes into dry thwarted worms.
Tell him time as a stuff can be wasted.
Tell him to be a fool every so often
and to have no shame over having been a fool
yet learning something out of every folly
hoping to repeat none of the cheap follies
thus arriving at intimate understanding
of a world numbering many fools.
Tell him to be alone often and get at himself
and above all tell himself no lies about himself
whatever the white lies and protective fronts
he may use against other people.
Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong
and the final decisions are made in silent rooms.
Tell him to be different from other people
if it comes natural and easy being different.
Let him have lazy days seeking his deeper motives.
Let him seek deep for where he is born natural.
Then he may understand Shakespeare
and the Wright brothers, Pasteur, Pavlov,
Michael Faraday and free imaginations
Bringing changes into a world resenting change.
He will be lonely enough
to have time for the work
he knows as his own. 

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