By Martin | Wednesday, June 17, 2015 | 12:48 PM
Dad, can you believe it? It doesn't seem like it's been twenty-one years since you went away. I remember it like it was yesterday. In fact, it will be twenty-one years tomorrow, June 18. We had your celebration service on the day before Father's Day, June 18, 1994. It would have been your 81st birthday. It was an incredible service. There was a lot of singing and laughing, just like you would have wanted. David (the son you and mom always liked best) and I told some Ray Babb stories and the people loved it. They didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Some of them laughed so hard they cried. I think they missed you as much as we did.
We had three preachers on the program and two at the graveside. I'm sure having that many Baptist preachers together in one service probably made a few people nervous but thank goodness they were all short . . . and they didn't speak very long either. Since you were a veteran one of the preachers played "TAPS" on his trumpet about one humdred feet from the gravesite. That was especially moving. You would have loved it. Mom did okay over the next few years. You know how strong she was. She missed your smile, your sense of humor, and your caring spirit. She thought of you every day until she died in January of 2000.
It is Father's Day, 2015. I still think of you. How could I not? We had some great times together. I remember the vacations in the summertime to Colorado. I remember mom taking pictures of everything. My favorites were the ones of you coming out of every roadside men's room on the highway between Little Rock, Arkansas and Florence, Colorado . . . and you were always smiling. You also let me travel with you some in the summer when you were a salesman for Planters Peanuts. Stores were individually owned back then and warehouses were usually about the size of someone's two-car garage. You let me wander around the "warehouse" full of peanuts and candy bars while you filled out forms. It was candy heaven for a kid.
I also remember a time at little league baseball practice. You were coaching third base and I hit a line drive down the third base line. You caught it barehanded. I thought that was cool. As I grew older I realized you spent your whole life catching line drives that came your way. You made it through the Depression, and then survived World War II, two pesky boys, and several tough surgeries. The last one ultimately got the best of you. You never finished 8th grade but you were the wisest man I ever knew. I hope I told you.
After you left, mom put together a scrapbook, three large binder notebooks with 3-inch rings. (She did a set for your other son but mine is better.) They are full of memories from my birth all the way to your celebration service. It is phenomenal. It's not just pictures. It is clippings from several newspapers, piano recital bulletins, and anything else with my name on it. It has school work, and letters, notes, and postcards I wrote all those years growing up. Mom kept a diary on many days during that time. Here is an entry she wrote to me, dated September 15, 1952, two days after I was born:
"You and I have received a lot of plants and flowers, but today the most special of all came -- it was from your Daddy. There was one red rose in the bouquet -- the most beautiful
rose I have ever seen. He wrote on the card, 'Thanks for a job well done. I love you.' I will
save that card along with the others that are coming in to put in your baby book. I hope I can
save the rose and maybe dry it so I can keep it. Some day when you are a grown man, you
may enjoy seeing it, and it will remind you of what a great, loving, and thoughtful father you
have. I am so fortunate to have him for my very own, and because of him I now have two precious little boys that I hope will turn out to be just like their daddy."
Well, Dad, that rose is still in my scrapbook after all these years. The petals are faded and cracked but not the memories of what it represents. It reminds me that you loved your wife very much. You loved your boys and because of that love you laid a foundation of faith in God. I wonder sometimes if I have measured up to the standards you set. You were not a tall man but you cast a long shadow. Maybe that is the way it is supposed to be for a father who loves his family. I guess a father will always be judged by his shadow . . . and in your case, it was a shadow caused by the Son. I love you, Dad. Happy Father's Day.