My first foray into fatherhood began in January of 1982.   I remember it like it was 36 years ago.   Beverly had the audacity to go into labor during the Arkansas/Texas A & M basketball game, a huge Southwest Conference match.   After hours of pain and agony I got up out of the TV room and went to the delivery room to encourage Beverly in her pain and agony.   My first thought was, “Hey, watching basketball on a large screen TV and holding Beverly’s hand while she does all the work . . . this fatherhood stuff is okay!”   Then we got Meredith home from the hospital and everything changed, especially her diaper.   I kept wondering where the instructions were for this thing.  

The sequel to our first child arrived in October of 1984.  There was nothing pressing on television so I was ready and willing to hold hands again. This time we made it fine.   Beverly went naturally and I had an epidural.  When we got David home from the hospital I was an old pro at changing diapers so I was ready.   I was not ready for boys. Boys can aim.  It was another one of those moments where instructions would have been appreciated.   With our firstborn we had seventeen volumes of pictures and kept a microscope on her physical health.  With David we used one disposable camera and pretty much let him roam freely with our Chihuahua, Taco.

We were told about the joy and happiness that children bring but were never warned about the tears, theirs and ours.   Parenting seems to go through a long cycle of happiness and tears.   Sometimes one leads to the other.  With Meredith there was the first day of school, the first dance recital, trying out for cheerleader, learning to drive, learning to drive her mother crazy, and graduation.  With David there was the first day of school, the first game as a pitcher in baseball, moving to a new school in another state, finally learning to talk in the 10th grade, and graduation.   Has it really been 36 and 33 years?  I must have been really young when they were born. They grew up too fast.  I wonder sometimes if children grow up at the speed of parenting.

I think I hear my father in the background saying, “I told you so.”   Kids may grow up too fast but sometimes parents go away too soon.   I buried my father 22 years ago, the day before Father’s Day, on what would have been his 81st birthday.  He did live 80 years but for me it was still too soon.  I was fortunate. Some people don’t get to keep their fathers that long. My parents raised me in church. My father taught me to have a sense of humor and to live life to the fullest, no matter what the circumstances may be. It’s biblical.

When I was a child we used to go on picnics.   On this particular day the flies were terrible and I was swatting away.  My father finally looked over at me and said, “Martin Keith, if you spend all your time swattin’ flies you’re going to miss the picnic.” Through 45 years of church ministry I realize how profound that was.  If you worry about the small stuff you’re going to miss the life God has given you. It is Father’s Day once again and I still miss my father. Neil Diamond had a song  called "Done Too Soon." It was about lives cut short. That's the way I feel about my father.  I have enjoyed this picnic called life.   I’m just sorry he had to leave early.

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