As Father’s Day approaches my Dad’s life vividly floods my mind. He and Mother were a great team. As I actively try this morning to recall them both I spent more time listening to what my Daddy said and watching what Mother did. It was not that both traits weren’t important but their individual strengths leaned toward doing for my Mother and saying for Daddy. They weren’t deficient in either skill. Mother was a doer without fanfare that helped people, cut the grass, and made sure her three sons’ needs were met. Daddy was a professional talker, literally, whose proverbs and talks can be replayed at a moment’s notice.
He was an auctioneer that graduated in 1939 from Reppert School of Auctioneering in Decatur, Indiana at the top of his class. His primary vocation was in the stockyard business, owning 5 at one time: Wilkes County Stockyard in Washington, Georgia; Thomson Stockyard in Thomson, Georgia; Saluda County Stockyard in Saluda, SC; Lugoff Stockyard in Lugoff, SC, and the original one in Edgefield, SC. He was very successful to say the least as a communicator and as a people-connector. His gift of gab served him well both professionally and personally. He turned many an enemy into a friend through active and effective communication.
He and Mother were keen examples of Christian character. They loved people and proved it in ways that went above and beyond what I witnessed in others. Together they made a decision to adopt a mentally-impaired African-American. Frank Arthur became a part of the family before I did since I was born when my parents were in their early 40’s. Daddy taught me how to shave by shaving Frank. They both taught me compassion for the hurting through meeting Frank’s needs. They showed that love can conquer injustice when you put a real face (Frank’s) to it.
A fond memory that sticks in my mind this morning is walking up the 17 steps past their bedroom to my upstairs abode and overhearing their last verbal check-in as they were preparing for sleep. I heard love expressed; days unpacked and analyzed; concerns voiced; hopes and dreams visualized and planned. I heard their character embodied in those stolen moments. Then when I got upstairs to my room there would always and every night be a three-fold knock on the wall below me. My Daddy could have been just checking to see if I was really in bed, but in my heart of hearts I knew there was more, so much more. Those knocks were Daddy’s way of saying what he said to me countless times during the day, on the phone, or in a letter: “I love you!” Every night I knocked back, tap-tap-tap – “I love you!”
Daddy’s affection was real, palpable, genuine and even when he got angry and verbalized it, his love always spoke louder. Oh, how he and Mother loved us and each other. They were married 56 years when she died seven years before his own death. The depth of his loss was exhibited in his inability to live in our home place without her. He moved to be closer to my middle brother which was, interestingly, the same thing that his father did after my grandmother died. We have been blessed all along our family tree with parents that loved each other to the grave and beyond.
In our theological enterprise that we call eschatology or the study of the final things; i.e., death, heaven, judgment, the end of the world – there is an acknowledgement that there is no end to love, the circle is unbroken, and as we confess in the Apostles’ Creed we do believe in the Communion of Saints – that mystical but very real interconnection between the saints militant who are alive on earth and the saints deceased but more alive than ever in the church triumphant.
On days like Father’s Day I can literally feel those saints’ presence. I can hear Daddy’s voice. My reminiscences become real. I am inspired to say things that my children not only need to hear but will hopefully treasure some day. On this Father’s Day 2014 I remember my father, Ralph Thomas McClendon, and am grateful to Almighty God for a wonderful Daddy.
God bless us all to become fathers and mothers to the parentless in this often loveless and unloved world. There are people watching and listening, or as Daddy used to say, “Small pots have big ears.” Let us give them something to hang onto, to remember, and to celebrate.