A Tribute to Dad
There aren’t any commercials stating “I want to be like Dad,” but I think I can speak for my brothers and sisters as well as myself by saying our hero was very close to our hearts. Dad was father, teacher, coach, Sunday school teacher, role model, and friend. He was a standard to compare others. My older brother said Dad was “the most honest man he ever met”. One of my sisters quoted him as saying, “You’re only as good as your word”. He didn’t use bad words. Once during a basketball game he said to another coach, “Don’t you know darn sure that was right.” We were shocked because those were the worst words he had ever said.
Dad tried to do what was right for his children. We admired and adored him and each of us felt like we were his favorite. He showed his pride in each one of us by being a constant force, willing to spend time with us even though it was unfashionable in the world around. Although Dad had high expectations for us he was never demanding and never interfered with our lives. From him we learned how to respect and love one another.
In games, though, he was always confident, expecting to win, and won more than his share. In his mind he was never behind. “Half up, catch up, beat out”, and “no hill for a climber”, and other sayings kept his opponents aware that he would never quit. It was a feather in a cap to beat Dad in anything. He was the supreme competition. He thrived on games, sometimes playing dominoes or chess throughout the night and driving Mom crazy. He was the only one I knew who could hoot with the owls all night and soar with the eagles the next day. My younger brother said, “Dad always drew everybody in to having fun and they were glad to have participated.” Once when he had been hospitalized for an illness he insisted on leaving early so he could beat Mom in word jumbles. He wanted to be home where he felt loved. As my older brother noted, “Dad’ll be playing dominoes with St. Peter and one by one we’ll sneak in and watch. If St. Peter looks up, Dad’ll domino.”
I don’t remember him just for the big things he did, but also for the deeds when he went out of his way. As a senior in high school I drove with three friends to Riverside to see sport car races. Returning late and sleepy, I took a wrong turn and headed toward Barstow. The fuel pump broke down and we were stranded. After reaching a phone I called Dad to let him know where we were. Although it was after midnight he responded quickly, found us, and towed us across the Tehachapi Mountains to Porterville, arriving home at 7 a.m. We were all exhausted. Dad went on to work but only after insisting I go to school. My three friends stayed home that day and slept in but I learned that Dad’s sense of commitment and honor were greater than his or my need to sleep.
Dad was like Will Rogers. Everybody who knew him liked him, and he liked everyone, regardless of wealth or color or any other artificial barrier. My sister said she couldn’t recall him ever criticizing anyone. Maybe that was why he was elected to a term in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
While there he was still a family man. His older children became Pages, carrying notes to other Representatives, or running errands. When he was off duty he took them to the park, to ride the train, and to see the zoo. He wanted his children to learn constantly, have fun, and be active.
As a coach he wanted everybody to know the value of teamwork. His rags to riches basketball team almost won the state title. His team always prayed before a game and he’d give a pep talk. “We’ve got to be strong. You don’t want to be the weak link that breaks the whole team. You’ve got to work together.”
Dad loved the outdoors and working the soil. He plowed the larger plots with a tractor. When he grew older he could often be found in his back yard on his hands and knees, planting onions, tomatoes, okra, and anything else he had room for. We were volunteered into his labor force but soon learned to appreciate breathing fresh air, working God’s green earth, and eating the fruits of our labor.
Dad was always busy. Besides being a superintendent of schools, a coach, a restaurant owner, and a state Representative, he found time to serve God. He was a youth leader and Deacon, served on committees, preached in jails, and attended as many church services as he could, always carrying his well-thumbed through Bible. He would study and pray, searching for answers, ready to offer advice when asked. He went out of his way to help when anyone was in need and in return appreciated what anyone did for him. He was humble, never bragging about things he did or gave, keeping those things between himself and God.
He thought his life would be over when he turned 72 because that’s how old his father had been when he’d died. But after awhile Dad got tired of waiting to die and went on with life. He began working weekends at local swap meets, selling books and baby furniture, meeting strangers and handing out religious pamphlets and tracts. He was 5% successful. As an explanation for the percentage Dad liked to tell about the man who proudly said he made 3 to 5 per cent each weekend. Dad was not impressed until he learned that the man really meant 300 to 500 percent and did not understand percentages.
At night, either when we were camping or at home, Dad often heard us saying, “Dad, tell us a story,” and we’d hear “Queen, Calico”, or “Can’t do Nothing til Martin Comes”. Often he would tell us about being in a graveyard, crouching behind a headstone and hearing what he thought was a conversation between Satan and God as they bargained over souls. “You take one and I’ll take one.” He would pause, waiting for questions or waiting for someone to ask him to continue. We loved to hear some of the stories again and again because we were never quite sure how they would end. He embellished the stories frequently for our enjoyment.
Dad was full of vim and vinegar, or what you might call being ornery. He loved to tease, to get a rise out of someone. Then he would laugh and laugh. He loved to tease because he firmly believed that God has a sense of humor.
Dad was also a man of action because he did heroic deeds. At a church picnic near a river, a boy waded out too far and began floundering. Of all the people there, Dad noticed him, slipped off his shoes, dove in, and was pulling him to shore before the rest of the crowd realized what was happening. It wasn’t the only time. When my older brother was ten years old and swimming in deep water, he began sinking. Unable to call out, he could have drowned, but Dad came running barefoot across gravel and stones to rescue him.
That’s how I’ll remember Dad. He was a role model and bigger than life. He was heroic at times, but usually was simply there, a man willing to spend time with his children. He was a busy man but always had time for God. I’ll remember Dad on Father’s Day for all his attributes because I want to be just like him.
By Dan Roberson