My Father, an Enigma
My father is an enigma amongst men.
Growing up, I didn’t realize how different he was from other typical males in our society, or even from many in the church. It wasn’t until adulthood before I noticed or realized any significance in these differences. He didn’t hunt, play sports, or farm (I’m from a farming community). He didn’t ski, or boat, or camp much. He didn’t play ball or watch sports with the guys; he usually spent his extra time with my mom. He was often quiet. He chose to observe and listen, and when he spoke, he did not command a room.
But let me explain what he did do. On his day off from work, it was not uncommon for him to mow the lawn, weed the garden, organize the garage, clean the bathroom, start the laundry, bake a few pies (from scratch!), and fix some plumbing. He would often make dinner, listen to me practice the piano, take my brothers to sports’ practices, and speak with my mother about budget issues and their subsequent places of employment. My dad would see a need and he would fill it. He didn’t wait for my mother to ask and he didn’t wait until it was overwhelming.
My father didn’t have a high-power career. My mother was a school teacher, and my father worked for the post office. He wasn’t eager to rise in the ranks to achieve a higher paid or more glorified position. He was content to work to provide for the family and to support my mother in her job.
Every morning, he led our family in scripture reading and family prayer. Each week he expected us to arrive to church on time, where he fulfilled callings and sang in the ward choir with my mom. Each Monday night (especially as we got older), he would lead us in Family Home Evening. I remember one particular FHE when my father bore his testimony to us (since he rarely did it publicly) and what an impact it had on me.
My parents went to the Temple every month and went on a date every week. They were not wealthy people, but they would save and live frugally so they could travel together every few years. (Sidenote: my father loves to travel. He also reads voraciously, enjoys nature by walking and biking, loves a good movie, and ballroom dances –amongst many other talents!) My father always put my mother first, and I remember a time when I had treated her so horribly that my father’s anger both surprised and placated me.
My father attended the majority of my many, many music concerts and performances. He would attend high school football games just to see me perform with the marching band during half time. He attended the majority of my siblings’ activities and sports’ games, too, and even though he didn’t understand the draw for my brothers to play sports, he never denied them their opportunities to join, and would drive long distances to watch them compete. My sister has spoken to me of how much he would just listen to her. He was always supportive. He was always there.
When I left for college, I suddenly realized what a quiet presence my father was in my life. I take after my mother –I am loud and opinionated, compassionate and optimistic, not afraid to make a mistake openly —but my father was always the undercurrent of support, guiding and directing our family in the quiet manner that represented who he was at his core. After my father dropped me off at my college dorm, I reflected on his role and found myself missing him a lot. I often called to talk to him that first year away from my family; I sought his advice and encouragement. In fact, my father is the one that helped navigate me through some troubling times and some disastrous decisions that would have otherwise left me in sorrow. His quiet manner gently steered me toward the life I have now.
I know not all men are the same, just as all women are not the same, and I’ve noticed that society is just as harsh in judging men as they are in judging women. Men are to be either power-hungry dishonest executives, or dense-headed murder-obsessed body builders. In the movies I see men as superheroes and spies as well as overbearing hunter/gatherer types who domineer over women and children. On television, they are bumbling idiots, needing women to do everything for them. My father was nothing like that. I surmise there are many men in the church and in our society who are not like that.
I’m so grateful for my father and for the many men in the church who are like him –men who honor their Priesthood by quietly providing for their families, loving their wives, and serving their God. They may be enigmas among the men of the world, but to their families and to Heavenly Father, there is no mystery as to who they are.