Reflecting on a lifetime of blindness and inspiration
This is something I wrote Oct. 7, 2016. The text explains itself. I enter it among my blogs in part because I've devoted many entries this year to personal evaluations and hardships, which this fits. Please read on:
At 3 a.m. this morning, my father Dale Davis left this world to join our Lord and his beloved wife. He died peacefully in his sleep after suffering a broken neck a month ago. While that injury did a lot of damage, I believe Dad had been looking forward to seeing Mom again since her March 2014 death, and so he entered the next life willingly. For my 87-year-old father had been a longtime believer in Jesus Christ, inspired as he would freely admit by the faith and witness of Darlene Crown, his wife since September 1955. While Dad had been raised in the church, and fell back on his faith when pushed, his early lifestyle choices were not always the best, as is common of us all, but especially those born under Great Depression and World War II stresses. With his marriage, Dad said Mom's faith and grace led him to reevaluate his life, and to pursue his personal relationship with Christ. That spurred Dad to voluntarily give up drink and tobacco, and to work hard at controlling his sharp vocabulary, all to set a better example for his growing family of four children, of which I belong.
Dad and I didn't always see eye to eye, and we often butted heads over skill sets and career choices. I never became the master of hardware tools that he'd so wished for, and I never emerged as the physical laborer that he appreciated. It disappointed him early on that I didn't like hunting or fishing as much as he did, although I certainly caught my share of pike and blue gills, and that I didn't enjoy half the things he loved to eat. To top it off, I turned down a prime chance to follow him into the Navy. But he accepted these differences, as he did my increasingly loud rock and roll, my heading off to work while still in high school, my drive to spend weekends sharing movies or pizza with friends, my rarely if ever coming home from college. He not only let me explore just who I wanted to be, but participated in it as much as he could, listening to the Beatles and Monty Python with me, debating the value of Mad Magazine, or escorting relatives into my bedroom to marvel at Farrah's red swimsuit.
I look back at those days when Dad silently encouraged me to grow, and I regret how I never realized the parental weight of his choices. For his part, Dad probably never realized how much he did influence me, and it took me a long time to recognize how he was one of the most remarkable men I've ever known. That long-term view wasn't based on how he raised himself from near-poverty to a vice presidency at one of the nation's largest railroad companies, earning that place through grit, determination, and honest-to-God hard elbow work. My introspection came as I had my own children, encountered the responsibility parenting demands, and finally grasped the truly liberal mindset of this conservative, God-fearing man.
From Dad I learned to always speak my mind and not hide from the truth when it wasn't pleasant or welcome, to never be afraid to admit my errors (although sometimes in my blinded or self-assured state I must be shown I am wrong), to never shirk my responsibilities, to read voraciously, to listen to opposing views and ever question my footing, and to live life to the fullest. Above all, Dad taught me to serve and sacrifice for those I love. He had a great marriage and life, and through his life, he demonstrated just how he achieved those things. It's there that I've always felt I failed the most, but Dad never saw it that way. Indeed, it was in the aftermath of the bombing and the divorce that I first sensed Dad's respect, and not for what I did, but for who I was. I doubt I'll ever meet anyone like him ever again.
So please join me in celebrating how he completed the race, and won the great fight. While he will ever remain alive in my heart, I look forward to rejoining him, Mom, and all the rest of my loved ones in that next life.