This Sunday many of us will celebrate Father’s Day.
Though my dad passed away 10 years ago, I probably think of him several times each day. I was privileged to have him in my life for 57 years. Not everyone is so blessed.
Now, Dad and I had our times, for sure. He could be gruff, volatile, profane, extremely stubborn and basically, a stick-in-the mud.
There were a couple of occasions when we didn’t even speak for weeks. But I always loved him.
I think back on times when my dad was my “Daddy.” He taught me that being physically affectionate with one’s kids is not sissy, but manly.
He taught me that being a bit early for an appointment was not only being punctual, but also just plain courteous. He taught me to give a firm handshake, and look folks in the eye when speaking to them or being spoken to.
He showed me how to tie a tie, drive a car and shave around that “Norman Adam’s Apple.”
My dad also taught me about sex before I was interested --- he wanted me to know things before the other boys started talking. My dad was a hardened man - he grew up in The Depression and worked the farm the day after school let out for summer, until the day it started up again.
He went to war in the Pacific, got severely ill over there, and then came home for an extended hospital stay. Within three years my parents lost a daughter at childbirth (when most friends already had a kid or two).
He also drank a bit... maybe a little too much on occasion. For the first decade of my life, my dad went to church with Mom and me, but sometime in the mid 1960s he just stopped going.
Though my dad was “the life of the party” and everybody loved Charlie (class favorite in high school), in many ways I did not want to be like him.
But at 66, I am a lot like him.
It’s said that it is difficult for an older person to change one’s ways. I tend to agree. However, my father did change in the last few years of his life.
It started when mom was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. He saw how her faith in God sustained her and how she had no fear of dying.
He witnessed the hospice caregivers and the way they were with my mother. The Almighty had given them tender hearts toward my sweet, dying mom. As she grew weaker over the ensuing months, Mom and Dad “went to church together” by watching the Gaither Homecoming TV show Saturday nights.
After Mom passed in 1995, and after much persuasion, Dad finally relented and came to Glen Rose to see his grandkids perform in The Promise.
He was reluctant to drive all that way, because, as he said, he’d “seen all those pageant-type things before.”
But experiencing the show was another turning point for him. He loved it! The cast members – from “Jesus” to “Peter” took him in... and basically loved him into the kingdom. My dad became the “Ambassador for The Promise” in West Texas for years.
Later, when my 82 year-old dad fell and injured himself (necessitating surgery) and was confined to the hospital for about a month, one of his nurses challenged him with “Mr. Norman, as nice a man as you are, you don’t need to be ‘a-cussin.’” “Well, I can’t help it.”
“Sure you can! I’ll help you. Every time you say a bad word, I’m gonna put a mark up here on this poster board.”
Three weeks later hardly a new mark appeared on that board. Dad moved into an assisted-living facility upon release from the hospital, and the preacher who gave short sermons there on Sunday afternoons personally invited him to attend. He went once and never missed again.
Over the next three years my dad became more gentle, more accepting, more forgiving, more sensitive toward others, and less sensitive to things that mattered not.
He gave up alcohol too.
The Good Lord has a way of doing that to a person. One day back in 1965 my high school health class teacher asked for a show of hands of those whose father had taught them about “sex.”
In a class of 30, I was the only one with raised hand. Made me think. I was (am still) proud to be named Charles III, after my daddy, Charles Henry Norman Jr.
Charlie Norman has lived in Somervell County since 1994. He and his wife have two adult children, who graduated from Glen Rose schools. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.