How do I Measure Up On Father’s Day?

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It’s 105 degrees on a hot Las Vegas high desert afternoon. I have the rare occasion to go golfing with my son.  We are both duffers-my handicap is, well, um-Golf! We schedule a 3:00 PM Tee Time as only idiots play golf in 105 degree heat-this way we have the course to ourselves.  After two holes we decide keeping score is not beneficial to our male egos and discard the score card.  At three holes my back is reminding me why I don’t play golf more often.  After six holes it is doing so with four-letter words and exclamation points!! After twelve holes I’m grateful that I rented a cart instead of walking the course. We finish and cool down with an adult beverage and talk about our better shots on the course-we each had two I think.

Why do this knowing the physical outcome? Because spending time with the boys is something I value more now than when I was a young father, and because I missed out on too many opportunities with them along the way.  There could never be enough time to make up for time wasted. Whether spent wisely or squandered, it remains spent nonetheless.

The next morning I roll out of bed and on to the floor after a couple hours of sleep, only to hear those words every man wants to hear from his beloved wife-“You walk like an old man!”. Nothing says love like verbal reminders of your aging physical limitations and resulting posture. No time to ponder it now-we are picking up the grandkids for a day at the amusement park. A day of thrill rides, corkscrew barrel rolls and loopty-loops on roller coasters should do the trick!  Oh, and can’t forget the Big Shot that shoots you up about 300 feet into the air in about two seconds, compressing a normal spine into 12 inches of bone and nerves where vertebrae used to be! And then just as quickly it drops you with a sudden free fall with a stop that eliminates any remaining vertebrae from the previous rapid ascent. Honey if you thought I was an old man this morning, just wait until tomorrow!

Why, you might ask? Two reasons. First, when it comes to thrill rides and amusement parks I’m still just a big kid at heart-to die on an inverted roller coaster would be the best way to go. More importantly, I learned the hard way, as mentioned above, that time squandered can’t be recaptured.  Your children have a way of making you realize how quickly time flies, but your grandchildren teach you that time flies at hyper speed. I don’t want to miss any opportunity to be with them and create memories that they and I can share until it’s time for me to die on a roller coaster. There is nothing more precious to me than having fun and spending time wisely with my grandchildren.

It’s the morning of the third day now. My wife knows not to say anything about my posture or speed because the weekend isn’t over yet.  It’s my grandson’s fourteenth birthday and he and I are heading to the ballpark for a baseball game. I asked the lady at the ticket window for the soft seats in the air conditioned section. She didn’t appreciate my humor or have knowledge of my situation.  It’s all good. The seats are rigid but we are in the shade for a hot afternoon of America’s favorite past time.  This was important to me-he had never seen a professional baseball game-I was the one who was privileged to expose him to the sport-he’s now hooked! We threw back a couple dogs each and washed it down with our over priced souvenir ball park drinks. I dropped him off at the house and he says “Thanks papa-that was fun-Love you!”. That’s why! That’s my reward-that makes the pain go away-that’s why I’d do it all again next weekend and probably will.

So you might ask if I’m making my case for a Father of the Year Award-hardly. In fact quite the opposite is true. I’m not a great dad-it didn’t come naturally to me.  I’m a man on a mission to compensate for missed opportunities, for time wasted, for disappointing memories or memories missing in action I left behind with my kids. People joke about a middle-aged man with a sports car over compensating for various short comings.  When you see me with my grandchildren the smiles are genuine but I am compensating for all the years I came up short as a dad. I only hope I live long enough to someday even out the scorecard somewhat. If I died today, there would be way too many gaps in my life’s “dash” where the kids are concerned.

Most people use Father’s day as a day to celebrate and reflect on those father-figures who made impacts on their lives, as well we should. However I use it as a grading opportunity as I look back over the past year on my performance as a Dad and a Papa. I am usually left with more questions than answers as I honestly review and grade the areas that are most important to me:

Do my kids and grandkids know beyond any doubt how much I love them?

Am I doing enough to create fun and lasting memories? 

Am I genuinely engaged in their lives or just there for the fun stuff?

Am I showing the boys what a real love relationship should look like and how to properly treat their eventual mates?

Have I taught them the importance of faith and do they see Jesus in my life and character?

Have I fulfilled Proverbs 22:6, to train them and teach them the right paths to navigate in their adulthood?

I am not a fitting candidate for any awards, but I have learned some valuable lessons in my quest to make up for lost time.  First, don’t lose any more time dwelling on lost time-a no brainer. Second, don’t tell yourself it’s too late to do things the right way now.  You can’t go back and fix or rearrange history, good or bad.  You can however resolve to go forward and make every moment count. Third, pray-pray for your children and grandchildren daily, for their health, their safety, the salvation and their happiness.  And then pray for yourself, that God will continue to reveal His fatherly character in your life so that you can accurately emulate it in the lives of your family. In many cases, you are the only Christ they may see. And lastly, just be there-show up-be open and available and always have your proverbial “The Dad is In” shingle hanging and obvious for them to see at times when they need you.

Fathering kids is easy and instinctive-being a dad is difficult and a life-long learning process.  I hope some day I measure up. There’s nothing more desirable in this life I could ever hope to achieve than to be a loving Dad and Papa in the eyes of my family.

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I Love Being Papa Joe

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In the 70’s during my “cool” phase the thought of someday being a grandparent never invaded my world. I was never going to grow up and I would cling to my coolness for as long as it was cool to do so. By then both of my grandfathers were already gone and I had no real idea what being a grandfather should look like anyway, so why dwell on it.  Then came my three sons and eventually another and two daughters through marriage. Before I realized it I was a grandfather of six!  

Now I can completely appreciate the term because being a grandfather is indeed a grand blessing. Thankfully they don’t call me grandpa but rather Papa Joe, a title that is higher to me than General Manager, President, Owner or any other designation of elevation-being Papa Joe is the coolest thing I could be, and I embrace that title with both humility and pride that no one else could comprehend. 

We have three granddaughters in Texas, and one here in Las Vegas as well as two grandsons. Each of them has a special place in my heart, as I will briefly explain. The oldest of the Lone Star girls, a recent high school graduate, has done an amazing job in helping to care for her younger sisters, and has grown into a beautiful, intelligent and independent young lady. Her middle sister was a newborn when I married their Nana and I fell in love with her just by holding her all that weekend. She has a free spirit and is also an intelligent and beautiful young lady, who will be graduating high school next year.  I developed an immediate connection with the youngest of the three while in Disneyland. She was an infant not yet ready for rides so I carried her most of the day. She quickly grew into rides, mainly on my back whenever we visited. She grew up way too fast and will be an eighth grader next year. They are uncomfortable with being complimented about their God given beauty, but hey, proud Papas don’t have rules.

Every Sunday we picked up our oldest grandson here in Vegas and took him to church.  I played drums in the band and he would cry until I came down to hold him. As he got older he developed an interest in music so I taught him a few guitar chords and now he is one his way to becoming an accomplished guitarist. He is also quite the football player. I was present when our granddaughter was born here 11 years ago and fell in love with her as soon as she cried. She has become a ray of sunlight that can brighten the darkest of my days. Her brother, the youngest of the six, is my little buddy. He is still in the phase that when he sees me, he runs up to me with and animated “Papa” and jumps up into my arms.  He and his sister would visit me in my office frequently. Their presence would make the worst of days a vacation. 

The best of our weekends are those when we are keeping the local grand kids. As the sign above says, what happens att Nana and Papa’s stays at Nana and Papa’s. I can say with all honesty that I love each of our grandchildren as much as any human is capable of. There is nothing in the world I would not do for them-I would gladly lay down my life to save theirs at any time.  I pray for each of them daily, for protection from harm, from abduction, from illness, from anything that would cause them any distress. I also pray that they are open to the reality of God and His Son. And yet with all I feel for them, I’m struck at the thought that God loves each of us with a love that is inhuman, that is untainted and incomprehensible. I’m in awe that that the true depth of love and emotion that any man can have for any other being can not come close to measuring up to the depth of love God shows us daily. To paraphrase a verse in the New Testament, “Stop and observe if you can, the level of Love God the Father has bestowed upon us, that even we in our sins can be labeled Children of the Most High God”. Wow. Wow.

That someone could love me a hundred times greater than I love my grandchildren is indeed incomprehensible. Yet He’s proven it time and again in my life. And I can rest assured that if I can never outrun the love of God, then my grandchildren will never exhaust His supply of love, grace and protection. Thank you God for allowing this cool guy to experience the real coolness of being a proud Papa.