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Honoring Dad

I’ve often wondered about the father I never knew.

He died when I was 18 months old.

They said, Samuel Stephens Dick was a promising young physician and surgeon, but he didn’t practice long enough to leave a lasting reputation or a legacy. He died in the Great Depression, at age 36.

I’ve been told, Sam had a beautiful singing voice, and although I don’t remember hearing it, I choose to believe he leaned down close to my face at nighttime and sang me to sleep.

They said, Sam wanted a son so that he could give him the name of his best friend, David Barrow, the son of Dr. David Barrow. The elder David led the Barrow Medical Unit in World War I, but young David drowned in Lake Michigan, and my father was one of the grieving pallbearers.

So, here I am with all these memories whispering in my 72-year-old mind, and when Father’s Day rolls around, I think how fortunate anybody is who has had a loving father for just one shining moment.

In the mail has come a warm letter, which I’d like to share as a way of honoring dads throughout Kentucky on this Father’s Day. The writer is Michael Wallace from Paint Lick in Madison County. Mike has his own remodeling and repair business, and he and his wife have three sons.

Michael writes, “You have praised the character of the people of Kentucky. I’m enclosing a writing about an outstanding man: Daniel Eugene Wallace, pipe fitter, farmer, friend, my Dad.

“He lived from September 2, 1933, to January 30, 2001. A lifetime Lawrence County, Kentucky, man, on the banks of the Big Sandy River, he lived.”

Here’s a portion of the letter, which originally appeared in The Big Sandy News.

“Thank you, Dad…

“For your sense of humor, for singing in the church choir, for laughing at yourself, for working and playing hard, for hunting with me, for our talks in the garden, for my first car, for the countless $20 bills you handed me, for treating Mom like a lady, for making us hoe the corn, for being a dreamer, for raising us in church and Sunday school, for our silage days on the dairy farm, for all the early morning trot-line runs, for playing with us when we were little boys. I love you.

“Thank you, Dad…

“For marrying Mom, for helping us go to college, for the years of batting practice, for dressing up at Halloween, for the time we picked blackberries under a full moon, for the many times you co-signed for us, for telling us stories in bed, for teaching us how to pray, for the calves and chicks and kittens and puppies and pigs and ponies, for memorizing and quoting Scripture, for marrying Mom. Yes, I’ve said it before and again, thanks for marrying Mom. I love you.”

We don’t all have the good fortune to have a father like Daniel, who lived 68 years on this Earth. Those of us who’ve lost our fathers before the age of remembrance and those who’ve been neglected or had abusive paternal experiences will come to terms with our own realities.

Yesterday is gone and what is past is past. Tomorrow isn’t here yet, so we can’t do anything about that until it’s here. What matters most of all is now.

The challenge is to be the best father we can possibly be to our own children, and pray that our sons and daughters will honor us by the way they relate to the next generation. That will become the Kentucky cycle, which will be the gift to the generations that follow.

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