My gift to my Dad is a list.  These days, we focus on the failures of parents all too often.  So I want to write a list, for everyone to read, of a few of the things my father, Rev. Keith Leap, did right.

Now that I’m a father, I am constantly shaken with doubt and anxiety, wondering if I’m doing OK.  I try to see the future and think on the past, and to use every day with my children as well as I can.  Now that I’m a father, I see how time slips through our hands like water.  For fathers who care, it moves almost too fast to comprehend.  And in the process, we look and watch and hope that we’re doing it right.  When they tell us we’re doing well, when it comes from our children, it is an enormous validation and relief.
Dad raised my brother and I well.   Heck, neither of us ever went to jail (that Dad knows about).  Neither of us are angry, frustrated or cruel.  Neither of us are violent or profane.  Neither of us have dysfunctional lives or habits.  Both of us love our children and our women more than life; and if a father can convey that, can have sons who hold those things dear, then he has done something incredible; for we live in a world of checked-out, absent, worthless fathers who are little more than the initiators of a biological process.

So here’s a list of some of Dad’s great accomplishments:

Brought us into the world.

Never struck us, or our mother, in anger.

Never taught us that alcohol was a solace or answer to anything.

Taught us that a man can profess faith in Christ and still be a man.  That Christianity is for real men, not sissies.

Taught us to follow where God calls.  Dad went to seminary when I was a pre-teen and my brother Steve was just being born.

Showed us that a man can come back from war and go on with a normal life.  Patriotism is not deforming but defining.

Taught me to shoot a rifle; a thing that made a young boy feel masculine and properly dangerous.

Took me squirrel hunting, and let me feel dangerous by giving me, at the right time, my own shotgun and rifle.

Took me hiking and fishing and bicycle riding.

Let me have a dog and cats.  Let me have goats and rabbits.

Let me play in the woods to my heart’s content, and catch whatever I could find in the creek.

Allowed me to ride in the back of the old purple F-150 truck, and go with him on errands.

Showed me how to work in a garden, to set a row, to plow and hoe and plant and harvest from the rich bottom-land where we lived.

Kept me occupied by making me straighten corn after rainstorms.  I don’t know if it was really necessary, but it gave me something to do in the summer.

Refused to let me roam the highways at night when I was a teen.  As an emergency physician, I now see how dangerous the world is.  Dad clearly knew this, though at the time I felt the average teen angst at being bored at home.

Told me to do whatever I wanted to do with my life.  When I wanted to be a soldier he said, ‘Son, God needs Christian generals too!’  That was very liberating.

Watched Bugs Bunny and Foghorn Leghorn and Roadrunner and Coyote with me, and laughed out loud with me.  Laughter is something we still have in common.

Read books all the time, so that I saw how important that was.  It has been passed along, and now my children read voraciously.

Took me to Myrtle Beach and Pigeon Forge, surely the two places most like paradise to a young West Virginia kid.

Spoke to me like an adult when I was a child, and let me listen to him speaking to his brothers and other adults, rather than shooing me away.

Let me be a child while I was a child, with no pressure to grow up.  Let me become an adult when it was time.

Continues to be a part of my life.

So Dad, there’s part of it.  A few of the things you did right.  There are many more.

Happy Father’s Day!  See you soon.


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