Ode to My Dad
I typically take a rest from blogging on Sunday. But it’s worth breaking with tradition when there’s a special circumstance. And it being father’s day here in the United States, there’s someone special I’ve just got to tell you about.
Let me introduce you to my dad.
Phil Oswald came into my life around the same time I came into his. I initiated him into fatherhood over 30 years ago in the quirky community of Ashland, Oregon. It was there in our little house (a parsonage) next to First Baptist Church that he held me, fed me, wrestled with me, and taught me to ride my tiny silver bike without training wheels. The fact that clueless four-year-old me yelled “I’m Greg LeMond” (a road bike racing legend) while riding my bike signaled that what mattered to my dad was beginning to matter to me.
This planting of values continued as I sprouted up taller. My dad worked hard, putting in long hours in his work with the church so that my mother could be a full-time mom to my brother and me. And when he sensed that the work hours were too many, he did his darndest to change his approach to spend more time with us. For instance, during my junior high years, he and I got a paper route together so I could have a little spending money. We spent two hours together every morning rolling newspapers, driving the route in my dad’s ’72 Volkswagen Bug, and tossing those papers with occasional accuracy on to porches. And all this happened before the sun came up. In this he taught me the worth of hard work and the joy of being together. He didn’t make a penny from his morning job.
He also has given me a legacy of faith. You see, my dad has been a pastor since before I was born — helping people to get to know and follow Jesus through his work in a variety of churches. His Christian faith, formed by experience and intellect alike, is something that was palpable and contagious. His commitment to the church communities he served meant that I grew up not only near to the church (or next door, as in Ashland), but loved and enfolded by the church. His consistency in faith through seasons both joyous and difficult for him encouraged my faith in Jesus with each day that passed. As I grew older, he pushed me to ask why I believed what I believed, and helped me to build a faith that would stand strong once I left home for college.
And aside from the healthy mission critical stuff like values, faith, and integrity, my dad encouraged me to invest in plain ol’ fun hobbies. He set aside a massive table in our house for me to display all the Lego sets I pieced together. He drove me to the local computer show to purchase my first CD-ROM drive for the computer I built. He bought me a web design software to experiment with in 1995, shortly after the World Wide Web was born. He gave me his old acoustic guitar to try when he saw that I wasn’t enjoying piano lessons. He either bought, built or researched every bike I’ve ever owned. He invested in my photography hobby and bought me the camera bag and filters I still use today. He didn’t shoot down my interests, even when they were childish. He walked me even deeper into them, expecting that his encouragement and investment would change me. Here’s hoping they have!
At the moment, my dad and mom live overseas, and I miss them like crazy. With all that distance between us, we rely on Skype for video conversations every Sunday morning. We talk about everything and nothing for half an hour as my three kids careen like pinballs in and out of the room where we chat. And each conversation is a chaotic gift.
Take a look at the photo at the top of the post. My dad is the one on the left, holding my own son William near the Waters of Leith in Scotland. When I see this photo, I’m reminded of all that my dad has been to me. At the same time, I’m humbled and overwhelmed at the thought of being someone half as impactful as him as I raise my own son. Talk about a tough act to follow!
Thanks to you, Dad, for giving me more than I deserved in my youth and now in my adulthood. Thank you for helping me to love Top Gear, Nebraska, and good barbecue. Thanks for officiating my wedding ceremony. And from one dad to another, thanks for an inside look at your parenting playbook.
I love you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day!
Have you got one of those dads who you still thought was cool even after you became a teenager? Share this post, and tell us about him in the comments below!