Re-post: Reflections on Fatherhood

Photo credit: jonboy mitchell (via flickr.com)On Father’s Day, June 21, 2009, I preached at Wesley Chapel in Toronto. In the sermon I included a tribute to my father as follows:

It is now 42 years since my father died, but I still think of him every day. Sometimes when I’m shaving, I see a likeness to him in the mirror. Or in the flow of the day I’m reminded of some ways in which I’m like him by temperament.

What a potent force fatherhood is if a father’s influence can remain active in a son’s memory and make-up for nearly half a century after his death!

My father was a small man, 5’4” tall and no more than 125 pounds even into his old age. But he was every bit a man, physically strong, agile, and one who faced life as a warrior.

He was not refined or cultured and for good reasons. At 13 years of age back in Lancashire, England, his father took him into the coal mines to mine coal. Imagine, at that age having to get up early, walk a great distance above ground to the mine entrance, and then walk a further distance under ground to the active section of the mine, there to put in a full day’s work. In the winter months he saw daylight only on Sundays.

He didn’t fare much better in formal schooling. At five years of age he was sent to school, but after six weeks he contracted scarlet fever and was taken out. He was never sent back. The family does not know how he was taught to read and write but I remember that he could write an adequate letter with no more misspellings than an average high school student’s, and he was an avid reader of the editorial section of the daily paper — in spite of his educational deprivations.

In the first decade of the Twentieth Century he brought his young bride, my mother, to the sparsely settled prairies of southeastern Saskatchewan. He started work there as a coal miner in a place called Roche Percy, Saskatchewan, because coal mining was all he knew.

He soon had a government-awarded homestead three miles south of Estevan and began market gardening. Then, while continuing that, he also sold Watkins Products in the area and, as a third job, continued to take coal from a mine in the side of the hill on his property. He eventually built a small bakery in Estevan which later, under the management of my older brother, Wilfrid, became a Red and White grocery store on the main street, owned by my father. Later still he established a second-hand furniture store—what was then called a furniture exchange.

He obviously was ambitious and entrepreneurial and I think he passed a portion of those traits on to me. He also worked very hard right to the end of his life and I think I gained from his example. Most importantly, although he was not an active believer until late in his life, he went to church regularly with the family. This reflected a value he held and it was because of that value I was kept under the influence of the gospel while I was growing up. To this day I am a beneficiary of his decisions.

My father was obviously limited in certain ways because of the poverty and dearth of social niceties in his upbringing. But he also had admirable natural qualities that were God-given, and from those I have gained immeasurably. I know that what he had he gave me without reservation and for that I salute his memory.

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6 thoughts on “Re-post: Reflections on Fatherhood

  1. It’s interesting, Pastor Don to learn something of your background and to know particularly about your father. He and your mother succeeded, obviously, in the things that matter most; they would be extremely proud of you and of your success.

  2. How very inspiring, Don! Your story reminds me of my own father who was a devout Christian but who only completed grade 8 when he was forced to quick school to work to help with supporting his poor family of several brothers and one sister.

    Merv

  3. I’ve included in my memoirs, “Angels Worked Overtime” the story of my upbringing in a home that some might call “disfunctional.” But the wider world with education and wide reading, some of that influence changes. But my experience as with Don’s is that some sticks with us all of life. What was of lasting importance for me was dad and mother’s strong faith in God. Out of that faith, 3 of the 9 children in our home became missionaries. Wow! Roy

  4. How I enjoyed reading this blog! It certainly reflects your respect and admiration for your father. I enjoyed it because we observed so many of those traits in you as we watched your commitment to Bible study and your determination to remain active. Your lovely home and refined entertaining were much admired, … and missed! Jane Acton

  5. I found your article on the value and influence your father passed on to you captivating. He certainly was a force by intent as well as by demonstrating in his daily life how to face difficult challenges through out his life. Clearly you applied some of the things he passed on to you in your own life which you also used in raising your family. As I read your writing i have to admit I was envious. My father died one month before I was born so I know very little about him. What I did learn came in bits and pieces from stories shared from time to time by my mom and my five sisters. From those I pictured my father was challenged to provide for his family during the great depression under the harsh realities of taking on multiple low paying jobs he was able to find. Aside from that there came family lore of stories of humorous tales of parents living with five daughters, and of sad stories burying four other children born to them most likely due to very limited medical care offered during the time periods they raised their family. All in all the mental profile I have of my dad is that he was gifted with humor, musical abilities, and a commitment to make sure his brood was present each Sabbath at the little Nazarene church in their community. I wished I knew more about him but I believe I will have opportunities someday to fill in the blank spots that remain hidden. (Your Friend and Former Neighbor Bill Acton)

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