Dad's Day, 1997

by Arthur W. Anderson

Guess what? There is a Dad's Day after all! I had not thought much about it before. Now this septuagenarian agrees whole heartedly with Dennis the Menace, who said to his parents as they walked out of church: "It's good to have at least ONE Father's Day, since all the others are Mom's."

It all began when our local clan gathered in our backyard for a picnic. Or, should I say, Pharaoh's feast? Some of the chicken became burnt offerings on the barbecue grill. But no one cared. We dug our teeth into the sumptuous offerings with lusty appetites. Waldorf Astoria could not have served such delectables!

Before the bones were collected, our youngsters called us all to play ball at the grounds behind Robinwood School. I demurred. But Bernice reminded me that in the sermon I said grads, dads, and all should whoop it up today. I shook up my own bones and trotted off. My granddaughter gave me her glove a huge one, too!

Standing out there on first base, I suddenly was transported to age 16 and an American Legion game in Barnum, Minnesota. I played catcher then. All of my teenage passion to play returned. Now back at first, I looked at my feet. They were shifting, shifting, and ready to pounce. "Funny," I thought, "why, I can get right into it now." But then I dropped an easy throw to first, which blew my illusion.

Did I capitulate? Not at all. It was too much fun. The old feeling came back. I pitched my old roundhouse to two innings of batters. Not Nolan Ryan, but not bad. And with three ups, I batted 1.000. Running around the bases at any speed at all made me want to shout. Anthropologist Ashley Montague in his 80s wrote: "My goal in life is to die young as late as possible." Bravo! Mine, too! I have spent too much time practicing getting old.

Back home, drinking coffee and eating dessert around the picnic tables, we four fathers opened our presents. My three children, Sonja, Kirk, and Ingrid, gave me a new preaching Bible. This spoke volumes to me, not only of their priceless love, but how they treasured me as a minister as well as a father. In recent years I have experienced a new love affair with this Book. I take its words — its texts — more seriously. I ask more probing questions and refuse to take meanings off the top. I am more directly and existentially engaged by the Christ of the Bible than ever before. So, this was a gift of heaven by my prized children!

Near day's end, while the children continued to play, we sat around the table discussing the Bible and faith. Several years ago, one of the couples now in our clan were upscale Baby Boomers with only a facile interest in religion. The mother somewhat startled me when she asked if the publisher of my new Bible had settled the issue of sexist language in a new translation. She was serious and open. From there we went into what personal faith meant to each of us. The veil of embarrassment was gone. An honest, deeply satisfying joy pervaded our gathering. When everyone left, Bernice and I sat, overcome by the amazing self-revelations of this day. Yes, there really is a Dad's Day, but it also turned out to be a day in which God himself must have planned the party!