What My Grandfather Taught Me About Being a Father
My grandfather was a major influence in my life and impacted what kind of father I became years later. Here’s what I learned from him.
Thirty years ago, our oldest child was born. When this precious little miracle came into our lives, frankly, I was scared to death. I had not been around many babies in my life, so I knew basically nothing about them, and the idea of being responsible for a new little life was overwhelming!
Not only was I quite nervous about holding our baby and way out of my depth when it came to changing a diaper, I was even more unprepared for the lifelong task of being a father! But life doesn’t wait until we feel ready for challenges. Eventually, more children came, and with time and experience, the job became much less daunting.
As a boy growing up, the most stable and beloved man in my life was my maternal grandfather. I spent a lot of time on his farm and even lived there for part of my childhood. Even though he died several years before I met my wife, the strength and example of this wonderful man taught me a lot about being a dad—not just from things he said, but from how he lived his life. I’d like to share some of those lessons in this blog post.
Even though he died several years before I met my wife, the strength and example of this wonderful man taught me a lot about being a dad—not just from things he said, but from how he lived his life.1.Strength
Grandpa was physically strong. As a teen working with him shoveling corn in a granary, I was certain I could outwork my grandpa, who seemed like an old man. So, I started shoveling faster and harder to prove my point. But it wasn’t long until I was sweating, dirty, worn-out and falling further behind! It was amazing how strong that “old” man really was!
But even more impressive than his physical strength was his strength of character. As a preteen, he had broken his back severely in an accident, but he never let it slow him down. He was mentally and emotionally tough—enduring several hard times throughout his life, including the death of a baby. And, most importantly, he was spiritually tough—remaining faithful to God to the day he died.
My grandpa consistently demonstrated untiring patience, no matter the circumstances. That trait was something he taught me when working with livestock. There are times to yell and holler to stop the animals or herd them in a certain direction, but he also knew when patience, using slower movements and a calm voice, would work much better.
While working on farm equipment (and on a farm something always needs to be repaired or maintained), I’d sometimes get frustrated and growl at a “stupid wrench” or “stupid bolt.” Grandpa would remind me that the wrench and bolt were neither stupid nor smart, but that I was the one who had the option to be one or the other. Then he’d calmly examine my predicament and teach me a better way to get the job done.
His approach to people was similar. He was patient and able to put people at ease. He always took the time to listen and help people if he could.
There was never a question in my mind whether Grandpa would be there when I needed him. An example I’ll never forget was with my first car, a rather homely 11-year-old 1967 Plymouth.
One day, on my way home from work, a back tire blew on my car. Grandpa had taught me how to change a tire, so I jacked up the car and went to work. But the lug nut didn’t want to come off. I figured I would put all my strength into it, but the entire lug bolt twisted off, nut and all! Then I tried another, and got the same result. With only three left, I was in trouble! I walked to the nearest farmhouse to use the phone and called Grandpa.
To my great relief, he pulled up a short time later. He stood and looked at the car for what seemed like a solid minute, then discovered an easy solution for properly removing the remaining bolts. He was always there for me, and I knew it!
And he wasn’t there just for me. I saw Grandpa stop whatever he was doing when a neighbor came by to ask for help. If a church member needed help, Grandpa would drive two or three hours round-trip to help them. It’s just who he was.
My grandpa was a man of his word. He was always careful about making promises, but once he promised, it was as good as done. Whether it was a promise to help a neighbor, rototill Grandma’s garden or take me fishing—if he said it, he would do it.
I remember a day Grandpa promised to take me fishing as soon as he was done working on the truck. I remember standing near him with my pole, itching to go. Finally, with a sigh, he got up, wiped the grease from his hands, and we went fishing! As much as he needed to finish the truck, he made good on his promise.
He had integrity, and he expected it from others, too, including me. That was a powerful lesson and example that has continued to impact my life.
The characteristics I learned from my grandfather—strength, patience, reliability and integrity—are all vital for a father to be a good example to his children and grandchildren. As we come to Father’s Day this year, I hope fathers and future fathers can learn from his example—just as I did.