My father passed away in 2002, a few days after Father’s Day, but his legacy hangs over me like the branches of a cool shade tree.
Lessons he taught me without ever knowing it (or maybe he did?) seem to pop up every day. Dad taught me and my brother with examples in life as much as anything. He didn’t have to sit us down and lecture. We watched him, we learned from him.
They were lessons of life and how to live it and that’s the best kind of lesson to teach your sons. I know they stuck with us both.
It’s during the Father’s Day season that Dad comes to the forefront of my mind although, in reality, he is there every day. Dad was so proud of his boys and the men they became. That makes us proud. His legacy is a tough act to follow but it was also the blueprint on how to live your life and be happy.
His life included God, family, laughter, and doing unto others.
We knew in our household the importance of God and church. Mom and Dad were always involved in the activities of the church. It was part of what we did as a family on a regular basis. In fact, it became an extension of family for us and that’s exactly what you want church to be. But if you aren’t involved, it won’t happen. His actions taught us the importance of church life.
Dad’s reputation in the area followed him when it came to thoughts of religion. I don’t know how many school activities that started with a prayer from my father. It happened so much that my friends probably thought he was a preacher. “Clarence Maynard, would you open us up with prayer?” became a regular question at these events. I was never surprised and it kind of made me feel proud too.
The footprints of life were being made and I didn’t even know it.
Family matters were probably his greatest strength. He provided for us in ways we never realized, from spiritual needs to physical needs. Mom was the Queen of the house and he knew how to treat the Queen. He adored her like nothing else and made sure she had whatever she wanted. They had one of those classic love stories, the kind you dream of having yourself one day. I know Mom missed Dad so much, the last 16 years of her life coming without her soulmate. You don’t lose that kind of love without hurting. During the last year of his life, her caregiving for him was the best kind of love. It was an incredible example for us.
Of course, the grandchildren became the pride and joy of my father (and mother). My son and daughter were so fortunate to have grandparents (on both sides) that were incredible role models for them. The love of grandparents for their grandchildren is something special to witness. Dad was all about his grandchildren, showing up at school events, ballgames and church activities practically beaming. He never missed a chance to watch his grandchildren who in his opinion were always the best, most talented, and prettiest of them all.
Laughter was important to Dad and that mostly included laughing at himself. Some of my greatest belly laughs in life involved my father and some of his antics. He could (and would) tell the story on himself no matter how embarrassing it may be. Laughing was important to him. He loved laughing with us and if that meant laughing at himself then good.
Don’t get me wrong. Dad was a serious person when he needed to be but understanding that laughter is part of a healthy life was not lost on him.
That lesson was never lost on me either. I try not to take myself too seriously either. It’s important to laugh. We need to do it more even at our own expense.
Dad taught us that it was important to give back. He was compassionate to the less fortunate and went out of his way to make them feel as special as anybody else. He saw the needs in their eyes and provided whenever he could. It may have just been a ride to church or handing them a $20 bill but it was always something. He taught us we were no better than anybody else. Give back and it will come back. It was a great life lesson.
Dad didn’t check his religion at the church door. He took it with him into the world. He was a counselor to more than I ever imagined. To this day I hear stories about my mom and dad’s days at Second Baptist Church in Ashland some 60 years ago when they were like Romeo and Juliet to the youth they were teaching.
It was great to hear that I’m not the only one trying to follow in his gigantic footprints.
MARK MAYNARD is managing editor of Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org