Five Lessons from My Five Fathers

Dad and meFather’s Day was a couple of days ago. While I was blessed with a wonderful father, I also found myself thinking of a few other men who were like second dads to me. As I thought of these different men, each of them had one particular quality that dominated my thoughts; and that characteristic became a life lesson for me. Here are those five lessons from my five dads:

  • Be committed (Leon Cavitt) – One of my very best friends in my teens and twenties was Danny Cavitt. It wasn’t unusual for Danny and I to come rolling in around 5:00 or 6:00 AM… to go to bed. While we might have slipped in unnoticed in many houses, there was a 100% chance that Danny’s dad, Leon, would be up. Not only would he be awake, but there was only one place you would find him. Every single morning, Leon got up at 5:00, got his Bible, and sat down in his recliner to read and pray. It didn’t matter, either, that many of those early mornings when we drug in at sunup were Saturdays, when he didn’t have to work. His devotional time was an appointment he never missed. I never heard Leon preach a sermon, teach a lesson, or even quote a scripture to us; but the single most indelible memory I have of him is seeing him through my blurry, blood-shot eyes sitting quietly in his chair reading God’s word. What commitment!
  • Major in hospitality (Bill King) – My very first friend was my neighbor, Scott King. One of the really cool perks of our friendship was that his dad owned a motel on Lookout Mountain. On many Friday evenings, he would take Scott and I up to the motel on the mountain and give us a motel room for the evening so that we could climb around the rocks and do all the things you might imagine two 10 or 12-year-old boys would think of with a hotel room at their disposal. Scott’s dad was a high-ranking bank executive who had lots of irons in the fire between his job at the bank and owning two motels. Here is what I remember most about Mr. King, though: every Friday, he would take the two of us to a restaurant called The Albert Pick (which had the most amazing bread ever!). Then, on Saturday morning, Mr. King would make biscuits and gravy for us. I am sure there were a million things he needed to do more than have dinner with two preteen boys and cook us breakfast, but he never made me feel like I was an imposition. Instead, he always made me feel welcome. I am sure Bill accomplished lots of great things in his life, but I remember him most for making me feel welcome and important – like another of his sons.
  • God answers prayer (Bob Blazier) – When I was just starting school, our church got a new pastor named Bob Blazier. His son, Bobby, and I became almost instant buddies (I say “almost instant” because the first time Bobby came over to my house it earned me a spanking – but I’m not still bitter…). At any rate, Bobby and I are still best friends and his parents are still my second parents. Bobby’s dad was from the country, and you could tell it in his speech. He occasionally made up words during his sermons, and he had not had the opportunity to pursue the advanced degrees that many ministers receive. The puzzling thing to many people was how in the world Bob, with some of his seeming limitations, could be such a terrific preacher. He was (and still is) one of my very favorite teachers and preachers. While others may have been puzzled, I knew his secret. You see, Bobby and I would often run and play around the church during the week or on Saturdays when it seemed to be deserted. However, many times there would be a sound coming out of one of the Sunday School rooms. It was the sound of Bobby’s dad praying. He would go into the classroom, close the door behind him, and spend hours crying out to God. Therefore, every brilliant Sunday sermon was a life lesson in Paul’s declaration that “I can do all things through Christ, Who strengthens me.”
  • Live life with a chuckle (My uncle Richard) – When I was in school, I used to ride the bus to my aunt and uncle’s house in the afternoons until my mom got off from work to pick me up. Beth and Richard had five kids of their own, which meant there was usually lots of noise and chaos, fussing and fighting, running and jumping, doors left open, and sounds of things crashing to the ground. Add to that the unique form of disruption and destruction that I brought and it was a scene that could have made Mother Theresa try out a new vocabulary! My uncle Richard had this amazing ability to take it all in stride. He could disarm the most stressful situation, whether it was teenage daughter angst and hormones, or his son and I playing tackle football in the living room, with humor and an easy-going attitude. When I sort through all my memories of Richard (or Papa, as we called him), he seems to have a sort of a bemused smile on his face in every situation. How great would life be if a lot of us took ourselves a little less seriously?
  • Integrity matters most (my dad) – I have always known my dad loves me and would give his life for me. That being said, when I was young I used to kind of wish he were a little different. Some of my friends had cooler dads. Others had richer dads. Still others had Santa Claus for a dad. My dad wore socks with shorts and sandals… colored dress socks. He had a pocket protector and one of those retractable key rings on his belt. He wasn’t particularly athletic and didn’t care all that much for sports or hunting, fishing, camping, etc… As I got older, though, I began to realize that my dad gave me the greatest gift any dad could give: he gave me a good name. I have never once in my entire life had to pause when someone asks me if I am Donald Lance’s boy and wonder why they are asking. Someone could tell me my dad was rude to them, and I might believe them. Another person could say that he was kind of distant or cold to them and I would probably buy it. However, if anyone told me that my dad lied to them, I would double over in laughter. My dad goes beyond the category of honesty into the brutally honest, “I don’t believe I would have said that” category of truth-telling. One of my sisters once suggested that he mark something on a medical form about having the privacy laws explained to him, just to expedite the process and he looked at her like she was a Martian who had just entered the waiting room. The mere concept that he would mark something that wasn’t true seemed absolutely alien to him. Therefore, it was no surprise that when I sold he and mom a car, the bank to whom we submitted their credit information called the dealership right back and asked, “how many would they like to buy?” There is no greater gift he could have given me than a reputation that is above reproach (what I have done since then to sully it is a subject for a different blog…). To this day, my dad lays his head on his pillow every night knowing he has nothing in his past from which to hide. What an amazing legacy.

Five great fathers in my life; five great life lessons! How blessed I am this Father’s Day.