This is not one of my favorite holidays anymore. I’m assuming that anyone else who has lost their father probably feels the same. I think it’s a wonderful idea to set aside a day to celebrate the man who helped to create you and traveled with you through your life, but when that man is no longer here it brings a little tinge of sadness, a reminder of that absence in your heart.
Today, however, instead of feeling sad and sorry for myself, I’m going to try to focus on all of the happy times I can remember having with my dad. My dad’s name was Arthur Clair Elder, III. Yes, it was a big name for a man with a big heart. Since he was a third, a triple, he was always called “Tripp”. The “Clair” portion of the name is a family name that was handed down through the generations, and while it is a name most commonly reserved for women (at least in my experience), there was a certain coolness to the unusualness of the name being used for a man. Clair is my own middle name, my daughter Ava’s middle name, my niece Emma’s middle name, and even our college friend Susan liked it so much that she used it as the middle name for her daughter Isabella. The legacy continues in some very sweet and feisty gals.
When I think back about my childhood and about how insanely blessed Jessica and I were to have had this man as our father there are several things that stand out. First, our father was always talking to us and with us. He was a very present figure in our household. Tripp Elder didn’t just phone in his fatherly duties. He was hands on. Living in a house with my mother, myself, and Jessica you can imagine that my dad didn’t have very much opportunity to talk. We can be a vocal group, the Elder women, but when Tripp did speak we quietened up to listen because we knew whatever was going to come out of that mouth of his would be important.
My dad was very funny. I don’t know if people on the outside knew that, but those who were closest to him most certainly did. He had a dry sense of humor and often times was funny even when I’m not sure that he knew he was being funny. There were several inside jokes we had with him and we used them for years, up until his death actually. Some of our family quotes (without revealing all the background) were “Blah, blah, blah cut to the chase” and during a time after continually asking me and Jessica to complete a chore in our teens and we continually ignoring him and continuing watching television the infamous “Happy Days can WAIT!” phrase made its way into our family quotes.
My dad took us to church and showed us in his daily life what a Christian man looks like as a father. I couldn’t have asked for a better example. He and my mother both read to us from the Bible. He worked on staff at our church, so we were there constantly. He was a man who truly practiced what he preached. I would quietly (unknowingly back then) observe him with my mother and I saw, even at a young age, what a Godly marriage should look like. This man ADORED my mother. He held her hand throughout their lifetime together. He held open doors for her. He was sweet and attentive. He was to all of us. Jessica and I knew that he cared about us and our lives from what we wore, to who we ran around with, to the boys that we dated. Dad was a very present figure in those decisions. Growing up in the Elder household Jessica and I had a pretty clear sense of what was acceptable behavior and what was not. I’ll always remember that the one item of clothing I begged him to let me wear/buy was a bustier-style top like I’d seen on television. I was probably 16 at the time. On that item Tripp was a definite NO! I think I eventually did buy such a shirt when I was probably 22 and with my own money and when I was living in my own place. It wasn’t nearly as satisfying of a purchase as I thought it would be. Rebellion delayed by 6 years sort of loses its excitement. 🙂
My dad was not a perfect man, but he was awfully darn close in my eyes. I truly could not have asked for a more loving, caring father. He provided for our needs. We never had too much or too little, but we always had what we needed. When he was finally diagnosed with his condition I remember vividly standing in the shower of my old house and wailing out to God to please not take this man. I needed his covering and love and influence in my life. I had a feeling in my stomach like I’d never before experienced. A desperation that made me physically ill each time I thought of it. It was unthinkable to imagine this very-much-alive father of mine just one day not being here. Some of you traveled that long and winding journey with us, and I’m so thankful for the prayers and support we received lifting us all up. There is no doubt in my mind that those prayers were the only things carrying us through that fog. My father was a gracious man. A humble man. A gentle man- in every sense of the word. I love him. I miss him. I think of him daily. I’m so thankful that he’s well, but even now three years later and rather selfishly (I guess) I wish he was still with us. My father was the only person who called me “Manda”. I’d give all the money I had just to hear him say it one more time.
My children still talk about “Papa”. I’m so thankful they remember him. Eli talks often about him playing chase with them around the coffee table in the living room. He won’t ever be forgotten. He set the bar high for all other fathers out there. Not everyone was as fortunate as I to have had such a wonderful daddy. In those cases, I suppose, we have to remember that our ultimate Father, God, is watching over us and has our best interest at heart. He is who you should go to for support and love. I’m just so blessed that I got to see that love and caring mirrored through the eyes of Arthur Clair Elder, III.