Today is my daddy's 78th birthday. However, Daddy isn't your typical 78 year old. Anyone who knows me has heard my description of my father several times. I tell people that Daddy still works full-time and plays golf once or twice a week. And maybe I'm biased but I really don't think he looks his age either.
Those who know me will also be familiar with other descriptors of my daddy. My father is an ex-Marine Corps DI who escaped from POW camp in Korea. I have an amazing amount of pride in the fact that I have a bonafide American War Hero father.
My entire life my father has been the epitome of strength. And this image isn't reserved to family alone. Many friends have told me that my father is the ideal of the big, strong daddy that could save anyone or any situation. Just ask my dear friend Jennifer. She'll validate my claims. While Jennifer had a beautiful relationship with her father it wasn't the same as the one I shared with mine. Jennifer's dad was of average build and scholarly. Mr. Brown was a wonderful, delightful man respected by all. And while Jef loved her father, if you ask her she will tell you that my daddy is the image as I described to her and others alike. (You would be hard pressed to find two more different men than Mr. Brown and Daddy. However, these men respected and liked each other tremendously.)
While I am used to his size, for as long as I can remember I have been told that my daddy is a big man. I'm sure it wasn't just his size to which people were referring. Standing at 6'2", and still looking like a Marine, Daddy is far from small, especially next to my demure 5' tall mother.
I remember walking across my high school campus with Daddy as he dropped me off for a band trip. My high school sweetheart told me that a couple of guys asked him with whom I was walking. When he told them it was my father he said their eyes widened and they said, "Man I sure hope he likes you." Later in college I was dating a member of the swim team. Upon meeting my father he said he was nervous and hoped Daddy liked him (he did not). He said he wasn't sure he could out run my dad but if he could get to the river he thought he could out swim Daddy. Fortunately the relationship didn't last too long and there wasn't any chasing needed.
So you get the picture that my dad isn't exactly small. That said, there is so much more to Daddy's stature. My father's character towers above his shadow. He is one of the hardest working men I have ever known. His work ethic is unmatched by most men half his age. And his willingness to help those less fortunate than he is an example to us all.
And oh, the encouragement he gives me. He reminds me to trust God. He laughs with me. And I can hear the ache in his voice when his little girl is hurting.
Recently, Daddy told me he hopes to retire in about a year and a half. Can you imagine working until you are 80? If I had my way he wouldn't have to work now. But if he weren't working he would be out on the links and my mother would be a golf widow. So maybe work isn't so bad after all.
I’ve noticed that Daddy is beginning to slow down a bit but I think he’s earned that right. I only hope he knows that his strength isn’t determined by the ability to keep a certain pace or perform in the same manner as when he was my age. His strength is his character and that is ageless.
I love you Daddy. You are my hero.