Humility and service and dependability and respect. Some of the qualities my father taught me – taught not with words but in daily life lived.
I like to use Father’s and Mother’s Day to reflect on my parents’ lives. To think about what I learned from them, to appreciate the foundation they laid for me and the support they offered through my entire life.
In looking through a picture album that spanned part of Daddy’s 50s and 60s, I saw a man who didn’t seek the spotlight, who in most photos was quietly enjoying the activity that was going on in the center of the photo. Seldom was he a part of the “center.”
But the qualities he lived were certainly essential, important, center ones.
He didn’t live a flashy or unusual life. It was mostly centered around Ebenezer Crossroads and Effingham County, Georgia, branching out into Chatham County, which is where he went to his job at a big paper mill. He wasn’t an office worker or foreman there. He was a machinist. A basic blue collar job. The kind of job that most of my friends’ fathers had.
His leisure activities were centered around sports and fishing and community activities – with a little travel thrown in after he retired.
Daddy loved sports and passed that along to me. One set of memories to do with sports is of when I was a kid. In warm weather he’d get home from work and change clothes and spend time with me in the back yard hitting fly balls for me to shag.
And he loved to fish. He spent many an early Saturday morning at “the seas” (*) fishing in a jon boat. I think that was his weekly meditation time. The brown reflective cypress lake, the plunk of the hook and bait and bobber, the smoothness of the worn paddle, all surrounded with an occasional bird call – that was one of his sanctuaries.
His other sanctuary was a literal one, Jerusalem Lutheran Church, the church of his parents and their parents and their parents and their parents. . . . for generations, stretching back into the mid to early 1700s.
He always felt that if the church doors were open, he was supposed to be there.
And he usually was.
He was the church treasurer for years. He was on the council many times, sang in the choir for years, and was the bell ringer for 35 years.
Ringing the bells was a Seckinger job. He took over from his brother when his brother died, and his brother had taken over from their father when he died.
Both his brother and father died early deaths, at ages 45 and 55. Daddy thought he’d follow in their footsteps in early death, too, but he lived to be 73, and it wasn’t a heart attack that got him as it had gotten his brother and father. It was a car wreck. His heart wasn’t what let him down – even though he was afraid that it might.
And I guess it’s pretty appropriate that it didn’t.
Although he was not one to be demonstrative with love, he did love deeply, dependably, respectfully, with much of it shown through acts of service. For family, for friends, for church, for community.
But mostly for his God.
He wasn’t one to preach, but he believed that we’re all equal, that we are all deserving of respect, that we all are worthy of service – no matter who we are, how we think, how we vote, what color our skin is, how much money we have.
None of those mattered. Because the God that my daddy loved and served was one of love.
Love pure and simple.
Daddy took “God is love” literally.
In my whole life so far, I’ve not learned any lesson that is more important than that one.
That lesson is at the center of who I am.
So on this Father’s Day, I say, Thank you, Daddy. For what you taught me through your life, your qualities, your service, your love.
I miss you.
(*) Our extended family property that we call “the seas” is the only example of a word that I think comes from German, the language our Seckinger ancestors spoke. The German word for lake is “see.” I believe it got switched to “sea” somehow through the years because the English word sea was somewhat connected. Our “seas” are two lakes.