Posted in Life

Equal time for Dad


In my Mother’s Day post, I promised to give Dad equal time. Good thing I remembered. Five weeks have flown by and it’s the eve of Father’s Day. Here goes.

My Dad is still in our Ridley Park home where he’s lived for the last forty-eight years. He was born at Taylor hospital, which is just a half-mile down the road. Except for a few years in Bucks County, he’s lived in the southeast suburbs of Philadelphia for eighty of his eighty-nine years. No wonder it’s hard for him to think of moving.

The youngest of seven children, William Douthwaite, Jr. (I’m the third) graduated from Nether-Providence high school in 1942. I don’t think he made it to his seventieth reunion last year, but I know he made it to his 65th. He trained as a B-17 tail gunner for the army air corps, and was stationed in various places in the South Pacific during WWII. I don’t think he saw any combat, but probably would have been part of the invasion of Japan had surrender not followed the dropping of the atomic bombs in 1945.

After he came home, he attended Villanova University and graduated with a degree in electrical engineering. He began working in northeast Philadelphia then in Camden, NJ. He worked on the guidance systems for the Minuteman missile. That’s really something, when you consider that transistors were pretty new at that time. The good thing is that he could always fix our TV, because he could figure out which tube was bad and replace it. (If you don’t know what a tube is, ask your grandparents, or a rock musician who likes powerful amps.)

Dad always left early each morning, because his commute included a train ride and a transfer to the “el” (elevated train) to get to northeast Phila. The train station was right near our house, so when he walked in the door at 6 pm, supper was ready and we sat down to eat.

Things dad taught me: how to hit, throw and catch a baseball, how to do a basic auto tuneup, how to plant and maintain a garden, how to build a fort, how to do some basic electrical repairs, how to make Hamburger Helper, and what a faithful follower of Christ looked like. He took me to baseball games at Connie Mack and then the Vet, basketball games at the Palestra, and to the Franklin Institute. I remember those trips like yesterday. He hardly ever missed bad concerts, football game halftime shows, and Cub Scout events.

I have vague memories of living in NE Phila for a few years, but can’t ever remember going to church. However, from the time we moved to Delaware County, I can’t remember ever not attending worship. Ironically, the reason we went to the Lutheran Church (LC-MS) is because my grandmother lived right next door to the church, so that’s where we went. My Dad and Mom were always in worship, Bible class, in leadership, and out doing evangelism. Church life was part of the fabric of our lives (to borrow a phrase.) That quiet example and lifestyle of faithfulness shaped the lives of my sister, brother and I, leading us into very active adult lives in the church. My brother and I are pastors, and my sister has played the organ for many services over the years. Want to pass along faith to the next generation? Let your kids see how important it is to you. It is one of the most powerful messages you can send.

After I and then my brother went to the seminary, my Dad started reading theology. I mean real theology, like the Book of Concord, Law and Gospel, and lots of Luther. I remember him telling me he never really understood grace until he read those volumes. He and his family had just gone to the closest church while growing up which I think was originally Baptist, but then became Methodist. I guess you never do stop learning.

Dad’s forgetting more than he remembers now, can’t really keep up with the yard work and house repairs, and knows that it’s just about time to move from the house closer to one of his children. It will probably be close to my brother, and for Fathers Day they are looking at apartments.

When I asked him what he wanted for Fathers Day, he said, “Just something good to eat.” So I sent him some cookies, because he never forgets to eat those! Happy Fathers Day, Dad!

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