To a dad who has stacked the deck
I was 3 or 4 years old, wearing a baseball cap and wielding a giant plastic bat that would make me think I was a good hitter (once Dad quit filming me and tossed the ball).
The guy holding the camcorder would continue stacking the deck for me throughout my life — whether by giving me a baseball bat the width of a fraternity paddle, or providing for me so I didn’t have to work until I was out of college.
Dad was the sixth of seven kids born to Ida Lou Eubanks, and counted his mother as one of his best friends. He grew up in rural central Arkansas and played sports with Mom’s boy cousins: In fact, the first time Dad called Aunt Linda’s house to ask Mom out, she thought it was Boy Cousin No. 1 pranking her.
Mom and Dad’s first date was a homecoming dance in early October. I won’t reveal the year, as Mom would kill me. Usually every year on this date — I think it was October 6 — Dad has left Mom a sticky note or something in the kitchen saying, “Happy first date anniversary! Love you, C.” (C is for Cliff.)
Mom and Dad struggled together in the early years of their marriage. Mom worked to help put him through school. But he advanced quickly in his career and by the time I came along, I had to be told stories about their sparse times.
When I was little, I’d monopolize Dad as soon as he got home from work. He’d walk through the door and I’d have to tell him all about my day before Mom could even say hi to her husband.
Though my athletic ability would never match the prowess of my big ole bat, Dad was proud of me. As I got older, he patiently taught me skills I would never master: shooting a basketball, throwing a spiral.
Dad’s other talents involve running nuclear plants, building his own gun cabinet, drawing up ideas for he and Mom’s forever home, and sewing. He helped Grandma Ida Lou with quilts when he was a kid.
I’m no seamstress and I have no desire to run a steam generator replacement or the even bigger nuclear projects Dad is working on now. But I did inherit his basic personality — with an extra dash of geekery all my own — and I’m glad I got (some of) his organizational skills.
Dad has consistently made my life easier. OK, so he’s spoiled me a little. But at the end of the day, he’s always pushed me out of the nest and stood back. He hasn’t coddled or talked down to me, and that’s why to this day I hate it when men do that.
After I graduated high school, the family moved from Arkansas to the suburbs of Phoenix for Dad’s job. I enrolled at Northern Arizona University, two and a half hours north in Flagstaff, for my freshman year. Dad helped me move into the dorm.
Before driving back home, he encouraged me to call if I ever needed to talk. “I’m your dad, but I can also be your best friend,” he said. Just like him and his mom.
I can say with certainty that my parents are two of my best friends. And Dad’s love for our family has shown me a tiny glimpse of God’s love. I am so grateful for him.
Our cover story this month is about other men who display God’s love: The Futrals have ministered throughout Mississippi and beyond for seven decades. Rob and his dad, Jim (aka “Doc”), are both former pastors of Broadmoor Baptist Church, but their legacy encompasses much more.
Another feature in this Men’s Issue is about The Samson Society, a group where men discuss their hang-ups and keep each other accountable in a non-judgmental setting. What kind of hang-ups? Just about all of them.
Also, we interviewed Mississippi College’s new president, Dr. Blake Thompson, about his hometown of Rienzi, Mississippi, and his first year at MC.
There’s plenty more in this issue, and I hope it all points us to our heavenly Father as we celebrate the men and father figures in our lives.