When the best you can hope for is an umbrella
My process in writing these weekly editorials is a rather simple one. It starts with asking a few questions. What is my truth today? What is bubbling up today? I invite my soul to say a word. If I look for much more than a word, then I am not doing it right. I like for my editorials to be honest and pure. When I feel my mind spinning, or my own hand scripting, then I can be sure I have veered off into a selfish place. I do my best writing when I take the Beatles advice to “let it be.” While I let it be, I can usually be found pacing our parking lot. I’ve been known to put in a few miles while waiting on my word. Processes are great. And when they are tried and true enough you learn to trust them. I am trusting the process this week.
My soul, as it should be, is bubbling up father’s day. I have paced and paced, and nothing will come. I know why. There are no words. Perhaps there is one word. Umbrella. A good father is an umbrella. They stand and cover us. They take the full brunt while we sit under their cover. Often, we will never feel the hit of what might fall, but fathers do. And it doesn’t change their dedication to their task.
The best fathers, they encourage other men. They encourage other men to be the umbrella, becoming forever more sturdy, forever more reliable. The best of our men will share their strength with each other independent of their fatherhood status. In one of my favorite Robin Williams’ movies, he describes what must be the perfect umbrella. He is speaking of his son when he says, “Men want to be around him because he has integrity, you know? He has character. You can’t fake that. He is a guy women want to be around too. Because there is tenderness in him, respect, loyalty, courage and women respond to that.” The best of umbrellas, they seek to grow in integrity, character, tenderness, respect, loyalty and courage. We honor this in men. Look at the different pictures of humanity around you for proof.
How many times has a daddy handed their daughter’s hand over to a young groom, hoping other men have poured wisdom and loyalty into him? How many times has a single mom called out for someone to provide a safe space so she can simply rest assured in the fact her child is absorbing a strength only men possess. Older men, having proven themselves to be an outstanding umbrella, will depend upon a younger generation of men to seek them out, bestowing the gift of legacy. Young fathers also bank on other men to be umbrellas. How many times has a dad trusted their child’s coach not only to teach a skill, but to teach the power of teamwork, determination and self-worth? There are mothers who depend upon their sons to offer their kindness to them, to cover them when youth is needed. And there are wives. Wives who stand steady under the umbrella of their husbands as they walk alongside on a journey which comes with highest of highs and lowest of lows. When the husband is an umbrella, she knows she is not alone. Knowing this is a gift of God’s own hands.
There is a group I am most comfortable being a voice for. Every now and again a girl somehow makes it out of college, begins her career, lives fully into her life with its richness of awesomes and devastatings. Somehow the days pass and she can only go so far before she runs out of role models on how to conquer life without the umbrella of a husband. But she can’t very well slow down and miss out on her life, so she goes forward. It’s funny, her mama can’t tell her how to go forward without the umbrella a husband offers, because she has never done it. But you know who remains steady in his answers to her need? Her daddy. He is there, being the umbrella he has always been for close to 50 years. Nothing has changed for him. Sure, he thought he would step aside and be auxiliary to her husband, but he was never good at retiring anyway. Her daddy keeps showing up just as he did holding her on first birthday, teaching her how to ski, making sure she and Jesus were real good friends, seeing her off to proms, watching puppy loves come and go, celebrating high school, college and graduate school graduations, seeing the weeping over not so puppy loves, investigating the first, second and even third mortgage interest rates, shaking his head over 5 new cars, being the first call after heart stopping horrors, cheering the grandest of delights, watching stall outs caused by mysterious depressions and fertilizing growth spurts where she accomplishes better than her dreams. That daddy, that umbrella is always there. He has been there, somehow knowing his spot. He knows when to take center stage, he knows when to fade in the background. He is there, an umbrella, as strong and determined as he has ever been. And you know what he tells her without ever telling her? “Gather your umbrellas girl, you’re a lucky one. Folks are allowed only so many umbrellas, but you, you get more than you can ever imagine. Invest in them. Acknowledge them. Care for them. Let them do what they are designed to do. But know, not every man knows how to umbrella like you will need. That is by perfect design, and you’re a smart girl. You’ll know which ones will cover you, will shelter you, will fight the elements for you. You’ll know.” And that daddy, that man, he is right. Of course, he is, he’s put in nearly 80 years of being an umbrella, because other men taught him the ways of the umbrella way before he was a daddy.
Self-seeking comes easy for me. I imagine on father’s day, anyone who has had an umbrella gets a little selfish too. We all think we have the best umbrella. And you know what, we do. So, to your daddy and all your umbrellas, I wish a grand celebration of the excellence they are. And for an awesome group of men who I wouldn’t trade for a billion pearls, I offer a gratitude so deep it causes me to ache when I think of it for too long. And for one Paul V., for every day I live and every breath I take, I am overwhelmed by how you fight to make sure I live deeply into it. Thank you for letting me have your name. Character, you can’t fake that.