Happy Father’s Day–Late!
I’ve heard that some people have a hard time with the concept of God as a loving Heavenly Father because they had a less-than-loving earthly father. I don’t have a problem with that concept because I’ve always been surrounded by loving men beginning with my grandfathers.
My paternal grandfather, Leslie Toler, died ten months after I was born, so I have no memories of him. I’ve seen one picture of the two of us together. I’m sitting in a highchair near the kitchen table at my grandparents’ house. He’s leaning toward me and smiling even though I’m his third granddaughter and he’s a farmer with land and a name to pass down. I’m told that he walked down the dirt road to our house to visit with me every day of my life until he died of a heart attack in his back yard.
My maternal grandfather, Gilbert Thompson, loved me, too. He had three daughters of his own and was probably ready for a boy in the family. Instead, I showed up. He always greeted me with a big grin and “Hey, Gal!”
My daddy, Bobby Toler, is a born teacher. If my brother or I ever had a question that he couldn’t answer on his own, he’d say, “T!” or “P!” or whatever initial began the topic. That was our signal to grab the T encyclopedia and look up “taxidermy” or “Prussia,” and we’d learn together. He ushered us to church every Sunday after studying his lesson on Saturday night. He attended every band concert, piano recital, and high school play I participated in. Although those programs weren’t really his thing, he’d don his Sunday suit and sit and listen. I dented or crashed my car a few times, and his standard response to my frantic tears soothed with, “Are you okay?” Yes. “Is anybody dead?” No. “Well, then. We can get another car. We can’t get a new Hope.”
My brother, Richard Toler, is a busy father of four and a bi-vocational preacher. He just returned from a missions trip to Indonesia. He preaches thought-provoking sermons based on scripture and laced with personal stories. I still have a Valentine’s card he made for me while we attended college.
My father-in-law, Edward Dougherty, or “Doc” to friends and family, has been my champion since the first time Kevin introduced me, a planning-to-remain southern Protestant, to his northern Irish Catholic family. After a particularly trying before-marriage family discussion, he believed me when I said I loved Kevin even when I didn’t know if I believed myself. He nursed his wife of fifty-eight years as Alzheimer’s disease stole her away from him. He defined “in sickness and in health,” and “till death do us part.”
My husband, Kevin, is a stellar husband. He washes dishes. He supports my volunteering efforts. He’s enthusiastic about my writing journey. He participates in our children’s lives. He prays with our sons at night, kneeling beside the bed. He surprises me with flowers for no reason. He bought a birthday cake for a man turning seventy with no one to celebrate with him. He writes letters to company heads when someone goes the extra effort in his or her job. One of those letters prompted a raise and a promotion from the Food Lion, Inc. president for the deli lady at our store. The president’s letter hangs near the counter.
And now we have two sons training to be good fathers. They are gentle and patient with little children. They are kind to people. Although they are tremendous athletes, they also enjoy playing musical instruments and reading. They’re always up for a good WWII movie, but they appreciate musicals, too. They surprise me with quick hugs. They are helpers and hard workers. Their sisters tease them about being manly men, and they are.
They are also gentlemen—compassionate, strong, smart, loving—and committed to their Heavenly Father.
Happy Father’s Day!