It’s been a wonderful spring here in Western Pennsylvania. The weather has been as close to perfect as you could ask for, with low humidity, daytime high temperatures in the 70’s, slightly chilly nights and the rain doesn’t last long. The fireflies are out in force, like Christmas lights twinkling in the trees. The first time I ever saw fireflies that I can remember, I was about 9 years old, and we were visiting my Grandmother at her home in Ohio. They were out in abundance just after dusk, and I got a short lesson on what they were. My Dad got a mason jar out of the basement and we proceeded to make a “firefly lamp,” an activity which captured my attention for a long time, and not just that evening. I’m a little old for a firefly lamp now, but while I was walking the dog the other night, seeing the fireflies in the woods brought that memory back, and brought a smile to my face.
My Dad passed away at age 84 in August of 2004. He was born in November of 1919 in Clarksburg, West Virginia, which is just a couple of hours drive south of where I live now. Not only did he spend his later childhood and teenage years in the heart of the Great Depression, but he lost his father when he was just 13 years old. He was never reluctant to talk about those years, though, and in fact, during my childhood, he spent a lot of time passing along the values he learned. I’m sure both of those events affected his life, and yet he still remembered his childhood as a happy time.
One of the most influential people in his life during that time was his maternal Grandmother Lafferty. She apparently had a lot to do with his moral upbringing, as well as providing a lot of watchful supervision when his mother was working. An outspoken woman, she certainly left him with a sense of security and stability. She also was responsible for his early exposure to the Christian faith, taking both he and his brother to Sunday School by streetcar at the Central Christian Church.
He was certainly the most influential person in my life. There’s no doubt about that. He was generally quiet and taciturn, but with a firm hand and he had a way of providing guidance and instruction that commanded respect and at the same time, was done in a loving way. He was knowledgeable and intelligent, the second member of his family to attend college when he enrolled at West Virginia University in the late 1930’s, and he also spent most of the Second World War in the Navy, as a mechanic, keeping all kinds of machinery running. He could fix just about anything, and that’s what he did for a living. He worked for Union Carbide in Clarksburg until shortly after he married my Mom, and they moved to Arizona. He got a job with Apache Powder Company, an explosives manufacturer, as a mechanic keeping their assembly line equipment operating, and then, after about 12 years, got a job at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona as an air conditioning mechanic. He joked that his job would always be in demand in Arizona.
His faith was always something he lived out, in spite of the fact that he and my Mom weren’t active church attenders when they first moved to Arizona. But over the course of time, their connection to a small, Southern Baptist church in my hometown eventually drew them in, and they committed their lives to serving the Lord. He was always an early riser, as long as I could remember, he would never be in bed much past 5:00 a.m. unless he was just arriving at home after working an overnight shift. And one of his regular habits was to read the Bible during these early hours. He lived out his faith, and as a result of that, his children caught it. It was never demanded of us, it was simply lived in front of us.
I miss him. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.