This is not a rant. But it does have to start with a confession that is going to make a fair number of people angry with me. But read through to the end and I think you will forgive me for my candor.
I’m not particularly proud of my daddy. Sure, for a few fleeting moments, after a solo, or when he has carved a really cool pumpkin. But not in a lasting, over-arching kind of way.
Candidly, he is not really good at being proud of me either. Drawing, singing, academics…. nothing I did was ever good enough. I always got the feeling that “well, yes, that drawing is good enough, for an 8 year old” but the unspoken text came through loud and clear – “and I can’t wait for you to get older so it gets better and I can actually give you accolades without perjuring myself.” You don’t even want to get me started on discussing our disconnect over music. It is very nearly a tragedy in our family, that two people who both love music so much can both be so disappointed in each other and unable to resolve it.
Richard Nelson Welton, my daddy, is awkward. He says the wrong things, he is volatile, and dogmatic and judgmental. As parent and child we did not understand each other and as adults, we just don’t get along. Our politics do not match up at all, and half the time I feel as if he questions my very salvation.
To be honest, we are BOTH volatile, and awkward and judgmental. It’s not just him.
Thoughts of my daddy do not stir up good feelings in me. Every scene in my head, every memory I have is mixed at best and some are downright painful. It is hard to point to a single moment and say “there, see that? I’m am proud of him for that accomplishment”
He is good with Ginny now, and I recall that he was very good at doing the occasional weird, fun things when I was a kid.
Like the time he made tiny balsa wood model airplanes for me and my brother. They were beautiful, pure forms carved and sanded carefully……and the game Stephen and I wanted to play with them was hiding behind the couches on each end of the living room and flying bombing missions across the room. Which of course damaged the planes…..and made my dad angry.
That led to him teaching us to make origami paper airplanes. Less trouble for him, and less heartache when he saw his well crafted little planes crash up against a wall.
When Stephen and I were kids and playing at the pool was an all day affair in the summer, Daddy gave great horsey rides in the pool. He gave our friends rides too. He would “buck” us kids off his back endlessly. How he survived those summers without drowning I don’t know. Because I don’t recall him coming up for air much…..
There was one summer where I remember him letting the grass get really high in the back yard. Before he cut it all down, he cut a maze into it and let us kids run around playing tag in the maze. But he wasn’t carefree or playful in the sense that I seemed to see other fathers being. Probably because every time he tried, things went wrong. Like that hike in the mountains when I was a kid
What my daddy IS good at is what I call “the long-haul” stuff.
The nitty gritty things that leave other folks staring at the long road in front of them and giving up. Daddy is stubborn. He worked as a full time day janitor, part-time night janitor and had an early morning newspaper route *all at the same time* (my mom also worked two jobs at that time as well)
My parents did all that because they wanted my brother and I to go to a Christian school and I had fallen in love with ice skating (an expensive hobby to say the least). My daddy is certainly a long standing example of doing the mundane things in life. My mom is good at inspiration and blue sky thinking, and I’ve gotten some of that from her. Richard Nelson Welton is good at the long haul. The daily grind is his specialty. He knows how to find joy in accomplishing the most menial of tasks. I like to think I’ve learned something from him in that regard.
My daddy is a really good example of someone who knows how to be happy with a job well done, no matter how “low” the job may seem. Even “waving” for a tax company that forces their employees to dress like Lady Liberty and stand on street corners waving at bored, jaded motorists. A job that would have humiliated me to my core….he thinks it is fun. He does his job so well in fact that people KNOW him. My daddy is locally famous. People call the tax service just to ask if they can hire Richard to wave for their own company!
He takes pride in doing his job well, even if the job itself isn’t inspiring.
I think he got that from his daddy, Dr. Felix Burell Welton, a surgeon who spent his retirement years doing volunteer work at a clinic in the local prison. Long after his surgical career and extensive missionary work should have entitled him to just sit down and put his feet up, Felix kept going. When life and illness finally forced Felix to stop volunteering….he just stopped living. Dr. Welton wanted, needed to be useful. His son, my daddy is the same way.
It’s easy to look back now and make my daddy’s work ethic sound noble and glorious, but it was hard in the day-to-day living of it to feel proud.
What 15 year old girl on the planet is going to be proud of her daddy as he picks up the milk cartons that her classmates insist on spilling on the school’s carpeted halls? What 9 year old is going to be proud of her daddy when he can’t come see her skate? No 9 year old on this earth is going to be un-selfish enough or even aware enough to realize that the reason he couldn’t be there was because he was working double to clean the offices so mother could take me to the competition. What 30 year old is going to be proud of her father who is in his 70’s, standing on street corners, making a spectacle of himself as he “waves” for various merchants around her small town?
But I’m not 15, or 9 anymore or even 30.
I’m almost 42, and I am proud of my daddy now. And in this case it is for one shining moment where he got everything right. It is time for me to share that moment with you.
My father has cancer. Prostate cancer. His prostate is 90% engulfed in cancer.
When the doctor told my dad he had cancer my dad’s response was “well, we all die”
The doctor said, “yes sir, that we do”
My dad followed up with “yes, but I know I’m going to see Jesus when I die. Do you know who you are going to see?”
The doctor paused and said “yes sir, I do. I’m going to see Jesus too.”
And that was about the extent of my dad’s participation in the conversation. The rest of the appointment was taken up with my mom asking various medical questions.
My dad stayed focused on what really matters.
The same mind-set that allows him to take pride in a job that would bring me utter humiliation (but has instead earned him local fame, respect and honor) is allowing my daddy to place his utter confidence in the goodness of our creator as he gets up each day and just keeps being useful.
And even though we have gotten the news that the cancer is NOT contained and that he may have a very uncomfortable future ahead of him, he still knows what is really important. He has settled in for yet another (hopefully) long haul.
Good luck daddy. I’m proud of you.