A Line of Good Dads

Rob with Marva and Annie in her chariot at the pumpkin patch, c. 2001

 In 1990, as my father neared the age of eighty, he looked back over a life of struggle and hard work and questioned what his life had amounted to. I wrote this poem to tell him what his five children thought he’d accomplished:


Someday we’ll sit where you are sitting now.
We’ll wonder how the years went by so fast.
Surprised and saddened, we will think
“It isn’t fair, this failing of this frame that holds the me of me.”
And what did I accomplish with the years God gave?

Our wealth, our honors may be small
But if, like you, Dad, we can know
We built within our children character
A love of rightness
Joy in work
A caring for their fellowman
So that our children’s children too are blessed—
Then we’ve not lived in vain.
We did, and did it well, life’s greatest task.

Twenty years later, my son Rob married Lydia, who brought with her to the marriage two-and-a-half-year-old Marva. As soon as legally possible, Rob adopted Marva, but he’d become her daddy long before the ceremony. His children were everything to Rob’s own workaholic father, but he spent little time in interaction with his son until Rob was old enough to share his dad’s interests in chess and old cars. It was I who spent time reading to the children, taking them fishing, and involving them in creative activities. I taught them to love the natural world and answered their endless questions.

These things hadn’t been part of Lydia’s childhood, but Rob picked up where I’d left off with him, playing games with Marva, helping her draw and collecting rocks with her. When Annie came along, Rob shared baby care chores with Lydia. As Annie grew older, Rob taught her songs and did art projects with her, too.

He helped them with their homework, although being naturally good at math, it was hard for him to understand why his girls didn’t always “get it.” If relationship problems came up with their friends, Rob knew how to ask the right questions and point out thoughtful ways to deal with the situation. He helped them find ways to solve their own problems.

Marva has picked up her dad’s work ethic. She’s almost always had a part-time job since her high school years. Now twenty-one, she’s lived on her own for several years while working and going to college.

At fifteen, Annie has his scholastic ability and wide range of interests. A few months ago, Rob found a 1965 Ford Galaxie for her to drive when she turns sixteen. It just got a new paint job, and Annie plans to help her dad finish restoring it.

Great-Grandpa, who was an expert mechanic himself, would be proud.

“Our children’s children, too, are blessed,”  thanks to a line of dads who did their best!

Annie’s new chariot

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