Life presents us with many hellos and goodbyes. Personally, I enjoy the hellos more since they tend to herald the beginning of something, rather than a possible ending. And, it all begins at birth.
Contemplating this, I have envisioned in my mind God, with a twinkle in one eye and a tear in the other, smiling as He stretched forth His mighty arm through the heavens, and accompanied by a chorus of angels, delivered from the palm of His gentle hand my spirit into a small rural home in Southern Alberta. At that moment, I said goodbye to one father and hello to another. I became the youngest sibling in a family of six children. They called me Donny.
My father was born in 1909, similarly arriving in this quaint hamlet of Beazer about ten miles west of Cardston. He was number five in a family of eleven children and married my mother in 1931.
Upon my arrival, there was still no indoor plumbing, running water, electricity, or central heating. Nor was there any insulation in the walls of a very cold house during the winter. It was an uncomplicated, but exacting life.
Dad had little formal education but provided me with a very practical one as I worked with him almost every day. We had horses, cows, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats, and sometimes sheep. We worked, fished, hunted, played, and laughed together. I scrutinized his every move as I observed him repair, build, construct, and invent things required on the ranch. He was inventive out of necessity, and I enjoyed being around him.
Insights from old trucks and feelings unexpressed
My father loved his trucks. Often, he could be seen bringing a newer, gently-used truck home. I would often hear my mom mumble, “We are always truck poor.” However, they were his pride and joy, and I think for him, they were a somewhat of a status symbol.
I also fancied his trucks. One day, finding myself home alone and bored, I decided to utilize the truck and visit a friend. After a bit of play we decided to go to my house in search further adventure.
Between our homes ran a small creek (Lee Creek) over which spanned a steel bridge. As boys are prone to do while driving, I was no doubt trying to impress my friend. We approached the bridge, going too fast, hit some loose gravel, and fishtailed onto the bridge. Unfortunately, my left rear fender made contact with the heavy metal structure where it left a significant dent. Disaster.
We were mortified as we proceeded home and after some inspection, it was decided that a repair must be attempted. We took turns crawling underneath and hammering as best we could to make the repair, but in the small space provided and awkward angles, it was very difficult. It worked somewhat but the damage was still obvious to any eye. There remained many small bumps, instead of one large one.
Lessons from words left unsaid
We gave up, and my friend walked home while I stayed and apprehensively awaited my father’s return. I was sure there was to be a reckoning. However, to my surprise, there was never any mention made of it. Ever. By anyone.
It was at that moment I knew with certainty that my father loved me. I saw him now as more than just a friend and someone I worked and played with. He had observed the damage to his truck but realized that I had tried my best to repair it, and that was good enough. A scolding would not bring it back.
I am certain that my other Father’s love for me is the same. It is eternal, all encompassing, and unwavering. He loved the whole world so much that He gave his only begotten son as sacrifice for us ( John 3:16), and that we all would be “encircled eternally in the arms of his love” (2 Nephi 1:15) .
The regret of love left unspoken
One thing that He requires of us is to keep His commandments and do the best we can. If we “cause a bent fender,” which we all do, He just requires us to endeavor to fix it, as best we can. If we do that, He has promised to remember our sins no more (Hebrews 8:12), and further promises, “though your sins may be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). He is a father after all.
My father suffered a stroke and passed away on 22 November 1990. It was a goodbye, but one that was denied expression, as he became immediately unconscious. However, as sorrowful as that was, as I grow older and reflect on the “what-should-have–beens,” I am more remorseful of the fact that he left without me having ever uttering the words, “I love you.”
Abandoned by neglect,
Unspoken love sulks silently
In the dark corners of lonely rooms.
Oft longing to be expressed
To deserving life it smolders
Lifelessly in the dust of time and regret
Bereft of timely utterance.
(For my father from Donny,
I love you Dad)
Passing time oft quietly lowers a dark blanket of regret over some small things left unsaid, and the wisdom of age, arriving too late, denies the exercise of belated repair. However, the promise of future blessings brings hope to what another hello might bring.
Someday I will once again be presented with the transcendent gift of saying hello to both of my fathers, and I intend my first words to be, “I love you.”