Daddy’s Girl

Those repeated squeals of “Daddy!” featured on video from yesterday’s post evoked some long-forgotten memories from my own childhood. My daddy died more than twenty years ago. As his eldest daughter (born when he was a youngster of 26), I’ve come to understand my good fortune to have known him for more years than his younger children.

NAS_RLO_1952[Based on his or her place in the family, I believe each child enjoys a one-of-a-kind intimacy from his or her parents. For elder children, they perceive youthful parents while later children are privy to the more adult-like and mature parents. I think this difference can be profound.]

Taken about 1952, the picture at left has seen better days. Somewhere along the line, Daddy’s right hand got lost; not his actual hand but just the picture. (Don’t ask why I cut the background from the photo … that was far too long ago … but I’m sure I must have had a reason!)

As a child, I grew up enjoying many of the same things my dad enjoyed. This gentle man, who had no formal education beyond the eighth grade, loved to learn. He set the stage for his children, modeling for us his hunger for knowledge and understanding. To earn a living, he drove a truck. At night, he attended Bible school classes and broadened his horizons by reading books on almost every subject.

I remember my daddy rising quite early in the morning and taking his Bible in hand to have a personal quiet time with God. His example of devotion wasn’t showy or pretentious; it was just his simple walk with the Savior that gave meaning to his life and this daily practice gave him spiritual food for his day.

Daddy and I shared our love for music. From my earliest memories, I recall singing together. Other members of the family entered in, but most often, Daddy and I engaged in music together. When I was twelve, he purchased a Hammond spinet model organ. (I still have it in my home today.) He began taking music lessons and I did as well. Our love for music was a strong bond between us.M-3

When I was a senior in high school, Daddy and I sang our first duet in church. (I’d been singing solo since the tender age of three or four, and Daddy often sang solos or lead the singing in our church.) I’ll never forget how he trembled as we stood beside each other in duet. This was a revelation for me:  I’d always considered him absolutely fearless, but his trembling told me he suffered stage fright just like everyone else!

In a long-ago post, I note my dear daddy was a diarist, writing letters and poetry, mostly as a retrospective examination of his life and a worshipful gift to his Savior. He collected his poetry but rarely shared it with others outside the family. Our  shared love of poetry also grew to be a strong bond between us. He memorized certain pieces and recited them for me. Needless to say, I fondly remember those recitations … and miss hearing them!

Last month, I included a poem entitled If by Rudyard Kipling. Kipling’s If was a favorite. However, in celebration of Father’s Day, I salute my daddy by posting his original composition, a shorter poem also entitled If.

If_byNAS

Hold On!

While we were visiting with our daughter and her family this past weekend, our adult conversation wandered circuitously around to the content of a Rudyard Kipling poem, If. The conversation wasn’t focused on poetry, but more on how our current events sometimes make it difficult to “keep one’s head” in situations where one is “being lied about” or “being hated.”pinocchio

Even an ordinary person might be tempted to lash out. The impulse to fight back isn’t unusual under normal circumstances, but in this political season (our state primary election is tomorrow), lies and half-truths are being carelessly hurled without regard to the dirt that gets splattered on all of us, candidates or not.

Because I couldn’t accurately recite Kipling’s poem, naturally I looked it up. We quickly noticed that the poem, written more than a hundred years ago, has a surprising currency in 2014. Certainly, Kipling’s (and the world’s) political situation was different than ours, but the similarities to our day are striking. Standards of good conduct and upstanding character weren’t so different then, and writing this poem for his son, John, was a way for the father to communicate qualities of manhood the older Kipling considered worthy for his son’s attention and acquisition.

Sadly, that story doesn’t end well, as his young son (barely 18) John enlisted to fight in World War I and never returned. (The elder Kipling had previously lost one of his daughters to illness.)

Kipling_if

Though the poem has been voted a “favourite poem” among Brits, If isn’t universally esteemed. T. S. Eliot and George Orwell never cared for it. Those two writers notwithstanding, If is a memorable poem with strong values. According to a Mail Online article from five years ago, there’s even a Paul Harvey-esque rest-of-the-story speculating how Kipling found inspiration for the poem.

What I especially appreciate about Kipling’s poem is the challenge he offered his son − and by extension, a challenge offered to all young men and women − to seek character qualities that will best stand against present temptations as well as be proven worthy via the test of time. I remember being challenged by the poem while still in my teens … and despite knowing the poem was written for Kipling’s son.

I think Kipling’s challenge still holds up today. I love Kipling’s sense of holding on … when all one has left is the Will to hold on. He describes a quality that would (in my view) serve us well. With commencement ceremonies occurring all over the country, I’d love to hear one speaker recite Kipling’s poem and encourage the graduates to strive for the genuine excellence about which Kipling wrote. Hold on … to excellence, to integrity, to virtues the world no longer deems important. Hold on and be confident in doing what is right.

UPDATE:  a reader sent me a link to a super collection of attractive posters featuring Kipling’s poem, If. Take a look at these!