|Four Generations - Thanksgiving 2016|
It is said that young daughters believe that the authority of the whole world rests in their fathers. Growing up, this was doubly true for me. My father, Jack Ryan to his friends, Jackie to his mother, and John G. to strangers, was a man that I saw live a life filled with authority. He was a manager at work, a deacon at our church, and a strong member of our local community.
My mother, a type B, traditional, Catholic woman of Mexican descent enjoyed the safety and steadiness of my father’s structure. She would later tell me that her father was the same--patriarchal and strong. To me, my father's rules were old fashioned and rigid. Dad was from a different world, I reasoned, a generation that was fading away as mine was taking shape. Instead of trying to be the perfect daughter, I challenged every boundary that my parents lay down. I was bold, sneaky, and filled with the classic deceptive attributes of a rebellious teenager. When I was twenty-three, I realized I was wrong.
It is impossible to entertain any thought of my father without thinking of how he endured these young adult years. He was strong, unwavering. He never budged.
At twenty-five I married Mario, my beautiful mercy straight from God. I couldn’t believe he loved me—but he did. As our kids grew, I saw him be a father in very similar ways. This is what makes me smile now. The attributes I absolutely challenged growing up are the ones I considered to be golden to our family. These strengths made the men in my life lead their families in an upside-down world.
When Mario and I moved to Africa, we began a life of being full-time ministry. During this time, my father was a great source of wisdom to us. He charged us not to neglect our own spiritual lives for the sake of ministry—because he knew how easy it was to get lost in the work. When it was time for us to come home, he made it clear that he thought it was a good decision. His counsel over the years has been unequaled.
Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), the author of Out of Africa, once said about the male species: “Man reaches the highest point of lovableness at 12 to 17 — to get it back, in a second flowering, at the age of 70 to 90.” Today my father is 83—and I agree that he is in his second flowering of loveableness.
Today my Dad is reflective, wise, and easy to talk to. He beta-reads most of my writing, which I ask him to do because he is such an avid reader. He is also unafraid to tell me when my work could be better. Oh, the nerve!
Happy Birthday, Dad. You cannot imagine how grateful I am for you. You are one of the greatest heroes in our life –and I get to be your daughter. I love you!
|Dad surrounded by family|