Often while listening to music on the radio, from recorded tapes, CD’s, records, or otherwise whenever the urge hits, I will break out singing. More than likely, I am alone when I start my follow-along crooning. “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd is a personal favorite. Anything by Willie Nelson will certainly spark an outburst.
And then Bill Gaither’s “He Touched Me” reminds me of what God has done for me since I committed my life to Jesus. Gaither’s words are a testament to what God can and will do for us to help us through this journey we call life.
As much as I love Jesus Christ, I was touched by someone else long before I ever heard the Gospel.
Who? Who could compare to the touch of God’s gentle hand?
No, I am not being blasphemous when I say someone other than God touched me, and over a long period of time, nearly thirty-eight years.
How often I wished that we had sat together on a church pew and worshipped God together, at least once. It didn’t happen, and I felt short-changed because of it, until. . .
Until the other day. God said to me, “Quit your whining. Don’t get hung up on what didn’t happen. Let me remind you of the nearly four-decades that you were in his company, and a little of what you received. In fact, his example as a father is what helped you understand my relationship with you. It also helped you through the years you were raising your own children. He helped you understand a father’s love and how to share it with your children.”
During the time he was on earth, I never heard him sing praises to The Lord. I never sat by his side as he read from the giant Bible emblazoned with the big Masonic symbol on the front cover. He never shared wisdom that he credited to learning from God’s Word.
The only time I remember being in church with him was at funerals, with one exception. When I was a teenager, I went once to First Baptist Church of Chickasaw, Alabama. On this night, I watched the Reverend Dr. Bob Barker as he performed a ritual that he probably had repeated thousands of times, Baptize new converts. On this night, I watched the preacher say a few words, then cover my Daddy’s nose, and gently lower him backwards beneath the surface of the water contained in a giant tub and then raise him, “To newness of life.”
I didn’t understand the significance of this to my Daddy, but Brother Bob referred to it years later as he preached my Daddy’s funeral.
No, I never sat on a church pew with Daddy, but I would not trade just one time that he and I spent together for a lifetime of being in church with him listening to someone else try to overshadow his wisdom with their ideas.
Daddy seldom set aside formal time for me. He just worked. He worked a lot. He worked two or three jobs. He never wanted his family to suffer the hunger or deprivation that he experienced growing up in the twenties and thirties.
During times that he didn’t work for two employers, he used his off-time from that second job to work independently. And I was always invited to join him. He never excused me to go play. Some may ask, “He made you work with him?”
Yes, he did.
Was I upset because I was required to work? No, I enjoyed every minute that we worked together. I loved him and wanted to be with him. He taught me to love what I do, and never to think of work as a chore.
He taught me skills that I use regularly thirty-four years after I heard his final words. In his dying moments so long ago, he shared secrets that he had held close to his heart throughout his life.
He taught me carpentry skills as we built things. Together, we built a 24’ by 36’ garage-workshop. In that garage, he taught me mechanical skills and automotive diagnostics.
There was always someone who needed their car repaired, and Daddy would agree to fix it. We rebuilt engines, transmissions, differentials, and many other components that had failed. After he diagnosed a problem, we would pull an engine, tear it down, and prepare it for rebuild. During the day, Daddy expected me to clean and wash all the parts and have them ready to put back together when he got home from his day job.
At night, I watched as he patiently taught me the importance of sequence tightening while installing a crankshaft in a Ford V-8, hydraulic valve lifter adjustment for Chevrolet six’s, and how to install the little needle bearings in three speed manual transmissions.
I am sure that he learned many of these skills working with the men in Shubuta, Mississippi who kindly took him under their wing after his daddy and then his granddaddy had both passed away before he reached the age of fifteen.
On a rainy night in 1962 before I turned sixteen, he said to me, “Come on.”
We drove from our home in Alabama Village all the way across Mobile to the newly opened Springdale Mall to a jewelry store where Daddy paid a man $350 for a 1953 Chevrolet Belair convertible. That car had all sorts of problems, and Daddy helped me repair most of them, starting with us replacing the worn-out and leaking top.
It was not a handsome car by any stretch of the imagination, but it carried me back and forth to school, plus on countless other adventures for the next two years.
Daddy told me once, “Son, learn a trade and you will always be able to find work, and you will be able to sleep better at night.”
I did that, and I got good at the trade I learned. I had plenty of work, more than my fair share of overtime, and was recognized as an authority in my craft. I did sleep better as I fed my family. It was a satisfying life.
I used to opine about him working too much and never having time to do things that other dads did with their children. Now, I have memories of the man who influenced me way more than I had previously realized.
No, I do not remember sitting beside him in Church, but I sat in his presence countless other times. I plan to share a few more of those.
He touched me then and continues to do so every day.
Thank You Daddy
Wayne Brady 2/16/2018