That’s What Fathers Do
It is said that Jesus had two fathers, Joseph, the husband of Mary, his earthly father, and also his heavenly father about whom he taught us the Lord’s Prayer, Our Father.
Not much has been passed on to us about Joseph, but what we do know is that he was an honourable hard working carpenter. When Mary became pregnant while unmarried, Joseph offered her marriage and a home so that she would not be subject to scandal and so that her child, Jesus, would be raised with proper parents. Later, when it became clear that the edict by Herod the king put Jesus’ life in danger, Joseph arranged to spirit them away to Egypt in the dead of night, so no harm would befall the babe. He didn’t have to do this. He could have sacrificed the life of the child and kept their lifestyle otherwise stable. After all, Jesus wasn’t his child. But Joseph couldn’t let that happen. Jesus had become his stepchild, and the first thing a loving father does is to protect his family. That’s what fathers do, and Joseph did it without hesitation.
Now, in a somewhat similar vein, I myself had two fathers, plus naturally our father in heaven. You see, my mother and my natural father separated in 1949 back in Budapest when I was 5 years old. It just about broke my heart because I loved my father. He used to take me once a year to an amusement park whose greatest feature was this huge wooden roller coaster. At the end of our day’s activities, my father would top it off with a grand finale, a ride on the roller coaster. And when the ride was over and I realized our day was coming to an end, I would beg my father for just one final ride, a second pass on that magic rail. And, naturally, he would give in to my pleading and let me have one last ride. Why? Because that’s what fathers do.
Several years ago, I wrote a short poem in memory of these times, and I tried to re-create my feelings in the language of a 5-year-old. (The words that need small translation are: Anyu (Mom), Apu (Dad), and hulam vasut (roller-coaster).
‘Angol Park’ (English Park) June 12, 1997
Pick me up at the oom-pah-pah
Stride me down to the village fair
Ride me round the merry-go-round
Let me look at the dancing bear
Can I fly my rubber band plane
From the loft of the princess tower?
May we stay even in the rain?
‘Anyu’ won’t mind an extra hour (Anyu=Mom)
Take me right to the bumper cars
I want to be the very first
Did you see, did you see that funny clown?
He made me laugh till my belly burst
‘Apu’ I know what I want to do
You promised after the rifle shoot
Before we go home, to wait our turn
For an extra ride on the ‘hulam vasut’ (hulam vasut=roller coaster)
Copyright Ó 1997, Joe (Josh) Hevesy, all rights reserved.
Yes, this is what fathers do.
But my other earthly dad was William Hevesy, my stepfather, whom my mother later married. I would like to describe him from a short excerpt of a 4-part story I wrote about our escape from communist Hungary in 1949.
“We stayed in that room/apartment for about a week. During that time, my mother kept trying to get me to call Mr. Will 'Edesapu.' (Dear Dad) But I insisted equally as often that he wasn't my Edesapu (Dear Dad). My father, I knew well enough, was back in our apartment in Budapest, and I had no intention of replacing him with Mr. Will, nice enough though he was.
One day, Mr. Will showed me magic tricks with his hands and played a little game with me. He got me to chuckle and have a good time. It was the first time since we'd left home that I was in a really good mood.
Later that same day, my mother whispered quietly to me. "Jozsikam, it was wrong of me to ask you to call Mr. Will, Edesapu. You will only ever have one Edesapu. You might not see him again for a long time. I'm really, really sorry about that. But we will write to him. I'll teach you how. And someday you will see him again. I promise. Meanwhile, Mr. Will is a very nice man, isn't he?"
"So, don't call him, Edesapu. I don't want you to. But you know what will make him very happy?"
I shook my head.
"Call him Apu (Dad). That will make him very happy."
A few days later, I shyly went up to Mr. Will and said, "Apu, can you show me that magic trick again?"
"What's that?" he said with his confident voice. "What did you call me?"
"Apu," I replied very softly. With that he bounded across to me in one giant step, picked me up into his arms and gave me a bear hug that almost smothered my 5 years of life out me. I was proud to call him Apu to his face until the day he died, 50 years later.”
He gave me love, protection, and a fine example of what a man should be…because that’s what fathers do.
And, you know, fathers show love and pride in their children. They accompany them to their school activities, coach them in sports, root for them at all times and leave them with the message, “You can be anything you want to be in life.”
In fact, isn’t this what God Himself displayed about His son, Jesus? He showed up at Jesus’ baptism to show His support and pride …
In Matthew 13 it is written:
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,c and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;17and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,d with whom I am well pleased.”
This, is what fathers do.
Here are three real stories I’d like to share with you from 3 different people talking about experiences they’ve had with their fathers
by Nancy Perkins, St. Johns, Michigan
My dad died unexpectedly at age 78, leaving our family heartbroken. During the funeral mass, my sister felt her phone vibrate in her purse. She was a little surprised that someone would be calling her, knowing she was at dad’s funeral mass. Afterward, she found there was a message: “Hi, this is your dad,” said the male voice. “I wanted to let you know I made it home.” The caller obviously had the wrong number, but the message was clear. My dad had completed his journey to heaven and wanted us to know. Thanks, Dad—until we meet again.
What an incredible adventure. Yes, the thought of life after death gives us pause. But this woman just knew that this ‘coincidence’ was an actual message from her dad to tell her, Hey! It’s quite all right over here, and I’m fine.
HOW I LEARNED THE VALUE OF WORK
by Rudy Berdine, Irvine, California
My dad owned a fruit market on a busy street. The sidewalk in front of his store collected dust and trash, which needed to be swept daily. At age six, I used to hide behind bags of potatoes when my dad asked me to sweep, but while sweeping one day, I began to find dollar bills under the dust and trash. I had no idea where the money came from. My dad had been putting money on the sidewalk—and soon, I was happy to sweep even when no money was found.
My dad had a different slant on teaching me the value of discipline. The first summer I worked for him he told me, “The bus leaves at 8. Make sure you’re on it.” Well, the next morning I was ready to go, but it was a few minutes after 8. When I looked for my dad, he was nowhere around. When I asked my grandmother where he was, she said he left a few minutes ago. No reminder. No calling out to me. Just gone. Well, let me tell you, it didn’t happen twice. After that, I was always ready to leave at 8 sharp.
THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO FAMILY
by Rachel O’Connor, Westtown, New York
“Linda, look at the map!” My father slammed on the brakes, glaring at my mom. He didn’t believe in excessive planning, and so each summer we embarked on a spontaneous family road trip that didn’t always go smoothly. There were lots of late-night panics to find hotels, stops to ask for directions, and elevated tempers. One night, we picked up a hitchhiker somewhere in Kentucky. As we blasted the radio and my dad bought us all ice cream, the hitchhiker told me he’d give his life to have what I had.
No two families are the same. But this family’s glue was the secret, sacred ingredient, a father who cared. And that’s what fathers do.
You see, our heavenly father doesn’t care how smart we are, how hard working we are, how strong or how good looking or how talented we are. No, He loves us, all of us, unconditionally. No matter how many times we screw up. He’s always there.
You know, Sue and I have three sons. The oldest and the youngest seem to be able to stand on their own two feet and make their way successfully through the world. Our second boy, Chris, suffers from schizophrenia and has proven to be a challenge for us at times, but mainly a challenge to himself. When he was younger it was suggested to us by certain authority figures that maybe he needs to be left to go his own way. Maybe that’s what he needs to, as they said, to straighten up and come around. But Sue and I wouldn’t allow that to happen. We should give up on our son? No, never. We’ll be there for him until our final breath, no matter what. Because that’s what fathers do….and that’s what mothers do.
Today, Chris lives in a group home in Kitchener-Waterloo and seems content. Oh, yes. Sometimes we still have occasional moments when we worry, like the time recently when his medication was changed without our knowledge and he seemed to have a mood change. But I got in my car, drove down there, had a meeting with his care workers, and straightened things out. When we visited him on his birthday a couple weeks ago, he said he’s much better again. We told him how pleased we were. Yes, families often present challenges, but as fathers – and mothers – our job is there to rise to those challenges and be there – always – for our children, just as our heavenly father is there always for us.
That’s what fathers do.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.