Saturday, June 17, 2017

Father Figures

Guest post by Suzann Darnall

It really does not matter the name we give them. It does not matter if they are biologically related to us or if they are connected by the heart. What matters is that these men help shape us and guide us from childhood to adulthood. They are patriarchs in our homes and protectors against the world. So, I revisit and update an essay of days past to honor those special men in my life who have been important to me and mine.

The holiday known as Father’s Day has been around for just over a century. As we prepare to celebrate it on Sunday, I want to tell you about some very special men: my great-grandfather, John Sayre; my grandfathers, Douglas Dale and Hazen Sayre; my father, Curtis Dale; my husband, Pete Darnall; and my sons-in-law, Casey Allred and Ray Gutierrez. While there are other good men in my family, I could not talk about all of them, so I selected those closest to me.

My great-grandfather, known as Grandpa Sayre, lived to be 102. Not only did he live into my adult years, my own daughters were blessed to meet him when they were old enough to have memories of visiting him.

Three generations of women in my family remember visiting Grandpa on his farm: my mother, me, and my girls. We all loved going there. To this day I cannot eat an ear of corn on the cob without thinking of family dinners there.

Grandpa was a church-going, God-fearing man. He and my great-grandmother were married for nearly 70 years. Much of what I believe about God and marriage come from things I learned from them.

His son, my mother's father, Papa Sayre, was a welder and worked at a chemical plant for most of the years I remember. Papa Sayre was not a church-goer, but was without doubt one of the most honest and compassionate men I ever knew.

From him I learned a love of learning, even if it was not formal education. He also taught me a lot about the importance of family and loving one's spouse better than one's self. He cared for my Mommac, his beloved wife, until her death and loved her until the day he died. I can never hear the song, "He Stopped Loving Her Today", without thinking of Papa Sayre and Mommac.

He also grew the most beautiful roses in his front yard. In addition, he gardened in his backyard and did home canning. Mostly peppers, pickles, and hot sauces. It is because of him that I have a rock garden outside my bedroom with numerous rosebushes!

Not only was I able to spend lots of time with Papa Sayre, both of my daughters got to know him well. Especially in the years we lived close to West Virginia, while in Ohio and later in Virginia. When I was little I got to find a York Peppermint Patty left in his lunch box after his day at work. Later for my daughters, this was finding his stash of York patties in the fridge or freezer. I still keep a jar of York patties on my counter, only now they are the sugar-free variety!

My paternal grandfather, Papa Dale, was the first person in his family to graduate from high school. He was also a church-going, God-fearing, bible-reading man. He liked hunting, too. A love of reading was passed from him to my father, and down to me. This love of books has now been passed along to my children and my grandchildren.

He gardened, as well, and was a recognized regional expert on wildflowers in West Virginia. I can never look at the lovely blooms on my place without remembering him telling me that if it had a blossom is was a wildflower, not a weed. He truly saw the beauty of the world around him.

I was blessed to also spend time with Papa Dale as a child and as an adult. Even more special is that my daughters also got to spend time with him and have memories of the home place on Brown's Creek that will last a lifetime.

My father was a career Air Force officer so military life is wrapped throughout my memories of life with him. Because of him I fell a little bit in love with The United States Air Force and have never quite recovered from the romance. It ultimately led to my marriage to another Air Force officer.

Dad loves words. Whether reading, writing, or talking. He passed this joy on to me. It is because of his direct influence that I write today.

He also infected me with a passion for politics. He thinks the presidential election is the Olympics, Super Bowl, and World Series all rolled into one. He watches the lesser contests with interest, but nothing warms his soul quite like the main event.

My father is kind of a Renaissance Man. There is almost nothing he cannot do. In addition to things already mentioned his talents cover (but are not limited to) oil painting, furniture building, jelly making, gardening, piano playing, music writing . . . and the list goes on and on. He also taught me how to make the perfect roasted turkey, a skill appreciated by my husband, my children, and now my grandchildren.

My father is also responsible in a great way for my family and me being members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter -Day Saints. His quest for the truth of the gospel has led most of us through the chapel doors and many to the temple.

My husband, Pete, is without a doubt the most important man in my life. Not only do I love him, I like him. He is my eternal sweetheart and my best friend. We have a never-ending romance and lots of fun. It has been a wonderful life for nearly 40 years.

On the Sunday before Father's Day, it will have been exactly 40 years since we met, in fact. We were married just over a month and a half later. I'd say our whirlwind romance turned into a perfect storm.

My dear Pete is not only a wonderful husband, he has proven to be a marvelous father and an incomparable grandfather. Our grandchildren certainly love their PawPaw.

From him I have learned to be less afraid to try new things, even if I might not be certain I will be able to do them well. Because of his willingness to just jump right in we have seen and done things from coast to coast here in the USA and all over Japan, as well as a little bit in Korea. We have also taken up camping, learned a love of guns and shooting, built a tree-house fort, and made improvements, repairs, additions, or beautifications all over our property. I am grateful to him for expanding my world, my experiences, and my talents.

It is because of my great love for this incredible man that I had to join the LDS Church. I knew a lifetime would not be enough, I needed him forever. Only the Mormon missionaries shared that aspect of the gospel with me. And, eventually, he heard it from them too. I will always be grateful to him for walking along this path to eternity with me.

Our daughter, Charly, brought the next amazing man into my life. She met Casey while attending the local university branch of our church here in town. To make a long story short: they became friends, fell in love, got married, and have given us four darling granddaughters: Logan, Mckayla, Tabitha, and Reese.

Casey is a fine man who loves his wife and family very much. He is also a firefighter/EMT. And, an excellent cook and amazing wood craftsman.

Having raised two girls it has been nice to have Casey step into my life and give me the love of a son. He has fit into our family so well. He welcomes Pete and me into their home and lives as easily as Charly does. I am grateful he has not cast me into the traditional adversarial role of mother-in-law, but just loves me as Charly's mom.

We were blessed a bit over a year ago to add another son when Ray married our daughter, Amanda, and also pledged his love for our grandchildren: Lorelle and Tyler. He has made an eternal commitment to all of us and we cherish him as one of our own.

Ray is a man who shares my passion for learning and books, plus a love of family. He has also embraced the gospel and I look forward to an eternity knowing this amazing spirit will be another son to my heart. Most importantly, though, is knowing he not only wants to be a good husband to my daughter, but he is striving to be “Super Dad” for my grandkids. He offers them peace and protection.

I cannot mention fatherhood, especially regarding Ray, without mentioning the loss our entire family suffered just over a year ago. Ray and Amanda had a beautiful daughter, Vivien Reyna, come into this world much too early to survive. But, she was born alive and lived long enough for us to meet her. Although Ray will not raise her on this side of the veil, I know his heart is filled with a father’s love for his child and I know he will greet her with great joy when all are united in the eternities!

For me this holiday is about celebrating the living and honoring the dead. It isn't just about buying a gift for my husband or making a phone call to my dad, it is about remembering all the fathers who have made my life better and who have had a part in making me who I am.

Take time this Sunday to let the special fathers in your life know you care. Grandfathers, fathers, husbands, fathers-in-law, and sons-in-law all impact our lives with their influences on our extended families. Remember to tell them today that they are loved and important, 'cause it might be too late tomorrow.

I also feel we need to pay tribute to fathers ‘cause they are certainly being treated as being insignificant and even disrespected by much of our society. It is painful for me to see television shows, commercials, and movies make fun of fathers. They are often presented as buffoons or worse. While I fully realize all men are not perfect, I do feel we should offer more support of the good guys, rather than give additional attention to the bad apples.

This also means we must stop vilifying traditional families. While not all families will look alike, there is nothing wrong with those people who have opted for the family plan of father, mother, and children. Too many in media today act as if it is nearly criminal to be traditional Mommy and Daddy. And, almost worse to honor the men in one’s life.

Children need good examples and heroes. Home and family are a good place to start. I know I was supremely blessed to have so many great men as mentors and caretakers in my life, as were my daughters. I am also blessed further that both of my girls have found good guys to bless their homes and families as their father blessed mine.

I would be remiss if I did not mention one more father figure that has blessed my life greatly: my Heavenly Father. He sends His love every day in so many ways. I am forever grateful for all He does in my life. I am especially thankful for the eternal plan He has put in place to allow me to spend all of eternity with my family. Families can be together forever. Forever and ever, Amen!

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