When I was growing up in our small South Carolina town of Manning, my dad would come home many afternoons after work and throw the football or baseball with me in the backyard. To me, he was Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, and I was his favorite receiver, running intricate patterns across the backyard for what seemed like hours.
When I played JV football, my dad followed our team to Kingstree one Thursday afternoon. It was pouring. It rained so hard at times we couldn’t see the sidelines from the middle of the field. No one stood in the stands for either side — except for my dad, dressed in his Vietnam-issue raincoat and air commando hat and holding an umbrella. I never knew he was there until one of the cheerleaders told me later that when they yelled, “All for the Manning Monarchs stand up and holler!” my dad stood up in the deluge and hollered. No one else was present to holler. Despite his busy family medicine practice, my dad was faithful to follow his three sons and a daughter to all of their school and church events.
When I went to college, I would pack my things every Sunday afternoon, preparing for the drive back to Clemson. My dad would slip into my bedroom while I was packing, sit on the bed, hold my hand and pray for me. He would ask for God’s blessing and protection on his boy while traveling and away at college. He would ask God to deliver me from temptation and show me His path for my life. He wouldn’t allow me to pray. Instead, he prayed and then slipped back out.
A few years later, in September 1978, I was leaving town for my second year of medical school. My dad was driving into our neighborhood as I was leaving. He flagged me down, pulled his car over and ran across the road. He kneeled down in the road, reached his hand through the window and held my hand — and he prayed for me. Then he jumped up and ran to his car, and he was gone.
That’s the last time I ever saw my dad. The next day, he was killed in an airplane accident flying his own airplane to Houston, Texas, for a medical meeting. He crashed in a swamp during a thunderstorm in Louisiana. It was five terrible days before his plane was found.
Every one of us dads will leave a legacy for his children. Even the little things we do will be remembered. Little things will be magnified to greatness in the eyes of our children. The things we say and do as dads will be told over and over to our children and grandchildren, whether we like it or not.
My memories of my dad are precious, deep and rich: quail hunting, Clemson football games, faithfully attending church, laughing around the dinner table, and catching ball in the backyard. My brothers and I still mimic our dad saying, “Boys, I don’t know what I am going to do with you.”
I remember my dad praying for me one Sunday night after I spoke in church; he was weeping so hard he could hardly pray.
Dads, what will your legacy be? How will your children remember you? What will they say about you to their children? If you pray for them in the morning and play with them in the afternoon, they will remember you well.
— Robert Jackson is a family practice physician in Chesnee.