The Tools Our Fathers Left To Us

A Personal Reflection

Though I had to work a little last weekend, I was thankfully able to spend the bulk of Father’s Day with my wife and seven-year-old daughter. At morning church service, I shed a few tears for my own father, whom I miss very much. My perceptive little girl knew exactly why I was troubled, and offered a small hand against my back to console me.

Following service, we lit a few candles, and she asked about Dad. She never got to meet him; my father was gone far too early in his life, and, sadly, before hers had even begun.

From time to time she will ask about him, the curious man in the photo, placed in a position of honor on the shelf in my office. But old photos never quite do the story justice.

Being the day that it was, I showed my daughter some things around the house, now innocently taken for granted, that once belonged to my father, as well my grandfathers:

My pop’s old wooden desk and fountain pen; his father’s gold pocket watch, received from his father (my great-grandfather) for his 21st birthday; a comfy old 1930s reading chair; a poker-playing card table; a bright yellow step stool; and that 1964 Dodge Dart parked and covered in the driveway (that my father-in-law helped to refurbish).

I shared with her the colorful collection of delicate, old trout flies, tied by grandpa’s own hands, and my dad’s catfishing rods, too. My daughter will learn this summer, and chose the same rod with which I caught my first fish.

Then there are the tools, those well-cared-for Tools. Now the pride of my workshop, still shiny and sharp and strong and sturdy. All good as new, and all American, too. Of course, you couldn’t buy anything else back then.

And in the corner stands my grandfather’s impressive woodworking chest, finely appointed with chisels and planes and levels and picks and rasps and his initials stamped into each handle. He carried the box on his shoulders to the bus stop for 30-odd years, as he went off to build patterns for planes and trains.

All of this will one day be yours, I promised her. She smiled and seemed impressed, I suppose, as much as any little seven-year-old girl could be. Our little stroll down memory lane had done much for my spirit, and it had become a memorable day in its own right.

That evening, with my daughter safely tucked into bed, my thoughts returned to my forefathers and my own childhood. I thought about the life they had made for us, through their sweat, sacrifice, and resolve.

I thought about these Tools that had forged my family, put a roof over our heads, and fish in our bellies, these tools that had built our life, as we once knew it.

Things being what they are today, my wife and I now wonder if we can possibly deliver for our child the same life and opportunities that our parents had secured for us. It was our promise to give our children better, remember, as our fathers had done for us.

This was the real American Dream, a simple tradition of values, like self-reliance and hard work  and perseverance. And I shudder to think what our forefathers would say of the mess we have made of it. Things being what they are today.

Next week we will celebrate our other fathers, our Founding Fathers, and the 235th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. I shudder again, to think what they might say of the America we prepare to pass on today.

Indeed they had bequeathed the most precious gift in the course of human history, when they left to us our constitutional guarantees of liberty and natural rights. The same guarantees for which generations of fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers had worked, fought, and died.

And they warned us that the people we sent to represent us in government would one day conspire to take it all away. This is why the Founders left to us something else equally treasured, outlined within our federal and state constitutions: the Tools to defend and preserve those very freedoms.

The electoral process;

The right to dissent through speech, the press, and assembly;

The right to petition for redress of grievances;

And if all else fails, God forbid, the second amendment.

Now it has fallen to us to implement these tools. We must dust them off and begin anew, to reclaim our rightful place as the leaders of our governments, whether local, state of federal. Yes, you and me.

It is our duty to act, just as surely as it is our sacred responsibility to provide and care for our sons and daughters. For if we cannot provide Liberty, we will be hard pressed to provide anything else of genuine value or consequence.

We have the Tools. All that is left is to summon the Will to wield them. And so We Shall.

This solemn promise I make to my Daughter, steeled by the indelible memory of our Fathers.

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