Meet my dad.
This post is going out ahead of time for several reasons - first because I am away all weekend; secondly because I have been given acute grounds for thinking about m'yole dad, and thirdly because Father's Day and Trinity Sunday land like the Perfect Liturgical Storm (and I am thinking that I am glad that I don't have to preach on Sunday).
Anyway, meet my dad. He has been dead a few years now, but I relish opportunities to think about him, more especially in the context that I now find myself, being a dad and Father myself. I love this picture because this represents my enduring memory of the old sod - a jolly, smiling eejit with a plate of food. He wouldn't argue with me if he were here to read this.
Following my post yesterday about the tree, a friend from Twitter suggested that I say a little about dad. I ought to point out, to those of you wondering why I might be calling a man old enough to me my granddad 'dad', that this wonderful chap was my step-dad and also to my brother and sister. He was a child of the nineteen-teens and saw active avoidance tactics in the Second World War. Endlessly and pathologically 'delicate', he cursed Hitler from afar, but all that said, he was a soldier, man and boy - Royal Engineers. He was a Colour Sergeant so despite being only eleven inches high could break rock with his yelling-voice. He raised his own family, though lost his own son to cancer in 1960 when the lad was 18. He lost his wife a few years later, at about the time that my father lost his life - I was about 4 years old. A shared work and church habit meant that he and my mum got to know one another and so it was that they married sometime in the 1970s when Noel Edmonds haircuts on kids my age didn't result in bullying. Dad's other daughter is still alive and kicking - but the charges have been dropped. And so it was that dad took on another family as he turned sixty - three kids of 8, 6, and 4.
Despite his age, he was never an old fart like you might imagine. To be honest, he knew more about the music in the charts than I did. He was just coming to the end of his civil-servant employed days and also laid aside his sideline as a cheap-as-chips electrician - and so took upon the mantle of daddy day-care while mum peddled her trade for the NHS. Dad baked remarkable cakes - pink ones for my sister, green for my brother and blue for me - and why he would ever think of dying a Victoria sponge I shall never know, but he did and we loved him for it. A heart attack turned him into 'grumpy' man for a while until the pills were better balanced - then he chilled in a way that would have made Barry White seem neurotic. He helped to raise three teenagers well into his seventies - trying to reconcile his approach to parenting (born of the fifties and sixties) to the needs and moods of modern nineties grunts like us.
I could go on, and part of me wants to - but space and your patience have to be born in mind. To us all, dad was nothing less than a hero, a saint - and as a dad, I pray I do half as well and am at least half the man (though I am a little taller, if that counts). He never saw me ordained and he never met my children - but I know he would have delighted in them all. He was already an impressive granddad, so at least I can imagine how my girls would have doted on him.
In my relationship with my dad I can have an educated guess at the energy that existed between the Son and the Father. If Augustine's model of the Spirit being the love that passes between them is true, then I know a little of that too. As it is with children and their mothers, so it is with dads and fathers - that there is a unique and necessary relationship. I revere my mother in many ways, but there are things that she did not do that dad did, and that I am formed in part because of that relationship. She would not disagree. In many way it seems to be the perfect time to have a Father's Day. In my love and shared life with the little round fellow in the picture, I know so much more of the God of the Trinity. It wasn't a relationship that floated in the realms of happy-happy either, because Lord knows, me and dad fought - but we always loved and it always mended. The love that we characterise as the Spirit is eternally elastic, always present, and to be trusted. I can say the same for the love I shared (and still share) with my Old Man.
And so I leave you with the song whose words I used in the tribute that I delivered at his funeral. It means little out of context, but I think you will like the song anyway.
Happy Father's Day, and a Blessed Trinity to you all.