Fatherhood and Christian faith

By  Harry McAvoy, Catholic Register Special
  • April 14, 2009
{mosimage}I sometimes have people tell me I am a good father. I usually smile and think to myself: “If only they knew.” 

I’m sure people say such things because they know I have six children and they can’t figure out how I do it. 

One morning Jennifer, my wife, announced we should do a bit of a cleanup and I should plan a trip to the dump. I wasn’t happy about the cleaning part, but I welcomed a Saturday afternoon drive. I saw myself driving up the country roads with the windows down and the radio up.

As mid afternoon arrived I prepared for my trip. I decided that on my way home I would stop and get a slice of pizza and an ice cold diet cola. As they say, simple pleasures for a simple man.

Just as I was about to leave the driveway Jennifer called out: “Do you want to take Emma with you?” As I was yelling back “no,” Emma, 11, came out the front door, smiling.

I whacked the steering wheel, but managed to smile at my daughter. 

“Dad, if you don’t want me to go it’s OK,” she said.

I shook my head, “Come on darling, let’s get going.”

I put my window down and turned up some classic rock and roll. Emma put her window down and gave her father a big smile. As we drove the 25 minutes to the dump we barely spoke. Emma seemed happy just being with her dad.

As we approached the dump there was a 40-vehicle lineup. I again whacked the steering wheel, shook my head and muttered something under my breath. I looked towards Emma, whom I like to call “sweet Emma-lou,” and apologized for my impatience. She was still smiling at her father. 

I said, “We will give it 20 minutes and see how far we move.”

About 45 minutes later we were just about to turn onto the driveway leading to the dump.

“Emma, as much as I don’t like it, I suppose we should just hang in here.”

I again turned the radio up and settled back into my seat. A pick-up truck loaded with debris cut in front of the vehicle ahead of me. My anger rolled and I prepared to loudly object, then I remembered Emma was beside me.

Silently I asked Jesus to give me patience. 

“Jesus, help me to be a good father, to stay calm and cool, and to keep my mouth shut.”

From nowhere I remembered a game I had played as a boy. It’s called Hangman. All it requires is paper and pencil. To win you have to stump your opponent. One person thinks of a word and the other tries to determine the word by guessing at the missing letters. For every wrong guess, the stickperson moves closer to their demise. 

I asked Emma whether she wanted to play.  She said, “Sure.”

In the first game I picked a tough word and quickly won. I did a happy dance behind the steering wheel as Emma smiled at me. Emma also picked a difficult word but as I got close to losing she offered me a clue.

“That is not how you play,” I responded.  Emma wanted to know why not?  “I don’t know. I guess if you want to offer clues we can.”

For the next 40 minutes Emma and I laughed, gave each other clues and forgot that we were in a lineup at the dump. When it was our turn to unload the van, I was happy, smiling and having a good time. On the drive home we each got a cold drink and enjoyed the music.

The next Sunday morning after Mass, where I had again prayed for patience, Emma smiled at me and said, “Dad, I had fun going to the dump with you yesterday.”

I smiled back: “Me too Emma. I love you kid.” 

(McAvoy writes on the family from Newmarket, Ont.)

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