Rich Knox: The Story of a Dad
I talk to my dad a lot. Not many days go by where I will not call him. Most of the time it is simply to tell him something that I read, heard, or watched. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s somber. It doesn’t have to be important, but it is almost always a comfort. There are a number of things that I have learned from my dad and these lessons have impacted me in a number of ways. Watching my dad, seeing what type of man he is, has been a type of catechism for me. It’s Father’s Day today and so I thought I’d reflect for a bit on why my dad is so important to me.
One of the things at the forefront of my mind when I think about my dad is his work ethic. My dad has been in construction for as long as I’ve been alive. As a young child, I remember the day that he had his accident. His career in construction was put at risk, but he had a family to take care of and so he did what he had to do. For most of my teenage years, this meant that he had two full-time jobs. 80+ hour weeks were the norm. Functionally it seemed like a single parent family a lot of the time, but looking back it was very different. While my dad wasn’t around much in the day to day life, he was doing what he had to do to provide for his family. His situation is different now that he owns his own construction business again, but the work ethic is the same: he works as long as it takes to get the work done, even if it means 12 hour days sometimes 7 days a week. My dad works very hard.
Another lesson I learned from my dad is how to sacrificially love. During the lean years growing up, we didn’t have much spare money. I did not know that at the time, but I do now. As a kid, I didn’t have a job, so when I wanted to go out to the movies on Saturdays, or whatever it is I wanted to spend money on, I would always just go and ask my dad. Without fail he would go to his wallet and pull out money for me. Sometimes this probably meant no donut and coffee in the morning, other times this probably meant no lunch. I know now that money was really lean when I was young, but my dad never wanted this to impact me. He would rather have it impact him than his son. My dad sacrificed to make his children happy.
My dad also made time to spend with his kids, and let them be kids. One of the earliest memories that I have is riding around in my dad’s van going to job sites, listening to Elton John along the way. We would always stop at the convenience store for an RC cola (or cream soda) and Sugar Babies. This, of course, meant that a curious kid would run around job sites getting into stuff, and spill caramelized sugar candies all over his car, but he never got mad. Growing up the context changed, but my dad didn’t. My friends and I would ride bikes and skateboards around the neighborhood which eventually led to “borrowing” supplies from whatever construction sites were in the area for makeshift projects, like ramps to kill ourselves on. My dad one Saturday decided to make a ramp for us. He put effort into it making a sturdy, incredibly fun ramp that was great for using to cheat death with. It was a go-to item for years in the neighborhood. Contexts changed again: his son got weird. Makeup, music, jewelry...all the weird things that culturally conservative evangelicals didn’t want to see their kids with. I remember coming home one day with a spiked choke collar that I borrowed from a friend. I walked in the door and my dad was home watching TV. He looked over and saw me with it on and just went right back to watching TV. My mom didn’t react so calmly to my weird attire, and while my dad didn’t much care for it, he just let it go. There are fights worth having, and he could very well get mad, but he didn’t. Thousands of times, and in a thousand different ways, I probably annoyed and inconvenienced my dad, but the common theme here is that he never let that get in the way of his relationship with me. He made time for me, he got involved in my life, and he let me be me. My dad was intentional about being a father.
Laughter was always a part of our relationship. Whether it was driving my mom crazy by quoting Bill Cosby standup comedy routines, or making jokes as certain family members came to town, there was always laughter. Occasionally there were also tears. I remember visiting Washington D.C. with the family and seeing my dad cry at the Vietnam memorial there. He is a Vietnam vet and doesn’t talk much about what he experienced, but I know he faced horrors and death there. You lose friends in war. Joy and sorrow are both real experiences in life. Life is filled with both laughter and tears. My dad taught me to laugh often, but that it’s ok to cry.
My parents have been married for almost 50 years. Scripture teaches us that marriage is a mystery because it is not an end in itself, it is a picture of Christ and his church. There is a fidelity there that is not to be taken for granted or abused. Married couples fight. They get bored with each other. They can get annoyed with each other. All of the best of human intimacy, and all of the worst will likely be present in a marriage. But if marriage isn’t about the husband and wife but is rather about Christ and the church, then there are certain lessons that we can see in a couple that is committed to endure, forgive, and pursue each other. No marriage is going to be perfect, but a mutual commitment to the welfare of the other person is a profound statement nowadays. My dad has taught me what it means to take seriously an oath given to his bride and to God. My dad is a faithful husband.
The last lesson that I’ll bring up relates to our interactions now. As I said before, we talk a lot. Sometimes politics and religion come up in those conversations. Sometimes the apple falls rather from the tree, so to speak. If you want to start a fight with someone, a good topic of conversation is either religion or politics. My dad and I have fought, rather intensely at times. He is more even-tempered than I am, but some conversations still get rather testy. You will fight with people you care about, but these fights don’t need to end the relationship. There are bonds in certain relationships that are built stronger than even severe differences in worldviews. When you have fights with people you love and respect, calm down and then move on. Sometimes this means apologizing, and sometimes this means continue with business as usual. My dad has apologized to me and I have had to apologize to him. My dad taught me that there are bonds with certain people that make it possible to fight without breaking that bond.
These are just a few ways that my dad has influenced my life. He has always been there to encourage me. He has been an example of a strong and yet kind man. He has challenged me to be a better man and has been a man worth emulating and learning from. He is one of my main inspirations to get back in school and to keep pursuing my goal of seminary. I am blessed to be able to learn from his example. He is not a perfect man, but he has taught me many things about our Heavenly Father. I am in his debt. I love you, dad.