This is Fatherhood
Today, my dad turns 70. There is only one Allan Van Allen…thats one of those safe statements I can make in the world. Anyone who knows my dad would agree.
Dad, you have been an old-school dying-breed family man. You loved, love, and will love Mom…its an axiom of my universe. Keeping that government job over forty years meant less of life’s frills but it also meant a life with margin…margin you spent lavishly on your family. Growing up I could set my watch to that old yellow VW bug with the smashed in fenders coming up the hill on Little Oak drive. There was time for wrestling on the living room floor, for playing catch in what we called the “side yard,” and there was what seemed like too much time for family devotions. As a father now myself, I know the pull of the invisible tractor beams that drag men away from giving their kids the attention they crave. You were lavish. You kept your world small enough that we could be the biggest part of it.
I recently stumbled onto the old family ledger from when I was a kid. It was fascinating to me how far a dollar could go in the late 70’s squeezed by the determination of a young couple living off of a single government paycheck. What struck me more was how consistently generous you have been throughout your life. Over and over again $10 and $20 was written next to some missionary, ministry or church’s name. I know there was no intention to inform your left hand of what your right hand was doing…as I recall the ledger was kept as a safety measure to avoid bouncing checks since each paycheck lasted right up to the next paycheck in those days. I imagine we would have been able to eat out more than once a month if you hadn’t given that money away. I wonder how it was used and where the lasting fruit is and if God will humor us someday by rolling the tape on all of those stories we participated in without seeing. Maybe when he rolls the tape we’ll only get to see His smile and that will be enough.
Some of my earliest and deepest memories from childhood are of you hunkered down before the morning sun over an old Ryrie Study Bible with highlighters and pen in hand while a pot of Folgers brew on the formica kitchen countertop. I knew that you knew that you needed Jesus. C.S. Lewis pointed out that it won’t do to line up any old Christian and any old non-Christian and see who is the more agreeable chap. It won’t work because it assumes we were all dealt an even hand at birth and as your name again attests you clearly weren’t (wink). Through nature and nurture God carved out in you a greater space to feel the full emotional registry of life than he did in anyone else I know. You are high voltage. Sure, I’ve been zapped a few times but I’ve also known a pretty high voltage love.
I respect you, Dad, for the way you have eaten life’s hard breakfasts and gripped tightly to the ancient writ ever looking forward to heaven’s good dinner. You have grown in the trajectory of Jesus and at 70 years of age your heart is not hard. You have a family that loves you. I look 30 years down the road and think to myself that I could do a lot worse. You have my respect, gratitude, and love.