My father is wise. His wisdom has helped more people than I could ever count. When I was young, I was envious of the so many to whom he lent his ears, of the wisdom he dispensed as if it came naturally. However, when his learning was dispensed to me—it was with frequency as is the way it should be with fathers and sons, which I have grown to learn is quite rare—I listened to the words, yet heeded but a fraction of his direction. I was unreceptive for so long, possibly because the jealousy for those who received his advice, those to whom he listened, had cauterized the vein by which his wisdom might pass to me. More likely it was because I thought I knew more—or better!—than he did. Life gives us many, many paths to take and when you have a stockpile of wild oats to sow you must sprint headlong down each and every last one. So for years the fire smoldered and I stood back turned to the man who could not reach the one who may have needed to live that wisdom the most, his son.
As a young man, I scratched in a notebook that I was terrified of the day I would wake up, look in the mirror, and shudder with the realization I’d become my old man. I stained many pages with angered, impatient ink. Even the most jagged stones are worn smooth with the rushing water of time. Now, if I do shudder at the man looking back at me, it is from gratitude. So many mornings I have woken up and looked into the mirror to see the layerings of my grandfather and his son in the face I present to the glass. They carry me along.
My father’s wisdom, which once I mistook as innate, is sourced from every day of his life—his family, his faith, his relationships, his acceptance of the things he could not change and where he found the strength to change those things he could. His wisdom wells from pain and perseverance, darkness and light. He lives by the truth that it is impossible to learn anything about others without first learning about yourself. When I was young he told me many things and I heeded a fraction of his advice, but his words were never in vain. After all I listened to and ignored, all the tests I put to him, he is still willing to listen to me and to pull from his life to better mine. From this I see one of his greatest lessons and I come closer to understanding the meaning of grace.