One of the greatest television programs of all time opens with a father and son walking down a dirt road, poles in hand, toward what appears to be their favorite fishin' hole. This scene represents so much about fatherhood, portrays so much about what I am finding, and hope to find in my research on fathering, displays involvement, investment, and interest from a father to his child. The opening of The Andy Griffith Show also strikes a personal chord with me, as one of the earliest memories I have of my father is leaving our house on Sage Street in Topeka, KS and heading off to Shawnee Lake with our fishing poles and a bucket of worms. That early memory is only one of thousands that I have with my dad.
Over the years, my dad has been involved in my life. He not only taught me how to bait a hook and cast a line all of those years ago, but he also taught me so many valuable life lessons, primarily just by being there as life was happening. Dad was a scout leader so that he could be with me at meetings, and on camping trips. Dad taught me to pitch a tent and shoot a gun. He shared great nuggets of wisdom with me; measure twice, cut once; the best kind of food is the food you can eat with your hands; when in doubt turn on Walker, Texas Ranger. Dad also taught me to study, to ask questions, and to never stop learning. He was so involved in my life that when I was 8 he threw himself in front of a car just so I could learn about God's grace. When he healed up, he baptized me into Christ.
Over the years, my dad has been invested in my life. I played, or some might say, attempted to play a lot of sports growing up. Whether I started or sat the bench, dad never missed a game. He had a vested interest in every outcome. He taught me to never quit, even when I was frustrated beyond belief. Even in recent years Dad has been invested. While I have made all of the cosmetic changes to my own children's rooms, dad has built all of the furniture, leaving his stamp on the next generation of Kern kids.
Over the years, my dad has taken an interest in me. I posted a few weeks ago about my passion for sports teams, specifically the Broncos, and how while dad has always enjoyed sports, its obvious that he wouldn't be so passionate about this team if I wasn't. Dad has done this a lot over the years - taking interest in things that maybe did not interest him, because he was interested in me. I knew dad was proud of the PhD, but I never expected him to ask for a copy of my dissertation. He asked so that he could read it. He loves to ask about my research, my teaching, and my students as if he himself were a college professor.
Involvement, investment, and interest. Not just in me, but in my sister as well. I know that Amanda could share stories of dad's impact in her life too. When we need something, he is there. When we need to cry, he is the shoulder. When we need to laugh, he is the joke teller. When we need to chill, he is the fishing buddy. Mainly he is just daddy.
This past Memorial Day, I got to show Lydia how to bait a hook and throw it in the water. I was once again reminded of the opening to that great show. I was once again taken back in time to an early memory of fishing with my dad. I am convinced more than ever that I will be involved, invested, and interested in my kids. I hope they will learn the same lessons from me that I learned from my dad. In fact, I'd like to think that is what every daddy desires.