When irritants become treasured memories
Growing up, one of the most aggravating and irritating things I endured was the Sunday ritual associated with my tie. Being raised the son of a church-going attorney-at-law I had the requirement of wearing a tie on Sundays. Additionally, I had the joy, aka chore, aka obligation aka drudgery of donning a tie for every wedding, funeral and any other occasion where my dad deemed the event would be dignified by the wearing of a tie. To show up tieless at said events was just not acceptable; indeed, the absence of a tie could be considered the ultimate faux pas.
So at an early age I learned to tie a proper knot. How many 3rd graders show off their ability to tie a necktie for Show and Tell? OK, I’m taking a bit of story tellers’ privilege, but I trust you understand the pathos of this childhood memory.
But the wearing of a necktie was just the beginning. For you see, my dad was not only a tie-wearing machine, he was also the quality control officer for every knot tied in the Fowler household. My brothers and I would tie our ties just as we had been instructed. Being careful to choose wisely between the Windsor, the Half-Windsor or the Four in Hand knot. But no matter how well the knot had been tied, my Father would adjust it. This practice did not end when we hit some magical age like 16 or 18 or 21. Oh no, it continued on and on to graduation from high school and college, my wedding day, graduation from seminary, and the day of my ordination. All of these events and more were marked by my dad’s adjustment of my necktie.
Fast-forward a few decades, and it’s time for me to pin on lieutenant colonel. It’s sort of a big thing. My sister and brother-in-law had planned to travel in from North Carolina and bring my dad with them. By this time dad wasn’t exactly a spring chicken anymore, so his attending was a big deal. About a week before the ceremony he took ill and was hospitalized. The doctors seemed to be unable to figure out what was wrong and one night turned to two, then three. Would he be able to make it?
Somehow the idea of my dad not being present to fix my tie seemed epically wrong. The good Lord knows something as important as my pinning on ceremony can’t take place without dad making sure my tie was tied properly. With my mom having passed the year prior, the idea of my dad not being there was a difficult thought. Thankfully, he recovered enough to be able to make the trip. He really wasn’t feeling his best, but he was able to attend and best of all, he fixed my tie!
I’m not sure when my attitude changed. I’m not sure when the annoyance changed from being irritating to being a longed-for blessing, but I know this. This good man showed me in a thousand ways what it meant to be a man of integrity, loyalty and fidelity.
Happy Father’s Day dad.
Thank you for your service and sacrifice.