Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

June 20, 2004


An open letter to my four sons on Father’s Day


          My dear sons, as we celebrate another Father’s Day, I want each of you to know that I am proud to be your dad. You are always doing things that make me want to say to others, “That’s my son.” Those are moments when I delight in being recognized as your father.

          I carry in my wallet a picture of the four of you. Hardly a week goes by that I do not take it out and show it to someone. The customary response is, “What handsome fellows! I know you must be proud of them.” That is what prompted this letter. It occurred to me that I might not have told you lately what I tell others – how very proud I am of my four sons.

          Often I remember times when you were young that I swelled with pride over your accomplishments. Many of those moments were during football games. You started playing on football teams when you were eight years old.

          You were the first, Matt, being the oldest. I remember that awful game in your first season when your championship game ended in a tie. The coaches blew it that day. They decided the winner by a coin toss, and your team lost. We went home fuming, proud of the good game you had played, but angry about the outcome.

          I remember when you were a running back for Murphy High in Mobile, especially the game when you broke your wrist but kept on playing until the game ended.

          You gave us a golden moment later in Demopolis. You were a senior and a good linebacker. In a playoff game with Clanton High, you grabbed a fumble in the end zone and scored the winning points in a close game. Mom and I were in the stands, screaming with the crowd. Someone asked, “Who recovered that fumble?” I yelled, “That was my boy!” Your mother was so excited that she hugged a stranger sitting near us.

          I must admit that we were not always proud of you in your teen years, Matt. The days of your rebellion were not easy on us, and that was partly because I re-wrote the book on mistakes that fathers make. It was during those years, when you and your brother Mark were raising hell that I decided “growing pains” were what parents experienced while their kids grew up.

          That was a learning time for our whole family. Later I would realize that it was only after you boys were grown that I began to understand how to play the role of father. I guess that is why so many of us parents know exactly how our grandchildren ought to be raised. It is not easy for grandparents to back away and remind ourselves that we had our turn, and now it is your turn to learn from your mistakes.

          You shocked us, Matt, years later when you gave up running your own life and became a preacher. You studied hard as you finished college, then seminary, and now you are in your third year as pastor of your own church. What thrills us even more is that you are becoming a very good preacher. We always enjoy hearing you preach and realizing that you come into the pulpit well prepared to share the word of the Lord.

          Mark, how proud you have made us. Your skill as a mechanic staggers me, since I hardly know how to open a can of peaches. I remember the radio we gave you for Christmas when you were eight. You quickly took it apart, then just as quickly put it back together. Back then we never dreamed that one day you would be able to take a big jet airplane apart, overhaul it, and put it back together as you are doing now.

          You must have learned from my mistakes in raising boys because you have done a great job being a good dad to your three sons. We have admired so much the way you are “always there” for your boys. No matter what they were doing, whether wrestling, baseball, or football, you always bragged about how good they were. Your encouragement helped them become good students as well as good athletes. Now two of them are in college, and the youngest is a rising high school senior.

          I was away from home too much of the time when you were growing up, but you were in the Air Force before I realized my mistake. If I had my time to go over, I would follow your example and put my family ahead of my career.

          Tim, like Mark, you have made your family a priority. Now you are reaping the rewards of faithfulness as a father. Your three children are making you proud of them. Your mother and I rejoice that you are wise enough to “be there” for them in so many ways, despite the demands of your work as a forester.

          When you finished high school, you had me worried. You declared, “I am through with school! I never want to see another school book.” That lasted about two months. You got a job with the state highway department and worked that summer in the boiling sun on the highways.

          Then one afternoon, like the Prodigal son, you came to your senses and asked if we could help you attend a junior college and study forestry. The rest is history. You persevered and finally earned your degree from Auburn University. However, during all those years you managed not to neglect your family.

          Tim, you have become a good writer along the way, and as you write, you can only get better. We remember the first story you ever wrote, which you titled “The Fly.” Though it was only a few lines, your story was creative and humorous. Now you write fine stories about lessons we may learn from trees. Keep it up. You have a gift and a way with words.

          Steve, if you have been reading this, you have probably been thinking, “Will he ever get around to me?” As our youngest, you are not the least, and soon you will turn 40. On that day all of you will be in your forties. My, that makes me feel old!

          However, I am not so old that I have forgotten all the ways you made me proud when you were growing up. When you were four, the doctor told us that radical chest surgery was necessary for you to live. We were so frightened but the Lord brought you through it with flying colors. Then a few years later, you won a surprising award, the Presidential Award for Physical Fitness. We were so proud of you.

          To our surprise, you kept growing and became a splendid athlete and the tallest of our boys. By the time you came along, I had learned to spend more time at home so I had a lot of fun watching you participate in several sports. You became the best basketball player of the four. You could make “net music” with your shots on the court. Had it not been for your knee injuries, I think you could have gone on to play in college.

          Your brothers and I also admire your skill at golf. You can hit the ball a mile, and without much practice, shoot in the eighties most of the time. Yet, instead of honing your skills as a golfer, you devote all your free time to your two young sons.

          I admire the way you continually take them on hunting and fishing trips, or encourage them to play baseball, basketball, and football. When you were growing up, I always wished I could have been a coach of one of your teams. Now I am realizing that dream when I see you on the field coaching your own sons.

          My life changed drastically when you left home for college, Steve. I had been so absorbed with your life that I was not prepared for the “empty nest” syndrome. I still miss those mornings you and I shared as we kept up with football and baseball standings, and the latest feats of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Those were the days. However, it fills me with pride to know that you are doing with your boys what we did together when you were young.

          Steve, how you have surprised me by becoming a homebuilder. I can hardly build a birdhouse, yet you are building beautiful homes. You not only remodeled our retirement home, you did a remarkable job remodeling the old home place where I was born.

          My dear sons, I made many mistakes as your dad. I mistreated you at times. I failed you at times. I was not there for you at times. I think you have forgiven me for my mistakes. At least I hope you have. There came a time when I had to forgive my dad for the mistakes he made. That opened the way for us to have a better relationship that I ever dreamed we could have.

          Boys, I know you are not perfect. I know you make mistakes as I did when you were young. However, each of you is a far better dad to your own children than I was for you. For that, I thank God, and for that, I want you to know on this Father’s Day how very proud I am of you.

          I hope the day will come for you, as it has for me, when you will realize what an incredible blessing it is to be a deep sense of pride in your children.

If you do not know it now, one day you will realize there is no greater gift than the love and respect of your own children.

          Happy Father’s Day my sons! Come kiss your mother when you have time. Without her, I would not have the joy you boys have given me. + + + +