Special to 0-A News
From Walter Albritton, Senior Pastor Trinity UMC
For Sunday, June 20, 1999


A few wise things I learned from my father

I miss my dad. I wish I could talk to him one more time. There were several conversations we never finished. But life is like that. It is a series of relinquishments from the cradle to the grave. One by one, if we live three score and ten years, we say goodbye to the significant others in our lives.

As Father's Day comes around again, I find myself wishing for three things. One, that the mother of our children will be glad that I am their father. Two that our children will not forget to let me know they love me. And three, that I will continue to remember and give thanks for some of the wise lessons my dad taught me.

With that in mind, I thought you might enjoy reading again some thoughts I shared about my dad a few weeks after his death more than four years ago: My dad is at peace now, laid to rest at the ripe old age of 93. He left me no money, no stocks or bonds, no land or houses. I have no pocket knife or watch to remember him by. I do have one of his old walking sticks. Mom gave it to me the other day. It was the last one. The rest of his half dozen walking sticks have "walked off" since his death. But I don't need a lot of stuff to help me remember my dad. I remember his wisdom. Though he had little formal education, he was one of the wisest men I have ever known. So I will carry his sage advice with me to the grave, for his words are etched indelibly in my memory.

Here are a few of dad's sayings:
* "Money doesn't grow on trees." Dad grew up poor and raised his five children during the depression years. He was not miserly but he taught us not to expect something for nothing. Only those who work hard will ever have any money; it is the fruit of labor. He believed that.
* "If you can't do it right, don't do it at all." Dad was never content with shoddy work. There was a right way to do everything and that was the way he insisted on doing it. Do your best. Always. Never anything less. If it means tearing something down and starting over, then do it. And do it now.
* "Always check the oil." To this day I cannot crank up a piece of machinery - whether a tractor or a chain saw - without checking the oil level. Take good care of what you have, he insisted. "Don't crank it up until you have checked the oil."
* "Alcohol makes a man a fool." Dad drank tons of coffee. That was his favorite drink, with "just a little cream, not too much." His dad died early as an alcoholic. That seemed to be reason enough for the rule: no alcoholic beverages in our home. In addition he allowed no smoking or cursing "under my roof." When he had to, he laid down the law for us: "As long as you put your feet under my table, you will abide by my rules." His word was law.
* "Never talk back to your mother." In his presence none of his children ever "sassed" Mama. If we did, he did not spare the rod. We grew up understanding that Mama deserved our respect.
* "Hard work never killed anybody." Dad worked from sunup 'til sundown. He had no tolerance for lazy folks. He worked hard all his life and he expected the same from everyone else. No exceptions.
* "A man's word is his bond." Dad valued honesty as much as anything. Keep your word. If you tell someone you will do something, then do it, or die trying. Dad had no respect for a liar.
* "Always put tools back where they belong; they have a way of walking off if you leave them lying around." A job was never finished until tools had been cleaned and returned to the place where they belonged.
* "Pick up that string; you may need it." Notice a nail, a screw, or a piece of string, then pick it up and save it. Even the least little thing may have value later on. My dad never felt comfortable with our "throw away" society.
* "Study hard so you can get a good education." Dad worked hard for a reason. Not for a "place on the lake." He wanted his children to have a college education, something he never had. As I grew up there was never any doubt about my going to college. He promised to help us financially - as long as we remained single. "Once you get married, you are on your own." I got married when I was a sophomore at Auburn, and he kept his word.

Dad was an impatient man, hard as nails at times. But we knew he loved us and we loved him. His good qualities far outweighed his weaknesses. A list of them I will not compile in the hope that my sons will do me the same favor. He was not liberal with compliments, but he did give them to us now and then. So I do remember with joy those times when I was blessed by the words, "I'm proud of you, son."

Sage advice sprinkled with a little praise. Not a bad legacy. Not bad at all.

And a walking stick as well.

One final word: if your dad is still around, tell him you love him, while you can.