Missing Dad

Seated at a booth in the local Mexican restaurant, Tom and I shared a meal with a young farm couple half our age.

We yacked about farming for a good while, but then the young man shared a story about his father–who is probably our age. The story concerned a snake and a gun. The young farmer smiled as he spoke fondly of his father.

My mind traveled back to a time with my daddy.

“Do you know what to do if I get bit by one of the snakes?” Dad asked my 10-year-old self.

I nodded even though I had no idea. I knew nothing bad could happen when I was with my father. Even when we hunted poisonous snakes in a quiet cornfield in Kansas. Not usually what a 4th grade girl and her dad did for an outing. But then, nothing my daddy did could be labeled normal.

I loved it, even though I was scared.

After we caught various kinds of snakes, we’d take them home and put them in fish aquariums in our back yard. (This made us extremely unpopular with our neighbors.) Dad used the specimens as he spoke to Boy Scout groups in the area. He’d handle the snakes and point out their beauty and strength, and the intricacies God used in creating them.

He loved nature and always took time to appreciate it and share it with his three daughters and anyone else who would listen. But he loved the Creator more than the creature and always gave God the credit.

I appreciate all of it now.

Ray Wert was an in-your-face kind of guy. Most people loved him, but some hated him. I admired him in the 4th grade, was embarrassed by him in high school, and tolerated him in college. As an adult, I realized his imperfections and often concentrated on them.

“You have a good father,” my mom would say when I complained.

Then he got sick. Lost both legs to diabetes while he lived with us. My out-of-the-box father became dependent on me.

That was hard.

Sometimes it was incredibly sad. Other times he annoyed me.

Last night as I sat across from the young couple, I missed him.

Today, it hurt even more.

I have some regrets of how I handled his care. Mostly, I regret not enjoying him those last few years.

Now, my father is with his Father.

Walking on two legs. Maybe talking to the Lord or one of His saints about God’s handiwork.

One day, I’ll see him again.

That makes me smile.

So do snakes.


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