Gifts of the Father

Though you won’t read this until Wednesday, January 16, I’m writing it on Tuesday, January 15, 2019. January 15, 2018 feels like yesterday, and I find it hard to believe an entire 365 days have passed already. On this day, one year ago, our family sat in a church and said goodbye to one of the most beloved human beings I have ever known. Even writing that, I have to squint to see through my tears. Some wounds take a long time to heal. Some never do. 

The Italian novelist, Umberto Eco, once said,

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by the little scraps of wisdom.”

If that is the truth, and I believe it is, then my father-in-law taught us a great many things. He taught us to work hard. He taught us to love life. He taught us to never give up. He taught us to believe in ourselves. He taught us that family always comes first. He taught us to never be too proud to do a job yourself, no matter how dirty. He taught us that God can be found in the most unlikely of places. Most of all, he taught us to laugh–at the world, at our problems, at ourselves.

I grew up hearing people on television make fun of, avoid, and speak ill about their in-laws, and it was never anything I understood. My father and his father-in-law were the best of friends. My father still weeps when he talks about what a wonderful man my grandfather was, what a wonderful friend. I saw their bond and wondered if they were unique or if Hollywood just thought it was funny to act like all in-laws were the kin of satan.

When I became engaged, friends warned me about the power struggle between daughters-in-law and mothers /fathers-in-law. I prayed that I would get along with Ken’s family, that we would love each other no matter what, that we would see past pettiness and be able to enjoy good times together. I hoped for a kind of friendship with Ken’s family–perhaps something like what my father and grandfather had.

What I got was a real, true second set of parents, and not the kind who ground you or tell you what you do wrong or expect you to do everything the way they want it done. I got the kinds of parents I already had. They are kind and loving, fun to be around, and people I genuinely love to spend time with. At the center of the family, for so many years, was Ken’s father, David. 

He was never “David” to me. He was always, “Dad.” Almost as much a father to me as my own dad, and that’s saying a lot. I could call on Dad for just about anything, and I did.

When another driver ran a red light and totaled my car, and Ken didn’t have a cell phone (because none of us did back then), I called Dad.

When our oldest daughter was flown to shock trauma after being hit in the head with a baseball bat, and the entire county police force was trying to track down Ken, I called Dad.

Whenever something broke, and Ken was out of town, I called Dad. Or when I needed more firewood. Or when a snowstorm hit, or I needed help hauling some treasure home from the auction.

Dad came to pick us up when Hurricane Isabel hit, and our town was so flooded, we had to leave in a rowboat.

Dad came to help set up and decorate for every celebration, however big or small. 

Dad built much of the furniture in our first house and the original kitchen in the house we live in now.DSC04386.JPG

Dad “stopped by to bring the girls some doughnuts.” Mind you, he lived 45 minutes away, but he “stopped by” just the same.

Dad became the rock I leaned on when Ken was traveling. He held me when I cried for my grandmother after she passed. He sat next to me in the hospital when the doctor gave Rebecca 11 stitches. 

22728713_10210269648273922_4818804090097890691_nDad once walked across the field hockey field, minutes before the last game of the season was the begin, just to give Morgan a Hershey Bar and a hug.

Dad once convinced the girls to eat dog food because it “tastes like candy.”

Dad once won “big” at the casino, spent all of his winnings to buy ice cream sundae ingredients, and invited all the grandkids over to celebrate his win.

Dad must have owned fifteen Coast Guard Academy t-shirts and hats, that he wore EVERYWHERE, just so he could tell people that his grandson was there.
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One Easter, dad showed up with PVC pipes formed into “guns” and taught all the kids how to shoot marshmallows at everyone.
Morgan and Poppy.jpg
And now, a full twelve months after we told him goodbye, I still feel like he’s going to walk in the door any minute with a box of doughnuts, a handful of candy bars, or a homemade cheese danish.

Dad was never a man of great means, but he gave all he had to anyone who needed it. Proverbs 13:22 tells us that “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” It’s not referring to gold or silver or a fancy house or an estate or trust fund. A true inheritance is a lasting legacy–the knowledge that you were loved, the understanding of how to love others, and the wisdom it takes to live a truly good and fruitful life. Ken’s father left us all a mountain of wealth. Like author, Ruth E. Renkel said, “Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance.”

We love you Dad, and we miss you. Every single day.

dad's inheritance

What I was writing about a year ago this week: It’s Not Enough.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018.

Amy’s next novel, The Devil’s Fortune, will be released in March of 2019.

the_devils_fortune_cover

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

Learning from the Past, Changing for the Future

10-pics 5October 19, 1988 began like any other day.  I was a Freshman in college, and I had a full day of classes.  The morning went as usual, lunch was spent with friends, and then I moved on to my 1:00pm American Lit class.  During the class, I was suddenly overcome with the most intense feeling of grief.  It was all I could do not to cry, a feeling which many students studying Ahab’s quest for the mighty white whale may have felt, but one which I couldn’t logically explain at the time.  For the rest of class, I had a hard time concentrating.  All of my thoughts were consumed by the knowledge that my grandfather was starting chemo that day and the belief that something had gone terribly wrong.  After class, I reported to my job at the campus library and began shelving books.  Not too long after arriving at work, I looked up to see my roommate and one of my best friends from high school heading toward me, their expressions giving away their mission.  

“Your Dad called,” was all I needed to hear.  

“I know,” I told my roommate.  “I knew the moment it happened.  My grandfather is gone.”  I remember collapsing in her arms but remember little else about the following few days.  One thing that I will never forget is hearing the number 400 over and over again.  That’s how many people joined in the procession that took us from the funeral home to the church.  Police were at every intersection.  Traffic lights flashed rather than turned, and cars pulled off the road to pay their respects to a man who was known and loved far and wide by every person he ever met.

When my grandfather called a girl, a young lady, or a woman, “sweetheart,” there was no hidden meaning, no sexual undertone, nothing sexist or bigoted.  There was only admiration and respect.  And the females loved him because he made them all feel special.  It wasn’t a lewd thing.  It was an appreciation for them and for what they represented–wives, mothers, waitresses, nurses, teachers, business women.  He opened doors and tipped his hat.  He was a true gentleman, and everyone who knew him respected him for that.

It has long been rumored that our family has Indian blood in it, and one look at Granddad during the summer months always convinced me of the rumor’s truth.  His rich copper-colored skin soaked up the sun, and his incredibly thick, white hair, once jet black, made his baseball cap sit high upon his head.  I’m not sure I ever saw him happier than when he was outside working his fields or steering his boat.  Except when he was with his family.  There was nothing more important to my grandfather than his family.  The love he poured onto all of us was apparent to all.  He was a provider, a loving husband, father, and grandfather.  He was a loyal friend, someone who never turned his back on anyone no matter their color, religion, or status in life.  He was a man of high moral character and integrity who went to church, volunteered in his parish and community, and counted his friends by the hundreds.  

He was also a hard worker.  Granddad was a civilian employee at Patuxent River Naval Base, but he was also a farmer and a boatbuilder.  When he retired from the base, he added waterman to his list of occupations.  He planted gardens, both for food and for beauty.  He built boats, furniture, houses, and anything else that struck his fancy, and he built them to last (I still own and use furniture that he built with his own hands).  At some point in his life, he took up photography and meticulously put together album after album of family memories.  In his sixties, he took up winemaking.  At seventy, he not only quit smoking but quit growing tobacco.  His decision to stop smoking and stop promoting the habit gave him a new lease on life, but it was a short lease.  Unbeknownst to him, cancer had already made its home in his lungs.

I’ve taken you on this trip down memory lane not only because Granddad is on my mind today but because he is what we are missing in this world.  We should all be striving every day to be like Buck Morgan and to raise our children to be like him–to respect everyone; to treat everyone as if they matter; to love our friends, family, and God with all our hearts, and to show that love at all times; to open doors and tip hats; to work hard without asking for more; to live within our means; to go to church and understand that it’s the least we can do as children of God; to smile at everyone; to make each moment count; and to never be afraid to try new things, make new friends, achieve a new goal, or search for a higher purpose. 

Once the dust clears from this awful election, I pray that we can return to civility.  I pray that we all recognize what we’ve become and vow to stop this plague from spreading.  Let’s all try to live lives of charity, love, respect, honor, and goodness.  Let us all, within our own families, plant gardens, harvest fields, build lasting memories, and raise a generation that appreciates what it has, works hard to have a better life, and understands the things that matter.  I  believe we owe it to ourselves, our children, and our past generations.  I also believe that it’s never late to try.  My grandfather would agree.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me(2015), Whispering Vines (2016)