By Clay Anthony
About the author: Clay Anthony teaches for Liberty University in Virginia and is an adjunct at Blue Mountain College. He coaches football at Tupelo Christian Preparatory School and lives in Lee County in the Richmond community. He is pastor at Richmond Baptist Church. He and his wife LaNell are the parents of three sons: Dylan, 18; Aslan, 13; and Haddon, 10. His essay is about his father, Harold Anthony.
by Clay Anthony
New Albany used to be a small town. That is where I grew up. My mother taught kindergarten for over thirty years. Needless to say everyone knew my family. I remember thinking the entire town respected my dad. It did not matter if it were the mayor or a grocery store owner. Everyone we happened upon referred to him as Mr. Harold.
I thought nothing of how other people respected my dad when I was a child. When I moved off to college it dawned on me why my dad had such an effect on people. Quickly I understood that he had invested in me more than a sense of right from wrong but a greater sense of making things right they were wrong. Dad was fond of using words like give, help, go, serve, and sacrifice. The further I get away from those days it seems that such words are now indeed a rarity.
Perhaps my dad’s respect level came from the fact that he was married to the same woman for over fifty-four years. That is something worth remembering. There have been nations on our planet that did not last so long. They met as teenagers and never had another date. At restaurants, he always ordered the same thing she did. In his garden, he never planted items she did not like. He detested yards sales but never viewed stopping at one a waste of time if that is what she wanted.
I tell people that I am the youngest and best looking of four boys. The four of us fought, fished and played every sport offered. I never once remember my dad being “that dad” at our sporting events. He never yelled at us. He only cheered for us. Today one brother is a missionary in Honduras, one is in heaven and the other was awarded a Bronze Star for bravery in Iraq. We were together recently on the coast. We ate shrimp and laughed to that point where laughing tears become painful tears. All we could talk about was dad.
My dad passed away six years ago this Father’s Day. The last time I spoke to him he could not speak back. His beautiful mind had been replaced by just a blank stare. By that point he did not know me, my brothers or even that sweet girl from Batesville he married. When that sad time came I remember the doctor saying, “I’m sorry, I just could not get his heart to work.” Even today I remember that being the most asinine statement anyone ever said about my dad. He was all heart. His heart defined the man.
Now in my forties, I finally appreciate the respect that dad received. As I spend my days loving my wife and investing my life into three boys, every life lesson of my dad floods my heart. I remember being raised on grace. I remember to show pictures and tell stories of a man that my children do not know. I remember that love is not love until it is given away. I remember the best part of being a father is understanding what it was like to be a son. I remember each time I look at my sons that the only thing that I will leave them of any value is Jesus and their last name.
My dad died with my respect for giving me so much to look back on and remember. Thanks to Alzheimer’s there is no way he could have known that. What dad could not remember are things I simply cannot forget.