I Am My Father (and, of course, my mother too)
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This Father’s Day is the 33rd one without my father. If you live long enough, then it has been a long time since various events — good or bad — happened in your life. I was 37 when my father died. It was obvious when he was alive, and it is still obvious to anyone who knew him, that I am my father.
We are in the same vocation — Baptist Christian ministry. We share many of the same roles. My father was a director of three Baptist associations. I have been on the staff of two and for the past three years have been director of a Baptist association in the Midlands of South Carolina. We both served on the staff of Baptist state conventions. He in North Carolina and Pennsylvania/South Jersey. Me in Maryland/Delaware, South Carolina, and North Carolina.
We have both planted new churches and led strategies to plant multiple churches. We both served the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. He as a trustee and me on the staff. Of course, in none of these roles we shared did we serve at the same time in the same role. We were 39 years apart in age.
Both of us were good with math — well, arithmetic. As the old farmer said about his son and advanced math — “teach him a lot of that trigonometry. He is the worst shot in the family.” Probably my son — his grandson — Jonathan is the best of all with arithmetic having been either a car salesman, mortgage loan officer, or retirement plan marketer most of his adult life. He can figure it all in his head and then write it down and either be exactly right or so close he could count a point or three in horseshoes.
My father and I have both been workaholics. We have both been good in long-term financial planning with the size of income ministers tend to make. We both have worked past a typical retirement. He did something up until two weeks before he died at age 76. He did retire from one full-time position at age 67 but then worked two part-time positions for most of the rest of his life. The amount of time he gave them probably added up to full-time for a normal person. I hit 70 this year and claim that I will retire at 72.5. We will see. Forty hours per week is the beginning of the amount of time I work each week.
My father and I have both been strategists. We think ahead about what is next and how we are going to get there. We both have at times been hard on the people who work for us. Like him, in my later years I have softened up some. (Perhaps even a lot comparatively speaking.)
I have always been proud of my father, who he was, and what he did. At times in my earlier life, I talked about him too much and people would point that out to me. That is fine. It made me pause and think, but not stop talking about him. I just was more selective about when and where I bragged on him.
It is now another Father’s Day weekend. I still miss him. I would still like to talk with him about a bunch of things. He and I both believed in and loved the Southern Baptist Convention that was. Having died in 1987 he did not have to see too much of what it became — but it worried him a great deal. Like father. Like son. It worries me too.
George Bullard, www.BullardJournal.org, June 19, 2020