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Happy Father’s Day to Me!

This weekend is a big one in my house.

My youngest son Eli is getting married and, naturally, we are all excited – not to mention working our tails off in preparation.

Gabe (left), Eli and me at the Grand Canyon many years ago

It’s all good though — hectic but good.

One thing my wife Angie is doing for the wedding is putting together a slideshow to play at the reception. We have been going through old pictures which bring back memories – exactly what they are supposed to do.

I remember when he was born and the nurses could not get him to cry, so they immediately took him to a table and worked on him for a few seconds. Those five to 10 seconds seemed like an hour to me as I waited for him to make that “I’m here” announcement – which he finally did. He later suffered from asthma, but it has been held in check for quite some time now.

Over the years, we have taken many trips as a family all across the nation. We’ve been everywhere from Hollywood, Calif., to New York City and in between. We have rafted the Grand Canyon and gone deep sea fishing in the Florida Keys. We’ve been to historic Wrigley Field in Chicago and toured the Everglades in an airboat. But he and I took some son/dad trips too, just like I have with my oldest son Gabe. I think that’s important.

Eli on my shoulders at Niagara Falls.

One trip I took with Eli was to Tampa, Florida to the New York Yankees spring training camp for a week. We had a blast — just the two of us. He got to meet Reggie Jackson, and I was able to interview Andy Pettitte. We also took a baseball trip to Puerto Rico where I watched him play all week with Coast-to-Coast Baseball. I kept the book in the dugout.

It’s difficult to write this blog through the tears, but I am so proud of the man he has become. He’s ready to take the lead, and I’ll be here when or if he needs me.

This is not a boastful post, but Eli has been taught the right way. Fortunately, he listened to us. Not all kids take advice from their parents. The only time I can remember us almost coming to blows was when he and a few of his buddies were caught egging one night. A deputy sheriff called us at 2 a.m. to tell us, and we got out of bed and drove to his friend’s house to pick him up. He was just being a silly teenager, and I had to play the tough dad – which I did very well that night. I won by the way. It was not my job to be his buddy. I enforced the rules and handed down the punishment.

Rafting the mighty cold Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

I’ve been blessed to have him as a son. If that’s the only bad thing he’s done, then I have been truly blessed beyond measure. He worked hard all through school and continued that work ethic at Marshall University, where he was involved in student government, belonged to a business fraternity, went to Bible study, was a member of the Young Republican’s club and held down three jobs while making Dean’s List.

He’s been raised in a fundamental and conservative church, and I’m grateful for that. I’m sure he leaned on his friends and spiritual leaders at times when he felt he couldn’t come to his parents, and I thank them all for being there for him. He answered the call to preach a few years ago and is a wonderful example of what a young Christian man should be. He inspires me to do better.

“For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14

He visits elderly in nursing homes and earned a double-major degree in four years. He will begin a fantastic job when he returns from his honeymoon.

He’s not perfect by any means. In fact, he constantly clicks his fingernails with his finger, which drives me insane – click click click.

He’s been surrounded by a strong family and a solid church that loves him. He went to Sunday School and revivals whether he liked it or not when he was young. Now, he never misses.

I cannot take much credit for the way he has turned out. I’ve tried and yet many times I have failed him. In spite of me, Eli has made me proud to be his father. Now, I’m trying to make him proud of me.

Eli and me at the New York Yankees spring training in Tampa, Fla.

Eli (No. 7) always led the baseball team in prayer as Captain for three years.

It’s not all the countless awards he received in baseball or from academics. It’s how he handled adversity along the way with his bulldog determination that brings me joy.

And now he will become a husband this weekend to a wonderful Christian gal. I’m so glad God brought Kylee into his life and ours. They are a good fit.

This weekend I will not only be getting a new daughter-in-law, but I will also be celebrating Father’s Day. And what a gift Eli is giving me with Kylee. I always wanted a daughter. It’s better than any gift card or tie — which I will still gladly accept by the way.

Come to think of it, when I look back on all the pictures these past few days and see how both of my boys have turned into fine young men –I realize every day is a Happy Father’s Day for me.

“Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which they Lord thy God giveth thee.” Exodus 20:12

Eli with my future daughter-in-law Kylee.

I’ve been more than blessed with my two sons – but I know there are some hurting moms and dads out there who have done the right thing, but their children may be astray. Don’t give up. Keep loving them and praying for them. Be the example.

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Let me know your story or what Father’s Day means to you.

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