What is your best Father’s Day Gift – Given or Received?

Please leave a comment about this gift!

My best Father’s Day Gift was when my mother gave a homily for the Salem Presbyterian Church titled A Tribute to Fathers and mentioned me. 

It was very moving, and since she called my stepfather and me out specifically, it causes me to cry every time I read it. I offer it here on my blog this year as it reminds me of what she thought a good father should be. I believe I have fallen short at times over the past 18 months or so (the pandemic has had its casualties). Her words certainly reminded me of what I should be striving for and why.

I love you, Mom; you are still teaching me what it means to be a good parent.

Here is what she said in her Tribute to Fathers:

A Tribute to Fathers
Donna S. LaFollette

I have been blessed – blessed by knowing many wonderful fathers. Today I’d like to mention three—actually four—that I’ve had the privilege of knowing.

Richard Emmons and Eddie Emmons, The girl is a family dispute whether it’s Donna or Darlene.

The first is my own father, Richard Emmons. One of the biggest regrets of my life is that I didn’t get to know my father in my independent adult life; he died when I was 22, shortly after I was graduated from college. However, I still learned much from him. He taught me that I could do whatever I set my mind to, no matter what.

I remember the time that my sister told Dad that she wanted to be a batboy for the Indianapolis Indians. This was in the fifties, but I’m sure Dad tried everything to make that wish happen. But, of course, it didn’t. When he sat my sister down to tell her she couldn’t be a batboy because she was a girl, he looked at her face and cried. We were taught that gender shouldn’t matter.

Dad also taught me the love of reading. When I was little, on Friday evenings, the whole family went out to eat and then to the library, where we all got books to read for the week. On Sunday mornings before church, I’d crawled up on Dad’s lap, and he’d read me the comics. When I got older, Dad let me read what he read even though some parts were beyond my comprehension. We always talked about what we read.

I learned a strong sense of right and wrong from my dad. 

One day when we were at my grand Parents’ Cabin on Lake Freeman in northern Indiana, Dad, Papaw, and I were fishing from the pier. I spotted a snake and cursed. I looked at Dad. Then I raced up the 72 steps to the cabin and jumped in bed. I didn’t run up those stairs because I was afraid of the snake or Dad (He didn’t believe in physical discipline.). I ran up those stairs because I had disappointed Dad. I never wanted to disappoint him, even in my rebellious teen years.

Another father I’ve had the privilege to know is my husband, Bill LaFollette. Bill is a loving Parent who basically stays in the background until he is needed. He is always the first to help any of the kids—mine as well as his—in any way he can.

Bill and Donna with Grand Children
Bill and Donna with Grand Children

Bill is always ready when one of our kids or grandkids needs him. Often, they don’t have to even ask. They might get some information in the mail or wake up to gas mysteriously pumped into their cars or clean cars or a mowed lawn or money that is needed for unexpected expenses.  

When my daughter, Marla, had her surgery in Florida, Bill went out and bought a new van so Marla and I would be safe in our travels.  When we drove to Florida, he insisted on driving us down.  He went with us to our pre-surgery appointment.  Then he flew back to New Albany.  He flew to Jacksonville for the surgery, flew back to New Albany, and then back to Florida when it was time to drive home.

 

Donna and Bill creating a blended family, December 31, 1987.

Bill is not only a good father to our children; he also helps anyone who needs his fatherly care.  He received a Father’s Day card this year from a young man who is incarcerated.  Bill has forgiven him his mistakes and writes to him, visits him, and supports him in any way he can.  I believe that Bill has made a difference in this young man’s life just as he has made a difference in my life, his children’s and grandchildren’s lives, and my children’s and grandchildren’s lives. 

The third father I want to recognize is my son, Michael Ratliff.  It has been a privilege to watch Mike’s active, involved parenting. I remember when Emmons was born and there was some worry about complications.  Mike in his green hospital scrubs and cap came into the family waiting room calmly and told us of the problems.  He never once showed any lack of confidence that his and Penny’s baby would be all right.  When I first saw Emmons with all the wires and tubes attached, I hesitated touching him for fear I’d hurt him.  Yet, Mike was there gently with his large hands caressing the baby with all the love imaginable.  He changed Emmons’s diaper and gave him his first bath under the heat light.  Mike was an involved father from the beginning.

After the birth of Elias (He gave us no cares; thank God.).  I have watched Mike play with the boys, discipline them, bathe them, dress them, read to them, teach them.  He shares in the raising of his children with his wife, Penny.

Harry Emmons
Donna’s Grand Father

Mike recently joined the Masons at the lodge where my grandparents were members.  Through this Mike has gotten to know from the history of the lodge and from some of the elder members another loving and gentle father, my grandfather, Harry Emmons, who never was afraid to cry to show the emotion he felt for the love of his family.

In closing, with these stories of the fathers in my life, I wish to honor the fathers in all our lives.  And to all the fathers here today, an anonymous quote: “The greatest gift I ever had in my life came from God, and I call him Dad.”

 

In Light of Emmons’ Graduation yesterday, I’d like to publish a journal entry I found of my mother’s. I dearly wish she could have been there.

8/10/11
Wow! What a day! Emmons flew in from Oregon today as an unaccompanied minor. My

head told me he would be fine – but my heart wouldn’t let me relax. I felt all day like I had forgotten something – some reservation, some technicality something.

I don't think she wanted Bill to take here picture.
I don’t think she wanted Bill to take her picture.

I went to yoga this morning and that relieved some tension, but I got 2 phone calls from Mike during class. I normally turn my phone off during class, but today I placed it right beside my mat.

For the rest of the day, I basically, I watched the clock and tried to will it to move faster. Emmons did call from Dallas/Fw and sounded good and happy.

After my shower and another phone call from Mike, we finally went to the airport. Smooth as glass at the airport. Went to security – easy. Sat at the gate. Emmons was the last off the plane and all smiles. The attendant told me he was a “cutie” (like I didn’t know) and that they all had a ball with him.

We ate at kingfish in Indiana and sat outside. Emmons of course got shrimp. The a chocolate mint cone at Zesto’s.“ Then home at last.

Emmons Klein Ratliff

          ⚠️ Warning ⚠️  ⚠️ Warning ⚠️  ⚠️ Warning ⚠️

• THIS PROUD DAD MOMENT CONTAINS GRAPHIC AND BRAGGADOCIOUS MATERIAL.
• IT MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR ALL AUDIENCES!
• IT COULD CAUSE DYSPEPSIA FROM SACCHARINE GASCONADE.

 

I used to Facebook post crowing items about my sons’ stuff to help communicate what was going to my mother regarding her grandchildren. She almost demanded I do it. That way, she could get photos and stuff in one place. Yet such a post gets a little addicting to a guy who identifies mostly as a dad. So, in Nonie’s honor, I commence bragging about my son.

I’m attending Emmons’s graduation ceremony in a few hours. His class, which he will be graduating in the top 4%, is large enough to be held in Dickies Arena, the same place we saw some grand champion rodeo thingy. He’s graduating with a butt load of honors. And my pride might be sinfully bursting at the seams. This has nothing to do with parenting, and I will abjure any utterance to the contrary. He did all the work and had a natural scholar’s acumen. He received many honors and awards for his attitude and spirit throughout his education, which shows he just naturally strived for academic excellence. His grade point average was something like 104%! Well done, Emmons. Nonie would be as obnoxiously proud as I am.

Proud Dad Moment – Emmons’s Senior Awards and Honors include:

Honor Graduate – Top 10% of the class
UIL Scholar Award – Top 10% Seniors, based on participation in UIL Sponsored event
President’s Education Award – a cumulative GPA of 96 or better with two commend STARR test or two AP test scores 3 or higher
Pioneer Excellence Award for AP Physics II
NASA High School Aerospace Scholar

He also qualified for AP Scholar honors and an AP Capstone Diploma, but that happened after students’ honors were printed.

PS. I had to use a thesaurus to discover the word “gasconade.” I have never heard it before this morning—many apologies (especially to  Wayne) for the smarmy writing.

PS. PS. Wayne might have his own Proud Dad Moment as became a GRAND-DAD, which is as fantastic as mine, but he would never stoop to smarmy writing.

PS. PS. PS. Photos to follow

We might have gotten some shit in our water, as a side effect of the botched rolling blackouts during this Texas Big Freeze. Our water trickled out along with the power but remained off quite a bit longer. I don’t know how much our lack of water was based on frozen pipes in the apartment complex or if Fort Worth turned off our water. It matters not; what does matter is we didn’t have water for about 36 hours. That in itself was a trite inconvenience (we can always drink Bourbon). What mattered is three men in one apartment, didn’t connect the real problem of a waterless lifestyle until it was way too late. Viewing the preverbal optimistic silver lining, our olfactory discomfort triggered an amazing use of all those STEM classes so espoused by our school district.

Emmons will leave for Texas A&M next Fall. He wants to double major in Physics and Engineering. Standing in front of the microwave, he quipped, “Fun Fact: a ½ gallon Mason Jar full of snow takes 00:06:00 in the microwave to meltdown to about a pint of water.” He continued, “We’ve got the math and can now figure anything out. Let’s see… it’s going to take a little over 21 minutes to flush the commode.” 

I started to poke a little fun with optimization questions. “Does it have to be fully melted to flush?” “Can you overheat a smaller amount of water to expedite the melting process?” and “Can you alter the chemical makeup of the solution to expedite the melting/flushing process (I.e., add salt)?”

I got some eye-rolling, and he recruited his young brother to follow him outside to fill 6 of said Mason Jars with snow.

I tried to help ? and accidentally moved the tank stopper a little when I tried to speed things up by dumping in a whole popcorn bowl of snow straight into the tank. I was immediately removed from the project, sent back to this keyboard, and told I can’t leave until I think about what I have done. I was also asked to do the math because I set the project back, “Damn near 18 minutes.”

Gotta love those STEM classes! 

What’s been your biggest problem during this Declared State of Emergency? I hope everyone is safe, warm, and well. After that, I hope you are having fun with your kids!

 

The boys wanted me to try to raise a little Disaster Relief. So, we're selling Fun T-shirts that I just overdesigned.

The boys wanted me to try to raise a little “Disaster Relief.” So, we’re selling Fun T-shirts, Survivin’ Texas Rolling Blackouts.

You’ve “Been There! Done That State of Emergency!” but, don’t have the T-Shirt yet? Or maybe you just want to show solidarity for us frozen ones in Texas!

<—– There is your chance!  All proceeds help the Ratliff Boyz do something cool!