Saturday, February 09, 2008

A Tribute to Ronald H. Thompson, Jr. aka My Dad

My youngest sister, Anna, wrote this essay for a class assignment as well as an encouragement to my Dad before his latest eye surgery (which took place successfully yesterday). Praise the Lord for a successful surgery, for my Mom who will faithfully care for my Dad during the recovery, and for the way God has worked in my Dad's heart to make him a true Father to his daughters. We love you, Dad! And we love Jesus more because of you.

If you can, go give your own Dad a hug. Or call or send a quick email. They spend a ton of time, energy, emotion, and money on us, first with the whole raising thing, then the whole education thing, then the you're-out-of-the-house-but-I-still-want-to-be-here-for-you thing. Not to mention the hours of prayer, Scripture reading, thinking of, shopping for, grieving for and rejoicing with that faithful, Godly parents spend on our behalves.

Praise God for inventing families! :)
--Christina

"Not Your Average Dad"
by Anna K. Thompson
10:09pm Thursday, Feb 7th, 2008
It was always a given that my father would come home sweaty and out of breath. Since before I can remember remembering, I had known my father was a very competitive road cyclist. Winning the State Championship in this event was no small feat, especially to do so twice. When I was only four or five, I thought it was quite normal for your dad to ride his bike across town to work. I can recall the first time I realized that my father's biking was not just like grilling burgers in the back yard. It was not something every father did.

At about six or seven, I was naturally curious, and was snooping through some bookshelves in my parents' room. I came across a scrapbook of sorts, the kind with the static pages that make your hair stand on end if you lean too far forward. The first few pages had some pictures of my father in his college years, playing Monopoly in his bell-bottom jeans and muscle shirts. As I turned the pages, I began to see more and more of his cycling pictures. I had known he had been part of a team, so those photographs of him surrounded by teammates in spandex were hardly surprising. I then flipped a page and came to a newspaper article about a biking accident my father had been in. This greatly interested me. The article mentioned a broken collarbone and possibly stitches. I pulled the article off the static page to see if it was genuine. It was. I flipped a few pages farther forward and found even more articles and pictures of my father in his "glory days" of cycling. I had known these times had existed. I knew my dad had been South Carolina State Road Biking Champion twice in his life. I did not wonder that many other fathers had done the same. But to have your picture in the newspaper? Better yet, to have an entire article written solely about you? That was something special. Perhaps my father had some unique qualities I had never considered.

After my father was involved in a biking accident around 1995, he quickly became competitive in running. I, once again, did not comprehend how dedicated and talented he was. I knew he was fast, but, after all, he was a grown up, and they always did things better than kids. On so many Saturday mornings, I can recall my dad asking me to ride my bike while he ran beside me. The first two or three times, I agreed, but I soon learned that even in this situation, my dad was much faster than me, and it would only be fifteen minutes before I was begging him to slow down.

My father has always been sensitive to my interests, however strange they may be. I took on a keen love for turtles in elementary school. Turtles: those ugly greenish brown creatures that smelled of algae and would snap at your fingers and nose if you got too close. My father somehow understood. I have a solid memory of one such example of his sympathy to my bizarre hobbies and obsessions.

I was playing in my grandparents' back yard in Blacksburg, VA. Our family was visiting them the summer I was going into the third grade. I was crouched down, digging in the dirt with a stick. I heard my father calling my name anxiously. I turned to see him running up the hill, sweaty and in running clothes, as we so often saw him. He was bearing some sort of rock in his right hand, and he lowered it towards me as he approached in the yard. As I leaned in closer, I saw it was not a stone, but a tortoise. His head and limbs here tucked into his shell in fear, but as my dad placed him on the ground, he cautiously stretched his head out. I beamed in satisfaction. "Anna, I was running on Main Street and I saw this turtle in the median of the road," he said, panting. He wiped sweat from his face and continued, "I knew you would want to see him, so I picked him up and ran back with him." He spoke loudly. He always spoke loudly. I poked at the shell and smiled up at my dad. He grinned back, happy with my happiness. I set to work to find a container to house my new pet in. My father came to the conclusion that it was a box turtle. I know now it was really a tortoise, so it was in actuality a box tortoise. Whatever it was in zoological terms, I named him Elliot. It seemed like proper name for a turtle.

Our stay in Blacksburg only lasted a few more days, and my mother instructed me to say goodbye to Elliot, and to release him into the wild. I was greatly disturbed by this, and protested strongly, arguing that we had a creek in our backyard, and that Elliot would be much happier there than in Blacksburg. Somehow, my father convinced my mother, and my activist older sister Christina, to let me take the turtle back to Greenville with us. I can remember the four-and-a-half-hour car ride with Elliot clawing at the cardboard box the whole way home, joined by my sister's pleas of "Just let the poor thing out!" My dad even convinced my mom to let us use her back porch as a temporary home for the box turtle. He helped me construct a cage of sorts from chicken wire and two-by-fours. He also kept Christina from helping Elliot break free from me, his captor. My father even made a brave attempt to conceal his amusement, and suppress a smile when I revealed to him that I was training Elliot, and that I had even taught him how to swim. I am afraid my dad is not made of iron, and may have been unable to keep from howling with laughter. Then the sad rainy day came when our creek overflowed and the water rose to the turtle pen my father and I had built. The current swept Elliot The Box Turtle away. Although I was greatly saddened by the loss, I had assurance that Elliot was safe somewhere. I had, after all, taught him how to swim.

I have much to learn about the workings of this world. I am a mere freshman in college. What do I know about Corporate America? I am not even old enough to vote. What do I know about politics? I have never been in love. I do not pay rent or a utility bill. I am still an ignorant child in many aspects. But however long I live, however much I learn about the world, however much I am forced to grow up, I will know this. My father is extraordinary. He would stop at nothing to make sure I was happy and well cared for. He bears no regard for himself or his reputation when it comes to his family. He came to every soccer game he was in the country for. He was always willing to drive me to tap, ballet, and hip-hop. I can still remember hearing his booming voice at the swim meets. He listened through countless piano, violin, choral, and hand bell concerts. Running three miles with a tortoise in your hand is no small accomplishment. Nor is winning South Carolina State Road Biking Championships on two occasions. Nor is attaining a personal record of a four minute twenty-one second mile. Nor is, even at the age of forty-seven, being able to out run any guy your daughters try to bring home. However much understanding I gain from this life, I will never fully comprehend my daddy's love for me.

Bravo, Anners: not only did you encourage Dad, you also wrote a hilarious, thought-provoking, and moving essay! You'd better get an 'A' for that!! :)

1 comment:

AE said...

awesome essay! i loved it! completely Anna... and completely sweet!