June 1, 2015

In Other Words

He was a gentleman, yet a warrior in our eyes; a humble individual—albeit a hero to his kids; eloquent of speech, yet not overbearing with his point of view. Warm, with a keen sense of humor, a special combination of genuine joyfulness and Christian sobriety. He expressed his love for music with a beautiful tenor voice and a clean crisp whistle that always reassured us that he was nearby.

That was my dad!

He was honorable in his dealings with others and genuinely loved and respected by many if not all with whom he came into contact. This was especially evident in the hundreds who turned out on a Wednesday afternoon in September 2006 to celebrate his life. It was there that we heard from numerous individuals about the words of counsel they’d received from him while they were students on the college campus where he worked. We received testimonials from close relatives who revealed his willingness to listen and pray with and for them—all unbeknownst to us.

I know that he would be thrilled to see that I had inherited his love for words, written and spoken.

A printer and proofreader by profession, my dad left high school upon the death of his father and went to work in order to assist his mother in taking care of his seven younger siblings. I know that he would be thrilled to see that I had inherited his love for words, written and spoken.

I observed him and the way he interacted with my brothers, teaching them by example what it means to be a man, a husband, and ultimately a dad themselves. I determined that one day my kids would be the recipients of that kind of nurturing. I marveled at how he would never pass anyone without a nod of the head, a smile, or greeting.

I witnessed how he handled an incident in which a notorious gang leader in the town where we lived attempted to yell out his name in a loud and unflattering way. When my dad did not respond, I watched in amazement as that individual, in the presence of his fellow gang members, hurried after him and addressed him properly and with respect, and was acknowledged. Imagine the impact of that incident on the mind of an 11-year-old!

My dad understood me well. He watched, and he encouraged me to voice my opinion (in a household overrun by males) in a clear and calm voice. I knew he had quite a challenge trying to curb my “exuberant and boisterous nature.”

Years later, looking at me, he remarked that I had grown into a “beautiful swan.” From the moment he uttered those words I felt myself blossom, and was reminded of a quote I once read, credited to John Gregory Brown: “There’s something like a line of gold thread running through a man’s words when he talks to his daughter, and gradually over the years it gets to be long enough for you to pick up in your hands and weave into a cloth that feels like love itself.” How true!

That was my dad!

Marvene Thorpe-Baptiste is editorial assessment coordinator for Adventist Review.