Weatherford Democrat

June 14, 2013

NOTES FROM THE JOURNEY: Remembering a father's gift


Weatherford Democrat

— By JOHN PAUL CARTER

Among the things I like best about Father’s Day, in addition to the expressions of love from my children, are the treasured memories that the celebration calls up – especially the memories of my own Dad.

One such treasured memory goes back to a time when I was almost six years old and we were living in Port Arthur in a huge old house on Proctor Street. World War II was in its fourth year and all those things that we take for granted today were rationed.

Daddy was working shift work at the Gulf oil refinery. Besides being the foreman of the barrel house, he was also in the Texas Defense Guard and a deacon in our church. Looking back, I realize that he “had more on his plate than he could say grace over.”

Someone had given me a model airplane for Christmas – the kind that you built by gluing together hundreds of thin strips of balsa wood and finally covering the frame with tissue paper. It required time and skill that neither I nor my parents possessed.

Knowing how much I wanted that airplane, my mother paid a teenager to build it for me. However, the finished model was too large and fragile to play with, so it hung from the ceiling and gathered dust.

Early one Saturday morning just before my birthday, mother and I went to run some errands. We left the house quietly because Daddy was sleeping, having worked the “graveyard shift” the night before.

When we returned home, to our surprise, we found him on the back porch whittling on a foot-long piece of white pine. Wood shavings were everywhere and his shirt was soaked with sweat.

He was making me an airplane – a B-17! He had carved the wings and tail section from old Venetian blind slats. The gun turrets were molded from paraffin wax. And after gluing the “Flying Fortress” together, he painted it silver.

There’s no telling how many happy hours that plane logged in my hands. You would have thought that it was made of metal to exact scale.

No gift my Dad ever gave me as a child surprised me more or made me as happy as that airplane. As I look back on it now through a father’s eyes, it becomes even more special. In spite of the limitations, Daddy managed to fashion with his hands a present for his son – a gift from his heart.

Sometimes as a dad I’ve fretted when I couldn’t give my own children the gifts that I knew they wanted and needed. But the memory of the airplane my father made reassures me that when we lovingly whittle gifts for our children out of what we have, neither the price tag nor the trademark really matters.

And even more important for our children, such parental love plants in them the seeds of faith in a Heavenly Father who can take whatever is available in their lives and handcraft it into the priceless gift of a meaningful and eternal life.

John Paul Carter is a Weatherford resident whose column, “Notes From the Journey,” is a regular feature of the Democrat.