The two most important fathers in my life (Linda speaking) lived about as different lives as two men can live.
My own father, Roy Jacobson, was born in 1892. Abraham Lincoln had only been dead for 27 years. After finishing the eighth grade, he quit school to help his family survive on a small Idaho farm and was there the rest of his life.
The father of my children, Richard Eyre, who was born more than 50 years later, went to Harvard, held presidential appointments, wrote three dozen books and has flown two million miles on Delta Airlines.
Two completely different men in completely different eras. Headlines in the local paper when my father was a child read, “Butch Cassidy robs the Montpelier Bank.” In Richard’s life, The Boston Globe headline read, “New day of infamy on Sept. 11, 2001.”
My dad’s whole life was solitary, particularly the four years when he homesteaded a parcel of land saturated with sagebrush, which he had to not only clear and inhabit in a shabby old cabin, but also cultivate. If he could live there and raise crops for five years, the land would be his — free of charge. His first wife (who later died of cancer) and two children visited him in the summer, but his only company in the winter was the howling of coyotes nearby.
The Depression hit after the fourth year. The grain he had raised was unsellable and he walked away from the land empty-handed.
My dad worked with his hands just as hard as Richard works with his head. Dad cultivated land and raised beautiful crops. Richard started companies, ran for governor, wrote books, gave speeches and traveled the world. Dad was known in his little community as a dependable man. Richard lives a life full to the brim with interesting people and opportunities. Even our drive across the country to Boston after our marriage would have been inconceivable to my dad when he was that age. The only mode of transportation then was simple: horses.
Yet there were also some similarities in these two fathers’ lives. Each encountered significant tragedies at the age of 15. My dad lost an 18-year-old brother to pneumonia because the “new drug” penicillin was unavailable in Bear Lake Valley. Richard lost his father to colon cancer before there was any hope of early intervention or a cure.
These two men, born in entirely different ages and cultures, were also similar in the most important thing in a father’s life: their influence on their children. My darling dad was truly a saint! He taught me the value of hard work and I thrive on manual labor. He taught me to have patience with a “Type A” spouse, and to love the beauty of the Earth. He taught me how not to judge those who haven’t had the same opportunities I have. He taught me how to age gracefully — he was 51 when he married my mother, 54 when I was born and 55 when my sister was born 12 months later. He passed away in his sleep at 87.
Richard is a lover of teaching children what will make them thrive. He taught our children how to set and accomplish goals since they were age 3. And I must say — they’re all pretty good at it. He taught them about the multiple joys in life and how to appreciate each day. He taught them how to love the Lord and the importance of making him foremost in their lives. He taught them how to do their best and be their best. And he taught them that he loved them and that they were his first priority above all else on Earth — except maybe me.
As Father’s Day approaches, let us remember that no matter how different our fathers may be from “ordinary” fathers, no matter where they were born and raised, no matter what their circumstances and hardships, the most important thing they will ever do is influence their children for good. Even though my father has been gone for 34 years, he still influences my life in ways that I recognize and in countless ways that I’m unaware of. His significance in and to my life never diminishes.
And our children, now all grown and gone, thank their father almost daily for the precious things he still teaches them. With years to come and perspective to gain, they will continue to benefit from his example and precepts. He gives his advice more gently now, and does not use his famous guilt trip technique any more, so they all laugh about his much-used phrase, “You’ll be sorry in the morning!”
But sometimes they were.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Their latest Deseret e-book is “On the Homefront."