"One good teacher in a lifetime may sometimes change a delinquent into a solid citizen.” ---Philip Wylie
Among some of us dads, we often remark, “Dads never get any credit.” Dads teach their kids how to play ball, run, catch, dodge … but if they score a run, a touchdown or a basket … and the camera zooms in on them, don’t they always say, “Hi Mom!” Have you ever heard the phrase, “… as good as Dad and apple pie?.” I doubt it. I never have. How about, “the father of all storms” … nope … I think you catch my point.
I’ve written several articles over the years, including a recent one about lessons I learned from my 94-year-old mom, but Dad deserves at least as much credit. I lost my Dad on Nov. 16, 2001, and I still miss him every day. Perhaps my most striking memory is that he had the most unusual combination of careers of anyone I’ve ever known ... a world-ranked professional boxer with a record of 82-5-0 who became a minister when he heeded the calling. All his life, he loved boxing with great passion and practiced his ministry with great compassion. He believed deeply that boxing's demand for discipline, training and sacrifice was a way out for "street toughs," a route through the gym and into a productive life that would be otherwise inaccessible. He knew that every soul was worth saving and he never wavered from that commitment.
He had a great sense of humor, too, and it reflected his vision of life as a joyful journey. I’ve still got a copy of a parking ticket that I may have forgotten to pay while in college. The car was still registered to my dad and when the final notice showed up in his mail, he wrote this note to the traffic violations bureau:
“Gentlemen. Please arrest Lary Kirchenbauer (and specifically told them where I could be found) ... since this is his car and his violation. His name is also on the title for this car and he is 21 years of age. My name will not be on the title much longer, I assure you.” He mailed a copy of it to me, neatly typed. At the bottom, he inscribed this note in longhand, “P.S. Congratulations on making Who’s Who (in Colleges & Universities).” The amount due? $1.00.
As a minister for over 50 years, he was devout but not lordly. He had little time for pretentiousness and was always sticking the needle whenever a “holier than thou” attitude intruded on his congregation or his community. While I wasn’t aware of it at the time, I later learned that he had submitted a drawing to an art exhibition at the local library where he had observed self-proclaimed artistes hemming and hawing about the meaning of life in every piece of art they saw.
They didn’t know he entitled it, “air in a sock” (the actual title was just a tad more vivid, but it probably wouldn't escape the editor's pen), but they hung it proudly and dad laughed every time he recalled how they gushed over the power of his work. His stories put a smile on my face even now as I step through the mental catalog of those moments. There was the one about putting turpentine on the sergeant’s toilet paper in the Army, too ... but I digress.