The Stuff My Dad Didn’t Do

There is a home video of an Easter egg hunt in my grandparents backyard when I was a child.  I was probably four or five years old, judging by my uncle’s neon shorts and dapper mullet. That year my leg had broken in a car accident, during which our van rolled into a field.  My great-grandmother and older brother walked away just a little shaken up, my mom had been knocked briefly unconscious, my little brother had a bloody nose, and I ended up with a full length purple leg cast.

The doctor had set my ankle at an angle and I couldn’t walk properly.  My dad didn’t want me to miss out on the Easter fun that year, so he carried my chubby little body about the yard, wherever my childish whims took us.  He carried me until his back couldn’t stand anymore, and passed me off to my mother.

It isn’t what my dad did for me that Easter, or for the rest of my life, that truly matters to me (God knows all men should be good to their children);  it’s what he didn’t do.

I notice something when I watch that video; the fact that my dad carried me around until it exhausted him wasn’t special to me then.  I didn’t think about it or thank him.  I didn’t apologize for his having to carry me.  I didn’t even remember that it happened until I watched the video some twenty years later.  It was simply my dad being my dad; it’s what he did.

And he never talked about it.

Regardless of the sacrifice, my dad never let us catch on to his selflessness.  When we all had cars in high school, he drove the shabbiest.  He worked like crazy and commuted long distances, but never complained to us.  He coached our sports teams and led our AWANA groups, but never took any sort of credit for our successes.  When I argued with him, he never tried to verbally justify his authority; he simply “had” it.

To be honest, I remember looking down on him in high school.  I didn’t appreciate the type of husband that he was to my mother;  he didn’t lord his God-given, manly authority over her like the many other examples of husbands and fathers in my life. Now that I’m married, I realize that I could never hope to exhibit the sort of strong and humble love to my wife that he had for my mom.

I’ll always be grateful that my dad wasn’t a father to me in word and deed alone, but one in the things he didn’t do.

Allen Marshall O'Brien

Allen Marshall O’Brien is the pastor of a UCC church in Northern California and co-host of the Irenicast. He believes in the importance of education, peace, and ecology, throws things to his border collie Sonata, and writes for multiple platforms.

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5 thoughts on “The Stuff My Dad Didn’t Do

  1. Allen, thank you for sharing this very, very moving snapshot from your childhood, with such fitting thoughts “some twenty years later”. Would there more fathers like yours….and more sons like you, who can pick up and carry on the “mantle” they will inherit.

  2. Allen that was an awesome tribute to your father. Your Dad is really special to me too. I love him so much. I was like his big sister, and when I was getting married, I couldn’t find anyone to walk me down the isle, so your Dad with a heart as big as Texas, said I will walk you down. He was my hero that day, and I always tried to be his super big sister. Thanks Aunt Vicki

  3. I still don’t think Dad let me play first base! But you are so right Allen. This was very awesome to wake up to. Dad truly did not have to talk a big game… he played it. Showed with his actions more than most people could ever say in their lives.

    And if Dad reads this later, I love you!


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