If you are “fifty something” then you may remember this ad from when we were kids:
I remember it vividly because of one of my earliest childhood memories about my dad. My dad turned 91 this year and so I find myself replaying memories of him more and more.
On this occasion our family had returned from and evening Vacation Bible School at our church (a friend of mine who held Christian education responsibilities in our denomination once told me what when it came to Vacation Bible School for kids there was only one word in the name that they are interested in and it wasn’t Bible or school). When I got home I carefully took off my name tag to make sure I had it for the next night and went to bed.
Lying there in the dark I heard a little pitter-patter that sounded like someone walking around. It wasn’t constant. It was like someone was walking around in my room, stopping and then walking again. So I immediately called out: “Daddy, daddy there is a little man in my room”. I just knew what it was: Manners the Butler was in my room!
So my dad comes in the door and says “What’s the matter”. I exclaimed that I heard a little man like Manners the Butler walking around in my room. He listened and heard nothing but got down on his hands and knees and looked under my bed and by brother’s bed and around the room. He assured me that there was no little man and turned off the light. As soon as he left the room and I settled back to bed there was the noise again. “Daddy, daddy there is a little man in my room”. My dad returns this time looking in the closet, looks in all the places “the little man” could hid. No one there. He again assures me that he could find no one there and assures me there is nothing to worry about.
Third time is the charm. Happens again. I assure my dad that every time he comes in and turns on the light Manners runs off and hides in a place Daddy cannot find him. So he turns off the light, climbs in bed with me and as soon as things are quiet, wonder of wonder he hears the noise! Well he turns on the light and discovers that I have put my name tag in just the right place for the oscillating fan to cause it to “rattle” every time the fan swept past that part of the room. When my dad was in the room looking for Manners, he was near the fan and it did not blow across my name tag. My dad moved the name tag, kissed me good night and turned off the light. No more Manners the Butler in my room.
I tell this story as a reminder of my father’s love for me. Rather than telling me to “grow up, there is no such thing as little men” or getting angry after the second and third time, he patiently worked through this “nightmare” with his son. Over the years I have counseled many man who have been wounded by their fathers. I have participated in numerous men’s groups where much of their struggles have to do with failures of their fathers: fathers who left them, fathers who introduced them to porn, fathers who were drunk more than they were sober. I have wept and prayed with these men and tried to understand their woundings. It has been one of the great joys of my life to have the father I have had. I can recount time and time again when his love and concern for me was clearly demonstrated.
My dad is a man of few words. I have both of the letters he has written me in my life but his actions truly has spoken louder than words.