By Rick Boyer
It hangs on my office wall, a simple wooden plaque not as long or as wide as the lid of a shoebox. My desk is parked against that wall and the plaque is roughly centered, right at eye level. I see it every time I look up. It says, “Dad, I think the sun rises and sets with you.” On the back of the plaque I wrote sometime or other in ballpoint, “From Rickey, Tim, Nathan and Joshua, 9-13-79.” I didn’t want to forget the occasion. The plaque was a gift for my 27th birthday.
The boys’ mom bought it, of course. At that time firstborn Rickey was not yet five years old, baby Josh only a month. It was a simple, inexpensive gift, the kind we were used to in those early days when, like most young families we were always tight for money. But though I’ve since received many more elaborate and more costly presents, most of them are long forgotten. It’s a humble rectangle of wood that hangs above my desk where I’ll be able to see it often. And remember.
Oh I remember well the hardness of that season in our family’s life. Marilyn and I had married young and started our family off in a rush. I’m glad those little boys, the first four of our fourteen children, were too young to feel the stress we did, as the family needs grew faster than the family income. But now it’s easy to put the pressures of those days out of my mind and look back on the sunshine. For a young parent, those were glory days when all of our children were too young to have yet discovered that their parents were neither omniscient nor omnipotent. They seldom questioned our judgment then; our word was law and they never seemed to wonder whether we really had their best interests at heart. They trusted us, secure in our love for them and each other. It never occurred to them that anything might ever happen that Mom and Dad couldn’t handle. Their world was a small one but a nice one.
My boys were my buddies. They were excited to see me turn into the gravel driveway after work. Daddy’s home! Time to wrestle, run, shout, then supper and reading together. Nothing very earth shaking, but I’d give about anything to relive just one of those days. Sometimes in the winter it would snow and I’d pile the boys on a sled pulled by Bonnie and Chris, the family dogs. Up and down the street we’d go, red-cheeked and laughing, turning back now and then to pick up a passenger who’d spilled off in the snow. Dad would run alongside, encouraging the dogs and drinking in the joy on my little boys’ faces. That’s back when I could keep up, of course.
In the spring Marilyn and I planted the garden with plenty of little helpers underfoot. In the summer the boys climbed among the branches and enjoy two different kinds of cherries from the huge old trees whose shade was the only air conditioning. Autumn was a time for collecting leaves together and sampling the homegrown vegetables Mommy had taught herself to can—with assistance from her little helpers, of course. Time seemed to go by slowly, yet somehow days turned into months and then years.
And now my little boys are men. That is, except for Joshua. Josh, you recall, was our baby on that 27th birthday of mine. He grew into the cutest, round-cheeked giggling toddler you ever saw, then into a cheerful clown of a young boy, then a tall, lanky teenager. Then at age seventeen he got leukemia and died. I don’t need to tell you that a piece of his mom and dad died with him. But even that tragedy is nearly a decade in the past now. Our hearts have healed, as much as healing is possible, and we’re happy for Josh in his new and better home.
We’re still filthy rich, with his thirteen siblings to love and be loved by us, and the addition of three wonderful daughters-in-law, one fine son-in-law, and four beautiful grandchildren. Eat your heart out, Bill Gates.
Rickey is now 31. He is an up-and-coming Christian political activist serving in his first elective office on our county’s board of supervisors. He and his wife, Christina, are the parents of an adorable baby boy named Luke. Tim, age 29, works with me in the family business. He’s good at just about anything hands can do, including being an accomplished pianist. He and Kari presented us with our first grandchild, lively Cassidy, and will soon be welcoming their second heavenly gift,
Adam Timothy. Nathan married Tina, daughter of missionary friends of ours. He has had his own business since age 20 and has just in recent weeks become a father when little Ann Pearl made her grand entrance. For my boys, the sun no longer rises and sets with Dad. They are all Dad now to some very special people and their priorities have changed, as they must and should. I’m happy for them. Comparing their lives with my own at their age, I’m thankful to see that they are better men. They are wiser men, which means that they are living without much of the stress I knew when they were little and I was still struggling to learn how to live. They have all the joys that I had at 27, and much less stumbling, fumbling and falling.
None of my grandchildren are yet two years old; none are talking, at least in language that grownups understand. Most of the time, they display a distinct preference for Mommy over Daddy. But to everything there is a season, and before long Daddy will loom large in their little eyes. With my own 27th year in mind, I’m already vicariously enjoying what lies ahead for my sons. Whether the little people ever put it in so many words or not, they’ll feel it, and they’ll let their daddies know in a thousand ways. “Dad, I think the sun rises and sets with you.”
Copyright Rick Boyer. Used by permission of the author. Homeschooling pioneer Rick Boyer is a man on a mission. With his wife, Marilyn, Rick has taught all 14 of his children at home since 1980. Today he takes his dynamic message of biblical discipleship-based home education across America and around the world. www.thelearningparent.com.