My Father

My Father

Daddy, Dad, Father. He is mine. I love him. And I want to say a few things about him.

My Father was raised in a broken home. His father and mother tried hard and in trying they succeeded and failed just as any man or woman would do. What little I have learned from family about his childhood tells me a lot. What I do know is that my grandfather tried to be a good dad. I also know that my great grandfather did a lot before he passed to make up for what grandpa lacked. I know that between the two of them they taught my Daddy a lot. And while he made plenty of mistakes during his youth, my Dad was great because he learned and grew from them.

My Dad pushed himself. He was the first in his family to complete a college education, to serve a full-time LDS mission, and more. He strove for excellence and to give to others even as he tried so very hard to be self-sufficient and independent. Against all the odds, he did what most in his situation could never do, and he did it, and does it, with style.

My Daddy works hard. He plays hard. He lives life fully and to the brim. “Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,” as the saying goes. And while that might sound impossible from a physics prospective, my Father did it. And like I said, with style. He never used that saying around me, but I can recall a bunch of other sayings that stick. Here are just a few:
“Sure beats a stick in the eye.”
“‘I see,’ said the blind man. And he picked up his hammer and saw.”
“I was on it like a duck on a junebug.”
And one that he and Mom always said, “Stick to the job like glue. Stick to the job till it’s through.”

When we moved to California, my Father drove and carpooled 2 to 3 hours a day so that us kids could grow up in a nice area. He and Mom sacrificed a lot for us kids. They put us first, and now that I look back I can see it clearly. Several times he and mom took paper routes so that that few hundred dollars a month could help them pay bills and put food on the table. Even when it would have been easier for Mom to work full-time, Dad chose to do more so she could be home to teach us kids. And without that, I would not be as successful as I am now. The learning disabilities I had/have could easily have conquered me, but Mom and Dad refused to accept what the “experts” claimed and pushed me to the limits. All while taking care of the finances and work necessary to run a home with 7 children. They are amazing!

Daddy could have fun too! From watching 3 Stooges shorts and movies, to playing games, to camping, my Daddy was great at having fun. Stories, jokes, basketball, playing with the dogs, taking us swimming, taking us on one-on-one activities, making cookies, going to Apple Hill, playing marbles, playing jacks, and so much more. Fun was just as important as work. In fact, work became fun. Dad and I took the garden as a personal challenge and boy did we have fun with it. Tomatoes, squash, zucchini, green beans, and cucumbers were a summer treat that we grew. It was a challenge and fun. But probably the biggest thing that stuck in my memory was the day Dad got home while we were downstairs watching a movie. Dad decided to try and sneak up on us. As kids we would hide behind the couch or door and jump out shouting, “SURPRISE!” So when Dad was just a few steps from the bottom of the stairs, he jumped up and shouted, “SURP!” and promptly smacked his head on the slanted ceiling. The “Oooof!” of him landing flat on his butt at the bottom of the stairs was sure a surprise. Even with a sore head and a wounded ego, he was able to laugh about it then, and still laughs about it now.

My Father had his share of challenges. Life didn’t always go his way, and struggles make everyone feel down. Multiple eye surgeries during my adolescence, and that kept him out of work for a very long time. The stress of not providing for his family. The stress of debt from medical bills. The stress of people not understanding or helping with extremely rare exceptions. And the stress of multiple TEENAGERS on top of that was a lot. It was hard to see your Daddy break down into tears because he felt worthless. It was hard to see his anger when he felt helpless to take care of the family he loved so much. It was hard to hear the fights that took place because of stress, and worries, and things that were beyond his control. It was hard to feel the frustration of helplessness so profound that the weight of it felt like a steamroller slowly squishing the life out of things. Perhaps my memories are flavored by adulthood. It is very likely, but the fear from that time is still real to me. Yet those dark times have passed. And a key factor in that is faith.

You see, my Daddy is a man of faith. He believes in Christ, in personal revelation, and in priesthood power. His faith, and the faith of my Mommy, sustained us even as they put that faith into action. When doctors had said my Daddy would not see again, he called on our home teachers to give him a blessing. And Brother Winn gave Dad a blessing that promised that he would see enough to take care of his family. And despite everything the doctors said would happen, my Dad can see again. Where he was “blind in one eye, and could’t see out of the other,” now he can see well enough to drive. Even if it scares the holy poop out of me sometimes… But all kidding aside, that was one of the important things my Dad showed me. How to have faith. He and Mom introduced me to my Heavenly Father. Through their love and faith they encouraged and allowed me to form a relationship with him. Initially it was because they wanted me to. Then there was the doubts and questions. Then the conviction of a young man. Then the doubts of a young man. But no matter what stage of development I was in, they loved me all the same. My faith in loving Heaven Parents. My personal communication with them. My love for those parents who I love as much as my Earthly parents is due to their loving examples. And that faith wasn’t just during dark times. It was just as strong during good times as well. Be it during one of my many ear infections, or with the loving pride of a father, my Daddy laying his warm, rough, gentle hands on my head and giving me a blessing holds a very important place in my heart. Perhaps it is time I ask him for another blessing. After all, it is one of the ways both of my fathers, Heavenly and Earthly, can show their love for me at the same time.

I don’t know exactly when it was that I realized I wanted to be a father, dad, daddy. It was at a young age. But the Hollywood portrayals of reluctant dads never struck home to me. I felt them to be dishonest. Perhaps from some it is true, but for me that has never been the case. It is a honor I have hoped for for years, and the distress of not being able to be one yet despite years of effort is distressing to me. And even then I haven’t let that stop me. I am a teacher and I love it. Those kids are as much mine as they are another’s because I truly love and care for them. Even the frustrating ones are important to me. When I have had people tell me, “You don’t understand because you don’t have kids”, I restrain myself from scream, yelling, or crying because even though I do not have children I want so much to. I want so much that I have become a father to thousands in hopes of shaping a life in just one little way. I want to be a man like my Daddy. To teach honor, respect, love, loyalty, faith, self-awareness, caring, the love of learning, and so much more. I want to be like my Dad. I want to honor him by passing on the lessons he taught and teaches me. Because that is what a real man is.

A few years back my Dad and I were running an errand. I had been out of the house, married, and had just embarked on my carrier as a teacher. On that rainy afternoon, as we were running around taking care of business, my Daddy broke down and cried. He apologized for his failures as a father. He asked for my forgiveness for his anger, for his mistakes, for all the things he feels he as done wrong. WOW! I can’t believe how lucky I am to have a Father, a Dad, a Daddy, a MAN who can do that! In that moment I was reminded of what a real man looks like. My Father, R. Stephen Middleton, is my role model. He may have his failures. He may stumble and fall. He may not be perfect in every way, but he is MY DAD! I am so grateful that I have him in my life. He and my Mom are amazing. Not just for what they can do, but because of how hard they try. In this I hope to emulate them. So today, this Father’s Day, I honor my Dad. I hope to be like him. I hope to love like him. I hope to have faith like him. And I hope that my children will get to know him very well.

Love you Dad.

Your son,

Brian Middleton