Leader of the Band

As I wait and mentally prepare myself to become a father later this year, my mind wanders over the various examples of dads I have seen in my time. Obviously, standing starkly out from the rest is my own father. I think of what I valued in his leadership or what I should do differently. As this coming week brings me to the sixth year since he died, I reflect on his model more.

I certainly valued his quiet manner and patience, his commitment to marital fidelity, and his willingness to sacrifice for me and the rest of the family. He introduced me to many classic movies and great classic music. He was much handier with tools than I’ll ever be. He was faithful in church, and though not the most outspoken, involved himself however he could whether teaching Sunday school or getting a CDL just to drive a bus for older folk to get to church.

He wasn’t perfect, of course. His temper could flare up when provoked too far (i.e., me hitting my sister with the bill of a baseball cap). He could be a little too shy at times and his corny dad-humor was often cringe-worthy (unfortunately, I think I’m doomed to carry that tradition onward). But for his imperfections, I would still conclude he was a good man and a good dad; I’m glad that he was my father and set a good example.

Following that precedent, though, now that I come to it, seems very daunting. I understand some of the challenges my own parents faced in raising me. I suppose it’s inevitable. As a child, you think you know everything and you’re always right. Growing into adulthood you realize painfully that’s not true. How will I fare with a stubborn child? How can I convey to them what only years of experience and growth can teach? Can I pass on to them the legacy my dad left to me? (perhaps minus the corny jokes)

A song I think about in connection to this is Dan Fogelberg’s “Leader of the Band.” In it the singer wrestles with carrying on the musical tradition laid out by his father. He feels inadequate, his life being “a poor attempt to imitate the man.” Yet he concludes, “I am the living legacy to the leader of the band.” I, too, can only hope to be as good of a father as my own and to improve upon the foundation he laid.

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