What My Dad Said About Fathers

“Who can find a virtuous man? For his price is far above diamonds.” (Not Proverbs 31:10, but it well could be.)

My father, Carl J. McKeever (1912-2007), was someone who no one met ever forgot.

Like a certain son of his, he was a talker. Like that same son, he was interested in a thousand things and enjoyed good food, hearty laughter, and great conversation with friends. And he loved to write.

What’s interesting about his love for writing is he had a seventh-grade education. As the oldest of an even dozen children, he left school to help support the family when he was 12, and entered the coal mines to work alongside his father two years later. His formal education may have ended, but dad was always learning and thinking and paying attention.

Most of his writing was done on note pads, in a lovely script that schools taught back in the 1920s. Something called the Palmer Method. To his death at the age of 95, his handwriting was impressive. Those notes he wrote were legible and intelligent, and remarkable for a coal miner.

I’m leading up to sharing one of them with you. My brother Ron handed me this in Pop’s handwriting a few days ago during our brief visit at the restaurant in Jasper, Alabama.

Dad titled it My Idea of An Ideal Father. Here it is, verbatim, except I changed a pronoun or two…

My idea of an ideal father is a man who quietly and modestly in the sphere of his life fulfills his duty as a man, a citizen, a husband or a father; who shows reverence for God without self-interest; whose heart beats warm with friendship; whose serene mind is open for licensed pleasure; who in changes of circumstances and fortune does not despair; nor in fortune be presumptuous, and is resolute in the hour of danger.

A man who is free from superstition and free from infidelity, who in nature sees the handiwork of the Eternal God, to whom Faith, Hope, and Charity are not mere words without meaning; to whom property and life are not dear for the protection of innocence and virtue, and for the defense of the truth.

A man who toward himself is a severe Judge, but who is tolerant with the weakness of his neighbors; who endeavors to oppose errors without arrogance, to propagate intelligence with abruptness; who properly understands how to estimate and employ his means; who honors virtue, though it be clothed in the most humble garment, and who administers justice to merit whether dwelling in palaces or cottages.

A man who without courting applause is loved by all sound-minded men, respected by his superiors and revered by his subordinates; a man who will never proclaim what he has done, what he will do, or what he can do, but where need is, will lay hold with dispassionate courage, circumspect, resolution, indefatigable exertion and rare power of mind; who will not cease until he has accomplished his work but who then, without pretension will return unto the multitude because he did the good act, not for himself, or any advantage for himself, but for the cause of the good.

This to me is the personification of the ideal Father. My, how I wish I were this man.

A couple of words about this gentleman who was my father….

1) Dad joined only two things in his life that I know of, other than the local Free Will Baptist Church at the age of 21. For over seventy years, he belonged to the Black Creek Lodge of the F&AM (Masons) and Local Union 6855 of the United Mine Workers of America, both based in Nauvoo, Alabama. He worked hard at both and was frequently an officer. He rarely spoke of the Masons, but was outspoken in his support of the working man.

2) Once as a teenager, I rode with Dad into town when he was headed to the mines at Gorgas, Alabama for the evening shift. He dropped me off at my girlfriend’s house and picked me up on his way back that evening. (That was one long date!) Dad had two or three riders with him. That afternoon, as we rode down the highway, those men were talking and arguing mildly. They interrupted each other and talked over one another’s words. But when Carl McKeever spoke, suddenly the car became quiet and everyone listened. A kid never forgets that.

3) The piece above is rather unusual, even for Pop. No one speaks that way today, but when Pop was growing up, it was not unusual for speakers at school and community to deliver such orations. So, Dad was a son of his generation, and expressed his thoughts as he had been taught.

4) Dad was a wonderful father in a hundred ways, although not without his faults (which will not be mentioned here, thank you). He bought me my first Bible when I was eight. About that time, he would invite me to get my stuff and sketch him as he sat in front of the radio at night after supper. He would drift off to sleep, then wake up and ask to see what I had. Dad was not an artist, but had a good eye for composition. He would say, “You need to move the eye up” or “lower the ear.” I would erase and draw and he would go back to sleep. I miss him every day.

5) Dad’s favorite scripture was Proverbs 22:1. “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor above silver and gold.” Dad left his six children a good name.

6) I had no idea Pop knew what indefatigable meant.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for a dad who knew the standard and worked at measuring up. Thank you for all the ways he got it right. I’m grateful for good memories and am always honored when family members say, “You look just like your old man.” I think to myself, “I wish!”


Photo by edward musiak via Flickr

Joe McKeever
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