by: Richard Black
I once saw an interview where a celebrity was asked about his heroes, those who had most influenced his life. And I thought, I should have a heroes list. So, I began a mental list and the first person I put on it was born Robert Dilmon Black. Most called him Dilmon and at work he was Blackie. But to me, he was Dad. Of all the people, teachers, professors, pastors I’ve known, none has taught me more than did my father.
First and foremost he showed me what it was to be a man. I believe that most of the qualities of manhood Jesus Christ exhibited on earth could also be seen in Dad.
He was a man of faith who gave God not only a financial tithe but a tithe of service. He taught Sunday school, chaperoned the youth group and never missed a work project at the church.
He was a gentle man; difficult to anger. I remember the last spanking he gave me. It was on the back porch. Actually, it was over his knee, on my butt, on the back porch. I don’t remember my offense, those were impossible to keep track of for they were legion. But I remember the spanking. He used his belt. I cried after the first smack even though it didn’t hurt. He stopped at three whacks – none of them hard enough to even sting. He stopped because it did hurt him more than it hurt me. Yet, I learned so much about the heart of a father.
He was a hard worker. I could count the number of days he missed work on one hand. He arrived on time and worked a full shift or more. His example taught me the value of showing up, the importance of faithfulness in everything, even the day-to-day drudgery of a job.
He could grow things. How he loved his garden. How I hated that garden. The scariest words in the summer were, “we’re going to the garden.” I knew that meant we’re going to the garden until the sun goes down. I think that’s why I love a good summer rain; couldn’t go to the garden when it was wet. We weeded and hoed and harvested. Quarts and quarts of strawberries. Tons of carrots, radishes, onions and lettuce. Buckets and buckets of peas, bean and tomatoes. Boy could he grow tomatoes. I may be prejudice but I have never tasted a better tomato than Dad’s; red and yellow, big, round, firm and delicious. And I remember learning about the real world in first grade. Peas were on the menu. I love peas but the mushy, sickly colored sludge they put on my tray were not peas. They were one level from toxic waste. Dad grew peas, real peas.
He was patient. There were six children under one roof; kids who had/have their failings. He made sure we finished school, went to church and respected each other. As well, it was expected we would respect our mother. There was no greater offense than to disrespect Mom. He taught us all to drive; six kids!! I taught one to drive and almost lost my sanity, he did it six times. And those occasions that we had bumps and stumbles, he never showed his disappointment when we came home.
That home was a safe place. It was warm and comfortable. Free of danger. It was filled with love and acceptance. All our needs and some of our wants were met. I know what it means to be rich, for I watched a wealthy man freely give of his wealth to those he loved. Yet, he never asked for anything in return.
He was forgiving. Never can I recall him ever bringing up my past mistakes. I know I must have let him down a time or two but I don’t know how or when or where. He never told me; they were all forgotten.
Over the years, heroes have come and gone. The list has grown and shrunk. But one name has never left it. One person has and always will be my hero.
In college I read a book entitled, The Lord Is My Parole Officer. It was a collection of letters by troubled teens with negative father figures. To assist them in understanding God as their Father, they were encouraged to write about a positive male role model in their lives and relate him to God. I have no problem imagining God as my Father. When I arrive in heaven, the face of God will not be a surprise to me. Because I have seen his image here on Earth. He was Dilmon Black, my hero, my father, my Dad. And I am proud to be his son.