With Father’s Day looming this week, my thoughts always turn toward my own father and the other men who have had a tremendous influence in my life. A few years ago, I came across a quote that stuck with me: “For a boy to become a man requires the presence of another man.” That got me thinking about all of the “other men” in my life and led to a series of posts entitled “Another Man”. Leading up to Father’s Day this year, I’m going to re-post that series this week, along with a few new entries as well.
Here’s the first entry I did in the “Another Man” series, a post dedicated to Alan Shates, my father-in-law:
I met Alan Shates 15 years ago the summer before my Senior year of high school. Our initial introduction was completely random; my friend Lane and I were driving around and decided to stop by unannounced to visit this girl he used to date. Her dad came to the door, told us she wasn’t there (she was actually at work) and we said goodbye. I would have no way of realizing at that moment that this man would come to mean so much to me.
Alan and his wife, Stephanie, married young and had their children quite early. Consequently, Alan had to work extremely hard to provide for his family, a work ethic inherited by his daughter. When I first started coming around, I was a little intimidated by Alan. (I suppose every boy should feel that way about his girlfriend’s father.) It didn’t help that I drove a Honda Accord and Alan was an employee of the Ford Motor Co. But I knew I was “in” when I had to call him to borrow some cash to pay for dinner on a date with Sunny. (After the check came, I realized I’d forgotten my wallet!) He bailed me out with a chuckle and some kind words: “It happens to all of us, Jason.”
As the years passed, I developed tremendous respect for Alan. When I decided to propose to Sunny, I sought his approval first. I’m sure they knew what I wanted when I called and asked to come over. Said I needed to ask them something. We sat down in the living room and I stammered my way through my rehearsed speech. I told him I didn’t know how much money I’d make as a minister, but I promised that I would do whatever I had to do to take care of his daughter. But before I could finish, he again spoke words of grace: “I’m not worried about that, Jason. You love each other and the Lord will take care of you.”
I’ve learned much from Alan in the years since I married his daughter. He has a wealth of experience and I’m thankful that he is always willing to share that experience with me. My father-in-law is the “go to” guy for me now. From handyman questions to financial advice to parenting tips, he’s always the first one I call when I have a question. Our relationship was taken to a new level when Joshua and Abby Kate were born. I’ve said this before, but the 9 days Abby Kate spent in the NICU and the 31 days Joshua spent there were the worst days of my life. Again, Alan’s words brought me comfort during those trying days. One of those first few nights, as he and I sat with Joshua outside his little isolette in the NICU, I just broke down. “I’m really having a hard time with all of this,” I said. Alan tearfully encouraged me to be faithful to God, even in circumstances I couldn’t understand. “God’s gonna take care of this little guy,” he told me. He couldn’t have been more right.
Alan, I don’t know if you’ll ever read this. But if you do, this is my way of thanking you for who you are in my life. Your influence helps me love your daughter and grandchildren better. You’re a good man and I thank you for helping me become the man I am today.