GUEST VIEW: My dad was my greatest teacher and inspiration

By Van Yandell

Psalms 103:13 “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.”

My dad wasn’t a rich man in money or possessions. All he ever knew was work; rest a little while and go back to work.

Keeping food on the table and the bills paid were an everyday struggle for him. Yet he did not seem to worry. He trusted God to provide and give him the strength to keep on.

He lived through the Great Depression and World War Two. He did not serve in the military because of an accident with acid in his youth that took part of his eyesight.

Dad worked as a chemist for United States Steel in the 40s and 50s. He analyzed fluorspar in a laboratory in Crittenden County Kentucky at the Lafayette Mines. In 1951, he was sent to West Texas by the company to do the same job. We lived in the town of Marathon, and at times Dad had to be in Alpine or Eagle Pass, Texas.

Daddy would go into what he called “Old Mexico” to analyze fluorspar. He developed a friendship with many of the Mexican people. One of his stories was of a time he and several Mexican miners were camped in the mountains.

He awoke in the middle of the night to find them circled around his position. Later, he discovered this was because there were so many poisonous snakes (rattlers) in the area and the men were protecting him.

He crossed the Rio Grande at Boquillas del Carmen in a bucket hanging on a rope between trees on opposite sides of the river. He at times told me of his experiences, but never had a minute’s regret. I suppose it was from him I learned one’s experiences are the greatest treasures one can have on earth.

My mother refused to live in Texas any longer and because of her, we moved back to Kentucky in 1953 where I started first grade. Dad bought three pool tables and the items needed to open a pool hall right after we moved back to Kentucky.

Mother was incessant in her concern because of the pool hall regarding it as a sinful activity (not because it was but because of what people would say). But we never complained about the food in our belly or the roof over our heads.

The math skills I learned in the pool hall helped get me through the fourth grade and to learn carpentry and other trades requiring extensive math skills. Dad taught me to work math in my head because it was quicker and I’m sure he regarded the practice as development of the mind.

Things I learned from my dad are my greatest education. He started me working when I was about 10 years of age. By that time he was into plumbing, electrical and house painting. I still wonder where he learned those trades. He soon learned that trying to make a painter of me was pointless.

I recall once asking him “why?” The particular situation eludes my memory from over 60 years ago; it was likely a question concerning our work. He was not in a particularly good mood that day and snapped at me, “Don’t ask, just do it!”

That was a response I had never seen or heard from him and I said, “But Daddy, I really want to know why we are doing it this way.” He stopped whatever he was doing and took time to explain to me “why.”

After that, any time I did not understand a particular method or technique, he took time to explain it to me. I think he appreciated my eagerness to learn and saw value in the time taken to explain.

We took time to occasionally go hunting or fishing. I was probably about six years old when I caught a fish about four inches long. It would not have made a fillet for an ant but we took it home, dressed it and cooked it. It was somewhat of a disappointment but I remember us laughing about “our big meal.”

The stories of our work and play experiences could go on and on, but the real treasure was being with him. He died in 1984 and I still miss him very much. No one can even begin to imagine how much I treasure those times together unless you had such a father.

Many boys and girls in America are being raised by a single parent or grandparents. Not to sell them short because many are doing a great job. Scripturally speaking, raising a child is a two-parent job. Genesis 2:24 “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one.”

Exodus 20:12 “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” From this verse, I feel confident in saying, God honors a two parent family. A child (boy or girl) needs the influence of a male and female in their lives.

I fully know many will disagree but the new rules made by man do not override God’s rulebook. New beliefs based on mankind’s notions may be acceptable to many people but they’re not to God. Only His opinion matters.

I bought Dad a new King James Bible in the late 70s. From that Bible, he taught a men’s Sunday school class. The class grew to such a large enrollment the room became crowded. The class was divided rather than finding a larger room. Both classes died as a result. My dad was so depressed over that, he became mostly inactive in church activities.

When he died his Bible became mine and I can confidently say I cherish it above all other earthly possessions. It is starting to fall apart. A large percentage of its weight is of glue and black duct tape. I saw Dad reading that Bible many times. That is a vision engraved in my mind forever.

Of all the things Dad taught me, to believe Christ Jesus was and is the Savior of the world and He gave his life for our sins. This is at the top of the list. He believed that and so do I.

I’ve had many great experiences and many great blessings. At the top of the list without doubt is the father I had and will always have in my memories. Fortunate, blessed or lucky, my dad was my teacher, my inspiration and my spiritual foundation. Could a father possibly leave anything better to a child?

Only God knows how much I miss him and wish I could go back in time, if only for a few minutes, and talk to him and tell him how much I love him.

At times he corrected me when I misbehaved or did something he saw as disrespectful or hurtful to someone. I’m sure there were times I was a disappointment to him but he never stated those; only encouragement came from him.

Yes, I’m the luckiest guy in the world and my dad is the reason. Thank you Jesus for this great gift and memory you have given me. Amen.

Happy Father’s Day 2024

Van Yandell is a retired Industrial Arts teacher, an ordained gospel evangelist and commissioned missionary.