I want to be the kind of man who can wear boots with a suit. That may sound like a rather low aspiration in life. But hey, expectations change the older you get. Besides it doesn’t have anything to do with fashion for me. It’s more about the message you send when you can rock a pair of Luccheses with the finest formal attire in your closet. It says, “I can walk my baby girl down the aisle on her wedding day and still kick a door in if I have to.”
Tonight my dad wore boots for his deacon ordination service. That seemed more than appropriate. My old man has always been able to pull off the boots-and-suit combo. That’s what he wore when he started off as a small-town banker. That’s what he retired in as a public school superintendent. Of course, he had plenty of detours along the way — sort of took the long road through his professional career. For a while he drove a dump truck. Then had a stint with the sheriff’s office. He pulled midnight shifts watching oil rigs and spent several years selling used cars. Had some interesting days managing a liquor store, although I’m not sure he included that on whatever deacon application form his church requested. Still, the boots went with him, even if the venue changed.
I felt all the predictable emotions this evening. Gratitude. Joy. The kind of pride that won’t kill you. But I felt something I didn’t really expect. I felt a sense of hope. Specifically hope for myself. For the last few years I’ve had this persistent belief that my dad is a key — maybe the key — to understanding who I am. I’m not sure where that comes from or why it’s been so strong lately. Maybe it’s just part of having a family and growing older. What I realized tonight was that while my dad’s path in life hasn’t always been a direct one, he somehow found a way to remain who he is. I think that might be some of what Jesus meant when he talked about “losing your soul.” You lose your soul when you forget who you are.
I wonder if it’s too late for me to get fitted for a nice pair of boots. My friends would probably all laugh as I tried to nonchalantly walk across the room in them. Who knows, they might never fit my feet they way they do my father. Maybe I’ll just always be the son of the man who wore boots with his suit. If so, that would be fine by me. I know that I don’t have the future all figured out. On most days, I don’t even have the present figured out. But there’s a good set of tracks on the road, and I’ll follow them as long as I can.