But You Didn’t


Almost forty years ago my father gave me a wonderful little
plaque that said simply: “Never give up.” The Never Give Up plaque still hangs above my desk and contains three of the most powerful and important words I’ve ever heard or read.
I wrote the following poem just after learning that my dad, now seventy-six, has cancer. I wrote it to honor this very special man whom I have the privilege of calling my father.


Remember when I broke the window at the neighbor’s house? You know, the great big one? I tried to get you excited about the fact that I’d hit a home run in the process; But by the look on your face when you found out how much it was going to cost, I thought you were going to strangle me,


And remember when you found out that I had sold the Minister some books on how to mix drinks (that I’d found in the alley) just to make some extra money for Christmas presents? I thought for sure that you were going to tell me that there was going to be no more Christmas for me,


Do you remember, Dad, when I borrowed your best knife, kinda without your knowing it, and kinda lost it? Oh I felt awful. I knew that you were going to tell me that I was a screwed-up, irresponsible kid,


Remember, Dad, when I split my head open for the fourth time in only three years? For sure, I expected you to tell me that it was a really dumb thing to do,


O Dad, can you remember when you tried to teach me how to drive? And I became an instant imbecile, unable to remember which pedal did what, making the car jump up and down all over the road? I felt certain that you’d adopt me out to another family until I finally learned how to drive,


And, can you remember, Dad, when you let me use your car, for that “extra special” date and I got into an accident because I was trying to show off? I was afraid to come home because I told her you were going to ground me … for at lease a year,


O Dad, you were always surprising me, always loving me more than I ever deserved. Somehow you always knew just what I needed. Like, remember when I didn’t make the team that year and I came home in tears, feeling pretty sorry for myself? I was confident that you’d join me in my self-pity party.


Or, years later, when I finally made the All City and All State
teams and even got a scholarship to go to Stanford? I thought you’d be so impressed and tell me that now I “really had life made,”


I guess that’s why you didn’t seem so surprised when I got thrown in jail for “celebrating a little bit too hard” after a State
Championship game. Remember, Dad, (how could you ever forget) when you and Mom got a phone call at 4:30 in the morning from the chief of police asking you to come down to the jail and get your son? All the way home I waited and waited for you to blast me.


The first words, in fact the only words, you said to me were:
“Come on, son, let’s go have some breakfast.” How did you know, Dad? How did you know? At the time of most critical failure; at the very time when I knew that I had let you down the most, you knew, you remembered to remind me that I was your son – period … in spite of it all.

How did you know? For a man with only an eighth – grade
education and no time to read, because you were always working more than one job just to keep your family going, you were sure smart. No, more that that, Dad, you had some of that “wisdom” that must have come from the Other Father. You always told me that you and “The Man Upstairs” (as you were fond of calling Him) were pretty close friends. The years passed, and our friendship grew even closer. I can remember, Dad, the first time we had lunch together – just you and me,
alone. I was in my late twenties – almost a grown man. We laughed and you told me stories about your youth that I never knew before. That lunch seemed to go on forever. After that, you seemed even closer and I began to realize who you really were … and how much I really loved you. Memories … Special ones … Aren’t we fortunate, Dad, to have so many? Steve and I have a lot of rich memories, because you made sure that we experienced a lot of life … together.


When we used to go duck hunting at Midnight, our little dog, was so small that she couldn’t drag the ducks back?
When I brought forty-three kids home from a Young Life camp at three in the morning, to sleep on the floor?
When you and Mom could dance all night and still knock the socks off everybody at work the next day? When your sons finally graduated from college (it was something you always wanted for us)?


When Steve, your number – one son and my number – one friend, got married in Boston? What a grand celebration. You were so proud, When we couldn’t wrestle anymore?
When you got honored for being the top man in your region – an honor few men get (still working) at the age of seventy-four? When you first had to tell me that “California was a long ways away” and that you would like to come down, but maybe later…?

O Dad,

I’ve never quite had enough words to be able to tell you and Mom just how much I love you.

Remember when Pam and I finally got our first house and the
children came? We wanted so much for you to be able to come visit,


You couldn’t anymore. For a growing number of reasons. You
wanted to so much, but California was “such a long way.”

Remember, Dad, the day they broke the news to you that you had cancer? Everyone else seemed to fall to pieces,


Never have I been more proud of you, Pop. The quiet courage that you showed us all those years, sometimes when we weren’t even aware of it, has shown all the more brightly these past months. I never heard you complain. In fact, I’ve never seen you laugh more richly, Pop, and never seen you so much at peace. I’m understanding, at even deeper levels, those three precious words you gave me four decades ago.

“Never Give Up”,



From .. “What kids need most in a Dad.” By Tim Hansel

Computers for Christ – Chicago

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