Father’s Day is just around the corner. This special day of celebration has taken on renewed significance for me in my later years.

My father passed away on Father’s Day, 17 years ago. It seems I miss him more with the passing of the years.

I am one of those fortunate sons who can say my father was the best man I have ever known. He was a prince of a man.

He was kind and patient in dealing with his children. He was equally kind and considerate in his relationship with our mother. As someone once said, “He was as good as gold.”

One day, a couple of weeks back, found me teddering hay. When I was a boy, we didn’t tedder hay. We cut it with a sickle mower, we raked it, my father baled it, and we hauled it in. Today, we tedder, “roll” and “move” hay.

As I rode long, I noted my counterparts in hay harvesting — my friend, James Fisher, was raking and my son, Joseph, was baling — were enjoying the comforts of air-conditioned tractor cabs. In the 90-plus-degree weather, I was enjoying the comforts of a wide-brimmed, straw hat, sunglasses, and a long-sleeved shirt.

I was also enjoying the pleasure of driving one of my late father’s tractors, which I purchased when my brothers, my sister, and I settled our late parents’ estate years ago.

Suddenly, my attention was drawn skyward. On this day, the sky was as blue as blue can be, and the rich blue was accented by big, deep, cumulus clouds that looked like giant cotton balls scattered across the sky.

And in that fletting moment, I recognized the blue of the sky matched the blue in my father’s eyes, and I thought of him.

My father had a quiet bashfulness about him. And he had a playful sense of humor. He was fun to be around. Even when the work was hard, he had a way of lightening things up with a teasing word, or a joking rebuke, or a smile with a sparkle in his blue eyes.

And my father never seemed to be in a hurry.

As younger farmers began to work in our community, my brothers and I started to notice that some were in their fields by daylight. We began to call our father’s attention to that fact. It never seemed to bother him.

Come rain or shine, planting time or harvest time, he ate his breakfast promptly at 6:30 a.m., and his workday started sometime thereafter.

He lived the life he loved. He was a farmer through and through.

He loved the land he worked. He was a working man.

My father had tremendous forearms. In the summer they were tanned a deep Indian-red. He rolled the long sleeves of his shirts up above his elbows, which kept the color of his upper arms as fair as a baby’s bottom. And his forehead was just as fair from his wearing a hat or cap. And his hands … they were the big, strong hands of a working man. I shall never forget my father’s big, strong hands.

His clothes usually had the smell of tractor fuel (diesel) about them.

My mother said he was never bothered by flea, or tick or chigger.

The passing of the years has yielded in me an ever-deepening appreciation for my father. His life and influence are among my greatest blessings.

I guess you might say that Father’s Day came a little early for me this year. But I have learned to savor blessings wherever and whenever they might appear. This year, I celebrated while driving an old tractor, in a hay field under a blue sky.

Here’s wishing your Father’s Day will be blessed with many loving words, given and received, warm thoughts and priceless memories.

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