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My dad is a great dad because he cares

When most people hear about my father, Dennis Gettman, they immediately define him by the numbers surrounding him.

My dad has 16 children, 16 in-laws, 51 grandchildren, 1 great-grandson with another 4 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild on the way.

All told, he has 84 descendants and counting. People generally have two responses to this revelation: usually they tell him he’s crazy or they tell him, in not-so-gentle terms, that maybe he enjoys my mom’s company a bit too much. The truth is that both responses miss the most obvious characteristic about my dad: he is a faithful servant.

My parents moved to Medford in the late ‘70s. When they arrived, all they could afford was a 1,300-square-foot, three-bedroom house to fit their five children. My dad, who up to that point had no construction experience, knew he needed to build a bigger house. He read up on the building regulations and, over the course of several years, transformed the house into a 3,300-square-foot, seven-bedroom house.

I look back at pictures from that time period with more than a bit of awe. He would work a full day and then come home and work all night. Despite all of this effort, when I asked him about it, he smirked and said, “Well, we needed the room.” That’s it, no bitterness, no frustration, just a smile about the memories.

My dad also made sure to spend time with us. We would do Bible study every single weekday morning. He would take the youngest of us and put them on his lap, then he would engage all of us in talking about God. He’d also play catch in the front yard, swim with us in the backyard and play knock-out at the basketball hoop. When he finally retired a few years back, his service only increased. On a given day he can be found at the local Gospel Rescue Mission, or visiting shut-ins, or teaching shop class to his gaggle of grandchildren.

As I have grown older and have felt the weight of responsibility, my appreciation for my father has increased exponentially, because I can better understand the magnitude of his commitment to serve, and care for, the people around him.

So many stories come to mind, but potentially the best one does not involve any of us kids. One holiday morning this year, my dad was walking with my sister at the mall and noticed a pair of homeless women who were trying to escape the cold. My dad started talking to them and eventually invited them to stay at my parent’s house. Being the holidays, my family and I came over to my parent’s house to visit. Dad introduced me to these women, a mom and her adult daughter, and we ate some food and chatted through the evening. I had assumed they were friends from the past, and when I asked dad about them he told me they were homeless and, “I figured they needed a room.”

That’s it, no great sense of achievement, no pomposity, just a smile on his face thinking about the women he could serve.

My dad is a great dad not because of his children or his grandchildren or his great-grandson, he is great because he cares for the people around him.

Andrew Gettman lives in Medford.

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