This is Father’s Day weekend…..many still have their father nearby-or at least still alive. But many-like me-do not…..my father, Arnold Nauman, lived from 1926-2007. If you’ve read many of my previous blogs, you know that he had a General Store in rural upstate New York for over 40 years. He always had to work 6 days a week, averaging 70 hours each week all those years, as he provided for my mother and 7 children. Dad was always busy and working BUT …..my siblings and I always knew that if we had a real problem—he was always available to listen and offer advice.
On my 7th birthday I started working in the store, and I loved it! For the ages of 7, 8 & 9, all I was allowed to do was dust and clean shelves & items on the shelves, sweep the floors, wash windows etc. But I was working and earning money…..and of course my Dad was now my boss too! (I didn’t even realize it at the time, but he also became my mentor, because that’s when I started observing and learning the basics of business!)
I continued working with my Dad as he taught me more and more about the business and the “heart” of the business…..the people. He taught me that you always need to be ready with a kind word—whether you’re buying or selling. He said: “God puts people in our paths for a reason, we don’t always know what it is, so at least be nice…..and maybe in time you’ll find out the reason!”
Even before I was out of high school, it was pretty clear that I was going to continue working in the store. By that time my father had taught me a lot about the buying patterns of the various merchandise and even though I didn’t like the big city, I had learned much of his “buying route” and the people he dealt with in Syracuse.
In the spring of 1977, Dad made me 1/3 partner of the General Store-as I planned to make that my life’s work…..This was also about the same time I visited a place called Elkhart Indiana! All the manufacturing and industry and ‘Help Wanted’ signs all over that city—was a “jaw dropping“ experience for me! I’d never seen anything like it!
As spring turned to summer, I was restless to say the least…..I no longer felt content working in the store…..I thought “maybe a new car will help” so I bought a 1977 Buick Regal, beautiful-loaded, with T-tops! It was nice but I still felt restless…..one of the things that bothered me was that partnership contract. Because as I started thinking about all the things that could help the store survive and even thrive, I thought how just a slight change in the makeup of the fragile local economy and the need for a General Store could evaporate!
After Labor Day I visited the Elkhart area again and everything was just as I remembered it from the spring. As I drove back to New York, I really felt like I needed to move…..But how could I tell my Dad? My taking over the store was his way out! I hadn’t even had that contract 6 months and I’m already going to break it? Well, I was miserable but I waited a couple of more weeks and told him that I was thinking of moving to Elkhart…..He was calm and just asked me some questions about it and if I was sure. I remember telling him that I was “almost sure but not quite“. In his own special way he said “what does that mean?” (My Dad would respond that way just to keep his kids thinking out loud) I told him that I had that contract to take over the store and I knew he was counting on me, plus if I move I’m sure I’ll get a job-but I have no idea what I’ll do-this is all I’ve done for 13 years! He said: “As far as the contract, if you want to move, you’re released and I couldn’t be happier for you. And you’ll find a job, just do your best, remembering that ultimately you’re working for The Lord….. so are you leaving?” I said: “I’m still not sure”…..followed by several days of yes, no, yes, no, yes, no, yes, no…..finally my Dad said: “It’s a beautiful afternoon. Take the afternoon off and just go for a long drive to figure out what you want to do. If you want to stay…..fine! If you want to move….. fine! But no more back and forth, I need an answer.”
So I hung up my apron, went out the back door, popped the T-tops off the car and got in. When I turned the ignition, my fingers slipped off the key and the car didn’t start-but the radio came on…..and I heard 3 words from a song and shut the key off…..the song? “Indiana Wants Me” (a 1970 song by R. Dean Taylor) I never started the car ….. I never took that drive. I put the T-tops back on, went back in the store, put my apron on…..My father saw me and said “I thought you were taking the afternoon off”, I said: “I don’t need to, I’m moving in 2 weeks!”
Over those next 2 weeks I said a lot of good byes and sorted through all my belongings-because I would be leaving with just what I could fit in my car! The last day I worked in the store was October 12, 1977–working until about noon so I could finish packing and loading my car, taking off in the morning!
I left the apartment above the store at 6 AM that cold October morning. As I got in my car to warm it up, I saw an envelope with my name on it (in my Dad’s handwriting) sitting on my steering wheel. (I remembered he had a set of keys to my car ‘just in case’). I decided not to open the envelope right away, but wait until maybe lunchtime…..I’ve kept that letter with my most valuable possessions for almost 41 years. I’ll let you read it now…..
As you leave here to strike out on your own, I want to say a few things to you.
First, I love you and pray for you every day-and I always will continue to do both. You have always been a good son-not needing much discipline. You are just about the age I was when I left Long Island. But you are making the opposite change that I did. I went from a populated area to nowhere, and you are going from nowhere to a populated area.
Some things I would remind you of would be the following:
1. Honor The Lord in your living and in your giving.
2. Select your intimate friends and dates from Christians.
3. Don’t fret about failures or mistakes. God forgives, and He may sometimes test you to see how you react to adverse situations and conditions.
4. Seek the help and guidance of your pastor if needed.
5. If things should not work out for you, you will always be welcome to come home.
I am proud of you as a son, and also proud that you are willing and desirous of going off on your own to a land where the opportunities are greater.
In a way, I envy you. But perhaps someday The Lord will work it out for all of us to follow you.
God bless you always.
As I read Dad’s letter again ….. I couldn’t help but think of how in 2007 Dad really went from “nowhere” to the greatest “populated area”….. and because of what Christ did for us…..we will follow him!
Thank you Dad.
Till Next Time…..