Father’s Day Memoriam — David Lee McAtee

My Father, David Lee McAtee, was born in 1936 in the midst of the poverty of the great depression. He was born into a farm home where his Mom, who was single and pregnant, was forced to marry a man who had several children already and had recently lost his wife in childbirth. Dad was never sure if the man his Mom married was really his Dad.

I never knew my Dad’s Dad as he died before I was born. What little I pieced together over the years suggested that my Dad’s Dad was ‘bad to drink,’ and that he took his liquor out on his son, my Dad. As is the case with many women who are pregnant out of wedlock, my Dad’s mom was overprotective of my Dad to a fault. All this is to say that my Dad’s upbringing was difficult.

He fled home immediately after high school enlisting in the US Army Paratroopers. Dad didn’t speak much of the war years in Korea but what little he did speak suggested that he was uncomfortable with his role in Korea. He once made an offhand comment about shooting people the way he shot rabbits when we went hunting. I don’t ever remember my Father shooting a gun and missing what he was aiming at. Dad was eventually given a medical discharge for a injury received while jumping with his unit. Somewhere around here there is a picture of him in some military magazine in a hospital shaking hands with some visiting British dignitary.

Between his messed up upbringing and his messed up time in the military my Father was a hard man who had a difficult time functioning in social settings. His cruelty, learned from his own Father, carried over into his own family especially to his eldest son. In retrospect, and as odd as it might sound, I think Dad was mean to his eldest because he had the greatest fondness for him. His inability to function in social surroundings took him through a series of revolving jobs. I remember him as a union president at a local factory. I remember him as a salesman, though for the life of me I couldn’t tell you what he sold. I remember him, because I was one of his assistants, along with my siblings, delivering newspapers at 2:00 am on Sunday Mornings. I remember him as an accountant. His revolving jobs meant that Mom did most of the bread-winning in the family. This was a reality that itself caused a great deal of anxiety for him, I think.

Dad had a hard time earning money but he didn’t have a hard time spending it. He loved guns and fishing gear. He also loved books. He didn’t let the fact that he couldn’t afford these things get in the way of actually purchasing them on credit. In later years this came back to bite him as he had to sell many of his collectible firearms in order to square up with the IRS — the one creditor who insists on being paid.

As a boy I remember playing with those weapons while Dad was at work. I never fired them because I knew he would find that out but I would handle each weapon being awed by the craftsmanship.

Whereas men could get away with cruelty in their marriages in earlier generations and get away with it more easily, the times were changing. This meant that the cruelty that Dad carried into his marriage eventuated in his divorce. Women, in the 70’s, while still not having good options in a bad marriage still had more options then their mothers had.

Perhaps, surprising to us all, Dad was able to make a reasonable go at a second marriage, but eventually his spending habits and his inability to hold a job brought tensions into that marriage. His second wife, who was in many ways a kind woman, died not long after their 10th anniversary.

I’ve always thought that Dad’s life may have been a little more adjusted if he had worked with the Department of Natural Resources or something where he could be outdoors. The great outdoors seemed to be the one place where he was able to escape his demons. He was a outstanding fisherman, huntsman and woodsman. He also knew a great deal about hunting dogs. Growing up we always seemed to have a least one beagle and two bird dogs. As I mentioned earlier he also was quite the marksman. I have many fond memories of fishing and hunting with him. I remember hunting rabbits with him accompanied by the neighbors. Both of the hunting parties had Beagles but one of the dogs was particularly high pitched while the other had a bass voice. When the two of them got on a rabbit trail together it was a kind of beautiful sound I’ve never heard since.

Often it was Dad’s habit to say to me after returning from a hunting trip in the evening, “The man in the moon thinks your a goon.” Kind of a funny thing to remember, but it seemed to be a little game he liked to play. Once home we would make sure the dogs were well taken care of and we would proceed to clean the wild game that we shot. I’m not sure now, 35 years later, if I could remember how to skin an animal but when I was 13 I could do it with my eyes closed.

It has been 7 years now since Dad died. I can’t say I have anymore regrets now that he is gone then I did while he was living. My regrets are found in his difficulty to form attachments with those he loved. My regrets are found in in my inability to find a way through his difficulties.

In many ways I am a great deal like my Father. I’ve often thought of myself as a Christian version of my Dad minus the baggage plus God’s incredible saving grace.

On this Fathers Day I thank God for my Dad, being certain that God used him in my life to bend me in the direction that he wanted me bent and I pray that I might be the Father to my son that my Dad struggled being to his children.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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