Gilland: A Father’s love, life and legacy

Mike and James Gilland
Mike and his Dad, James G. Gilland.
Photo courtesy Mike Gilland

I was one of those “fortunate sons,” one who was privileged to have a Dad who was active in my life. And I got to have him for a long time, as he lived to be 89 before passing away on July 4, 2015.

Allow me to flash back to my early years in Indiana, where as a boy I grew up with a Dad who loved hunting, fishing, baseball and basketball (Hey, in Indiana, EVERYONE loves basketball!). Those were not solitary pastimes for my Dad…he shared them with me, and I grew up with many years’ worth of rich experiences of time spent together.

I grew up in a day without the internet, without video games…so our times together were mostly in the great outdoors, shooting buckets or guns, working on a mini-bike or casting a line at a friend’s lake. I spent many summers helping my Dad earning an income as his apprentice, learning his trade of home improvement. Whether it was applying aluminum siding or asphalt roofing, I witnessed his strong work ethic, and I never had a doubt that my Dad worked hard for his family.

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When I played first base in Little League, my Dad would always be in the stands cheering me on. And even though my Dad was never fond of large crowds, he took me to every home basketball game for the Evansville Purple Aces during a magical championship season when their roster included Jerry Sloan, later the head coach of the Utah Jazz.

I learned my first guitar chords from my Dad, playing around on his acoustic guitar, trying to emulate the way that he made those chords on those six strings. Now, that pastime really stuck with me and I found myself in a Christian band, touring the three states adjacent to my hometown. From concert halls to small churches, my Dad and my Mom were our biggest fans. As he had done with my love for sports, now he was doing the same for my music. He was always there.

How can I adequately honor someone who counted time with me as being more important than his own interests? While our personalities were different in so many ways, to this day I am still reminded of how deeply ingrained my Father’s influences were in my own life. I regularly find myself prefacing a statement with, “Just like my Dad always said….” His proverbial nuggets of practical wisdom are tightly sewn through my life.

When I met Cindy, my Dad was immediately for her, and he would jump to her defense the very moment he thought I wasn’t showing her proper consideration. After we married, my Dad excitedly gave up his payment for an entire week’s worth of work just to help me have a down payment for our first home.

I will never be able to adequately convey just how grateful I am for my Dad. It is not like we never had disagreements or that we always related together perfectly. But we always worked things out, and we were always stronger for the effort. That kind of outcome happens when you have a Dad who loves deeply, works sacrificially, and supports tirelessly. Dad, that perfectly describes you, and I am so grateful that I can look back on such a heritage. I miss you more than I can say and I will always love you.

Happy Father’s Day!

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