There are many reasons why Father's Day is special to me.
My dad, Gene Cannon, taught me the virtues of hard, honest work and more importantly the joy of love. He modeled the love of Christ in good times and bad and still gives me a glimpse of my Heavenly Father's unconditional love on a daily basis.
Last fall when I was told a cancerous tumor would cost me my right kidney, he offered me one of his. Although I chuckled when I asked him why I would want an 84-year-old kidney, I have no doubt he would have gladly given it.
I'm also thankful the Lord allowed me the opportunity for a father-son relationship with another man.
Bruce Sullivan was my best friend during my mid-to-late teens and his parents, Louis and Grace Sullivan, welcomed me into their home, treated me as one of their own. I still have a warm spot in my heart for them.
Bruce and I worked at Red Food Store together. During the summer, we'd head to his house after work. By midnight we were cooking frozen pizzas we had loaded down with extra toppings and cheese and watching TV until 2 or 3 in the morning.
My parents didn't mind me staying out late when school was out because they knew where I was and that I was in good hands.
“Dad” Sullivan still reminds me of his waking up in the middle of the night to the overwhelming smell of pizza or cookies baking.
However this Father's Day I want to reflect on the reason I get to celebrate this day.
While in Missouri taking my parents to a family reunion over Memorial Day weekend, I sent a Happy Birthday text (yes I can do that lol) to my daughter Mary Beth. I told her I was too young to have three children in their 20s. Using the Cannon wit she got a good dose of, she quipped, ‘Don't worry Bobby will be 30 in the fall.’”
It's hard for me to grasp that I've been a father almost 10 years longer than I wasn't.
Bobby Joe (Robert Joseph) was born while I was pastoring my first church in Hayti, Mo. After being sent home from the hospital on our first try that October night, we went back a couple of hours later for the long wait of his arrival.
In 1980, Pemiscot County General wouldn't even let me in the labor room. So while not knowing what was going on with my wife and child, I was stuck in a waiting room of hard plastic chairs, no TV and about 15 people “three sheets to the wind,” who were celebrating the impending birth of their new family member.
After about 16 hours of waiting (part of which I snuck to the car for a nap), they rolled out my “twilight”- filled wife. She asked me if I had seen him yet before she lapsed out of consciousness.
It would be another hour or so before I was allowed to see my first born son through the glass of the nursery.
Just under 25 months later, while we were pastoring our second church in Union City, Tenn., Kevin Daryl decided to start his decent at 7 on a Wednesday morning, waking me from a good sleep.
This time I got to go into the labor room for about 10 minutes every hour. The rest of the time I was playing Rook in the waiting room with fellow pastor, Doyle Sykes.
When it got to be around 5 p.m. and the doctor said it was going to be a good while longer, I made a quick trip to the drive through at Wendy's and headed to the house for a much-needed shower before my next trip back to the labor room.
When I got to the house something told me to call the hospital. The nurse told me to hurry back because Kevin had decided to make his appearance.
After having just the two boys for eight years, Mary Elizabeth Nicole (the first name was a last-second surprise from her mother as she was supposed to be just “Beth”) while I was in my first stint with the Banner.
The only one of my children born at the same hospital I was, Bradley Memorial, I got to experience the entire labor process, including the miles of walking around the hall, during the five hours leading up to her 9 a.m. birth.
I could have stayed in the delivery room for the birth, but I figured there was enough screaming going on in that room. They didn't need to have to deal with mine as well.
Instead my mother and I waited in the hallway while the midwife did the delivery. We did get a chuckle out of Dr. Chambers, who came by in case there was a problem. He was dressed in kaki shorts and matching shirt, black socks and hiking boots. With his wire-rimmed glasses, if he'd had a butterfly net he would have looked like Mr. Weatherby in the old Archie comics on one of his safaris.
Four years later on my birthday I got the news we were going to have our final child, a gentle reminder from the Lord that He is in charge of these things as I had “taken care of it” just a week before.
We knew we were going to have our hands full with this one (as if Kevin's ADD wasn't enough) when she refused to come out despite the doctor trying to prevent an interuption to his weekend by inducing labor on a Thursday.
As the brother she takes after so much, Vanessa Faith had to disrupt her pastor father's church services, deciding Sunday morning was the best time for her arrival.
After waking the boys up to watch Mary Beth and calling one of our church ladies to come get them, we drove like Buford Pusser was chasing us through McNairy County to get to the Selmer hospital 25 miles away.
The labor was quick and the doctor (I think to pay me back for messing up his weekend plans) forced me to go into the delivery room since it was going to be my last chance.
As “the show” was stepping into high gear, I noticed the mirror at the foot of the table I was supposed to use to watch the birth was out of alignment, so I couldn't see anything. I thanked God for the favor and kept my mouth shut.
After the doctor held up this little Smurf that looked like an eggplant gone bad covered in jello, he asked me if I wanted to cut the chord. I declined telling him that was what I was paying him for.
Seeing an opportunity to get away from the table (I knew wasn't finished with the fun), I followed the nurse to the other side of the room where she began to clean my darling baby. I was proud not only of my new daughter but of the fact I was still on me feet and not feeling too bad.
That was until the nurse started to suction out my angel's mouth and nose. Hearing that sound and seeing the gunk coming out through the tube did it.
I turned white as a sheet and before I could excuse myself to step out of the room, I went down like a sack of wet cement.
That's been almost 16 years ago and it hasn't been the only time my darlings have caused my head to swim.
Although their choices haven't always been what I would have preferred and sometimes I wonder if they have any sense at all, they have turned out to be good men and young women.
They have the core values passed on to me from my father. While, like all of us, they have their faults, they are caring, loving individuals who will help anyone at anytime.
I have had many compliments on the quality character of my children and I have always responded the same way, “Are you sure we're talking about my kids?”
When I declined my dad's offer of his kidney, I told him I had plenty of spare parts to chose from the abundance of God's best blessings in my life.
Like their grandpa, I have no doubt if I needed a donation (of body parts not money), any of the four of them would gladly make the sacrifice. One did state a preference not to share unless absolutely necessary.
Happy Father's Day! Take time to be thankful for those who made this day possible for you.
P.S. I realize this hasn’t been a true “sports” column, so to justify it being in the sports section let me say how proud I am all all the dads (and moms) who emphasize sportsmanship and honestly rather than winning at any cost.