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« You Can't Take It With You, So What Can You Do With It? | Main | What Now? »
Wednesday
Jun102009

Father's Day

As Father's Day is again approaching, I have been thinking about my father and what I learned from him.  My father was born in 1912, and was somewhat different from today's typical father.  He was from an era where dads were not so much into hugs and kisses.  Fathers from his era were content to let their actions speak of their love.  I cannot remember my dad ever initiating a hug, and if he ever kissed me it was when I was too young to remember.  But he worked hard, physically hard, providing for us, and I cannot remember ever wanting for anything for very long.  More importantly, I never doubted that he was proud to be my father.

Dad was not given to having long, "how you doing" types of discussions with me; that was the role my mother played.  Undoubtedly he relied on the experiences that he had had with his father, and that simply was not my grandfather's style either.  Because of this, I did not feel very close to my dad while I was a child.  In fact, I did not particularly care to be alone with my father at that age.  If I was with him when he was around his friends, I was pretty much expected to be seen and not heard.  That was the way children were expected to act at that time and place, and I did not especially appreciate that attitude.  He wasn't given to small talk with children and did not seem to know how to relate to small children especially well.  He just did not know how to "play" with a child.  Thus, I preferred to let him do his thing and I would do mine.

Dad never tried to be my "buddy;" that was a role best left to my friends.  He was, however, determined to be my dad.  As such he was there to correct me when he thought that was what I needed; he was there to challenge me to do my best, whatever pursuit I was undertaking; and he was there to point out right from wrong.  According to him, some things were wrong yesterday, they were wrong today, and they would still be wrong tomorrow.  He was there to be the dad, but we did share many happy times together through the years hunting, fishing, or playing catch, but I never mistook him for a buddy.  Buddies would overlook your faults and mistakes; dads did not.

Dad did provide a wonderful example and taught me many things by his actions.  He showed me what it meant to be a reliable friend and neighbor.  Many times I saw him leave the house after a hard day's work in the field to go to a neighbor's home to help with some need.  He personified reliable.  He demonstrated over and over how to sacrifice for your family, and he showed me what it meant to have faith in a higher power.  He demonstrated that there was honor in hard work, and he demonstrated what it meant to give an honest day's work for a day's pay.  He insisted that I too honor this principle as I grew older and began to have summer jobs.  He showed me that some things were not worth a fight, and that others were.  He believed that sometimes you folded your cards and walked away, and knowing when to do so was very important.  He also demonstrated that grumbling was generally a loosing game; you often simply had to play the hand that you were dealt.  And, very importantly, he taught me the importance of frugality and saving for the future.  One of the worst things he could say about someone was that "he must spend every cent he makes."  Over and over he stressed the importance of saving.  He was a child of the depression and this experience left its mark on him, and thus on me. 

As I grew older, we grew closer.  I suppose we began to understand one another a bit better.  I grew to appreciate that he had been the best father he could be with the talents he had, and he began to understand that I had grown up in a totally different generation.  We came to the point where we could sit and talk with one another and enjoy it.  I came to realize that he really had a wonderful sense of humor, and he proved to be a wonderful grandfather for mine and my sister's children.  Somewhere along the line he learned to talk with little children.  And as he grew older he took pains to insure that I understood that he was proud of the adults that my sister and I had become.  Though I had felt distant from my father for much of my early life, I felt quite close with him for the last several years of his life.  We never agreed on everything, but we were close; we both knew the love of a dad and his son.

 Dad was a physically strong man well into his later years.  He could walk me down hunting when he was eighty, and could do a day's work in his huge garden as well.  He had a wonderful retirement.  He seemed to enjoy life more and more as he aged.  I remember remarking once that I hoped that I would at some point enjoy retirement as much as he did.  He could easily spend an entire day tinkering around the farm and garden, going from one little project to the next.  He and my mom were extremely close; they practically defined the word "devoted," and this surely contributed to their success in retirement.  But then cancer took one of his eyes when he was about eighty; and then it returned and took his life at eighty-three.  

I was fortunate that I got to spend at least every other weekend with him during the last year of his life, and he continued to teach me important lessons during that last year.  He taught me what faith can mean at such a time; he taught me how to bear pain and indignity at such a time; and as my sister observed, he taught us how to die.  It was a painful lesson for me; by the time he left us I loved him dearly and appreciated him more than at any time of my life.  By then he had given me so much through the years.  He gave me a motor bike when I was about thirteen after I had hounded him for months, explaining over and over what a wonderful addition it would be for our entire family; and he gave me a spanking new car when I graduated from high school (much to my amazement)  He had given us gifts of money for many Christmases; and then when I was grown and had separated from the Air Force, he helped us buy a house with his rather meager nest egg and then spent days helping me with various projects around that house.  But I suppose of all the things he gave me and of all of the lessons he taught me, the lessons he taught me the last year of his life will be the ones that will stay with me the longest.  We had more than one heart-to-heart during that year, and I came to fully appreciate the man that he was.  I was indeed blessed to have such a father.  So, heres to you Dad, Happy Father's Day; we love you still!

 

Fly/Drive Safely

 

10 June 2009

 

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    Terrific Web page, Continue the wonderful work. Thank you so much.

Reader Comments (1)

Beautiful.

June 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGinger

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