Father’s Day is a special occasion in my life. Thoughts of my dad surface easily. And lessons he taught seem to be entrenched in the lives of our three sons even though he died before their births.
He was no diplomat, my dad. Nor was he a financial power broker, a giant mover of men, the life of any party or the person to whom any great acclaim was cast.
Yet he was a remarkable example. A simple, but good, man. Decent. Dependable. Honest. Honorable.
Sadly, we never seemed to spend much time together. He was always busy working, trying to make meager ends meet, trying to help us get ahead. Often, he was already at work when I awakened and on many occasions I was already asleep when he returned.
It wasn’t the way he wanted it, I’m sure, but it was his path for providing for mom and me.
I was a blessing in their lives, they told me. A dream come true. Though they wanted a family, wartime had been tough, money scarce. The hope of attending college had eluded him because funds weren’t available and the thought of feeding another, even tiny, mouth seemed insurmountable.
He was 40, old then, when I arrived as their only child. Only years later did I appreciate their struggle, the why of our moving from apartment to apartment in hopes of bettering our lives, the sacrifices made in hopes of making available opportunities for me that had evaded them, the love I too often took for granted and the memories of simple, but happy, times that become more important with each passing day.
Material things didn’t matter much to him. Oh, he beamed with pride every time we got a “new” car. Though not fancy, our apartments and later our house, were always clean and orderly. But mostly his life centered on mom and me.
We played ball some, but mom always reminded me, "Now remember, your dad is older than other boys’ dads." We shot baskets on a goal he made and enjoyed together whatever limited athletic success came my way.
We shared family vacations in the mountains or at the beach. We fished a time or two. We talked some. And there was a warm feeling we enjoyed about Christmas and other personal occasions.
Dad was a sentimental fellow. Periodically, I’d catch him brushing back a tear at the sight of our American flag or the sounds of a patriotic song. I used to think that strange. Now, I’m not ashamed to say, I know those same tears.
What dad did best, I suppose, was love life. Love mom. Love me.
He even helped with my newspaper career.
As a youngster, I covered little league sports, hunting-and-pecking my way to stories on an old manual typewriter every evening on our kitchen table. Dad delivered the stories to the paper each following morning, never missing a single deadline.
We also spent many Sunday mornings as a team, rolling papers for my newspaper route and distributing them together, he driving our car, me sitting on the hood, throwing right and left. Even today, thoughts of mom’s special Sunday morning breakfasts that followed linger.
The newspaper connection never left.
Impatiently, I moved out of the house in my mid teens. I longed for independence. I had an athletic scholarship and on-campus lodging. I had a job. And I suppose I had few fears, realizing their safety net would always be there just in case.
Oftentimes at work, I’d leave the office only to find dad’s car parked next to mine, usually under a broiling sun. He was there just to visit, to see if I needed anything, to help and, in his own way, to share his pride in my accomplishments, no matter how small.
How much that means today never dawned on me then.
Without really trying, he taught me the meaning of words like honor, truth, integrity, trust, pride, ethics, hard work, dedication and commitment. I know, too, he was proud of me.
And though I may rarely have told him, I was proud of him.
Never more so than in his last months, 39 years ago, when a stroke rendered him almost helpless, taking his voice and essentially his body, but never his spirit nor that twinkle in his piercing blue eyes.
The strength, the faith, the courage he shared during that time of difficulty was remarkable, a memory never to be erased.
So indulge me, please, on this special day.
From a son to his dad, thanks. And from a dad to his sons, I love you.
There is, I have learned, no pride like a father’s pride. You make every day a happy father’s day for me.
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