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Thoughts of Dad on Fathers’ Day

Posted in Awesome, Family with tags , , on June 18, 2011 by BrainRants

Another scheduled milestone in the year is upon us in the fine American tradition of having to schedule full days as holidays in order to slow the hell down and think about important stuff: Fathers’ Day.  I intentionally used the plural apostrophe – I can make every day mine if I want to and can balance the risk of driving everyone away from me for acting like a selfish ass.  Also, its not a bad idea considering we have Mothers’ Day.  They go together like salt and pepper.  It would be odd to put one on the table without the other.

Fathers’ Day has always been somewhat poignant for me since Dad died in 1999.  Nothing dramatic involved there, just an old guy who was just worn out after a good run.  Sounds kind of callous, but I have to believe he’s better off now.  Dad managed to hang on for years dealing with emphysema, the effects of at least two major strokes, and the routine wear and tear that life will inflict on you.  I was stationed in Germany when he went, so there was no opportunity for final bedside words and such.  In spite of that, I count myself lucky that I don’t have a painful, regretful corner of my heart for something I should have said to him.

He knew his influence and had the pleasure of hearing me acknowledge it many times. 

In the course of his life, my Dad did some truly amazing shit.  After completing his Knob year at The Citadel, he enlisted in the Army in 1942 and served in the Army Air Corps in WW II.  Dad travelled fully around the world doing that.  He had the courage to fight conventions of his time in a divorce from his first wife, and my arrival marked the beginning of a second family for him – an event I am quite sure he had some reservations about going in.  Dad could fix anything, and he was handy with tools.  He made things from scratch, designed a house that still stands, and could make any plant grow and grow well.  He lived comfortably but successfully in a black-and-white world of values.  Dad had an iron self-discipline at a level which I have yet to attain.  I absorbed by osmosis much of this from the time I was knee-high to him until he had to look upward to meet my own eye, about when I left home for college.

He also infected me with a love of books, reading and scholarship.  Dad taught me by example to be curious about things – all things.  He hammered the value of education, money, integrity, and the ethic of hard work into me.  I learned – painfully at times – the value of punishment at his hand, but also the value of praise when earned.  Dad took off his Army sergeant’s stripes immediately after the war, but he never stopped being a sergeant in many ways.  I know this because of the way he folded and ordered his socks and underwear.  I also know this because after living in his house for 18 years, my eventual entry into the military was almost a foregone conclusion and largely not very shocking to me, culturally speaking.  It is no surprise that an old-school Army NCO could successfully raise an Army Officer.

Fortunately, where there is loss there is also provision, and only a few short years after Dad left to go tend his plants elsewhere, I was fortunate to marry into having a great new father-in-law.  To circle back to the punctuation and apostrophe issue, clearly there’s another great reason to use the plural apostrophe here.  Although the two men are as different as they are alike, I know they would have gotten on well together.  Thank you, Larry.

As I reflect this weekend on both his would-have-been birthday (87th) and Fathers’ Day, I remain proud of my Father and I know he’d say the same to me if he could.  I can only hope that someday my own son and daughters will think equally of me in spite of myself.

WGT  1924 – 1999