For fathers day I wanted to share with the world the amazing person who I am grateful to call dad. As my husband asks me each week on qualities of a father that will be helpful in getting our children to have the traits he is writing about on getconnectdad, each time I find myself thinking about my dad and how effortless it seemed for him to always do the things and be the man that it took to raise 4 children to be successful in most every way (?) It sounds like I am tooting my own horn but I am really wanting to extend credit, all of it, to my dad….well, really both my parents, but this is for fathers day so I will focus on my dad. And, since my dad is so many things to me, I am finding it hard to pinpoint exactly where to begin so I guess I will just dive in with a brief history.
Dad was born the youngest son in a family of 9 children who lived pretty much below the poverty level. How could you not with all those mouths to feed? I have loved hearing stories about the tiny one-room house they lived in and the skimpy meals they had. The jokes that have been made about eating so fast so they might be able to get seconds before the rest of them make me laugh but also give me a tugging in my heart. See I have never really experienced any struggle like that. What is more is that my dad’s mama died on my dads 15th birthday. That could have led him into a tailspin that was unrecoverable. With 9 kids and now with only his father, I imagine most of his emotional needs were not being met, not to mention his structural needs for boundaries regarding things like attending school and not using cigarettes or alcohol. As such my dad ended his formal educational career sometime in the 9th grade.
So you might all be thinking, this does not sound like it is going anywhere but downhill. Well, you know what they say, what goes down, must come up.. Ok I know that is backwards but you get my drift. I am not sure of the timeline but my dad joined the navy and was a radioman, which will come up again later. While enlisted he obtained his GED. He later met my mom and was married at the age of 22. Bing, bing, bing, bing, they had four children by the time he was 27. Now you might be wondering what did he do with a GED to support his family. Well, I will tell you, he did anything he had to, sometimes working 3 jobs, none of which were glamorous. But that was his first great message to me…you work whatever you have to. It might not be fun, but you do it because it is the responsible thing to do. He didn’t say it, he lived it and through his actions the message was heard loud and clear.
He finally landed a job with the UPRR which he maintained for over 40 years. Still not glamorous, he endured long and hard hours in the extreme heat and cold at times. It was an on call thing where he may leave at any time of the day and would be gone for a couple days at a time. In the summer, he may have been up for 20 hours and still he would come home and mow the lawn or fix something before he went off to bed. His sleep schedule for 40 years was never the same two days in a row. He also had to miss out on a lot like birthdays and other milestones. He sacrificed so much to take care of his family and I appreciate it without end. But that is only the beginning.
So he has now taught us responsibility and a great work ethic. Moving on to instilling the “ole you can do or be anything” notion. So of all the things that my dad taught me that says “don’t take no or failure for an answer” started when I was at the age of 5. Skipping the backstory on why they did this, I will just jump to what my parents did….they built the house in which I grew up. They did not have it built. They built it. A framing company did that work but my parents did everything else, from plumbing and wiring, to roofing, to insulating and drywalling and all that entails. Had they been trained in any of these trades? Nope. Did that stop them? Nope. Did my dad still work his job, come home tired, and still do work on building that house? You betcha. I remember living in the house with 2×4 walls and plywood floors before they finished it and for me it was a very romantic time. This fueled my imagination and created an unstoppable attitude in me. It came in handy when 26 years later, I found myself building a house with my dad in much the same fashion. When I tell people either of these stories, they seem amazed but for me it just seemed normal. If you are in a position where you can’t afford others to do the work, you just figure out how to do it yourself. This by far is one of the most amazing and treasured gifts I have received. By the way our houses are still standing, they still live in the one they built, and I still live in the one my dad and I built. For me it is a fairy tale.
A couple weeks ago I was searching for some pictures for a slide show I was working on for my parent’s 50th anniversary, yes 50. I came across two things from my dad, both in his writing that I will keep forever. The first was a handwritten birthday card on lined paper. He wrote it to me, knowing he was not going to be home for my birthday. It was simple and sweet and meant the world to me at the time. The second has to do with his having been a radioman in the navy. In the fifth grade, I had a Morse code project and my dad could still remember it after all those years. He wrote each letter and their corresponding code out on paper for me. I was extremely impressed back then and grateful to have his help. He did and continues to do little but important things that stick in my heart so deeply.
But back to the anniversary. Ok so sticktuititiveness. Is that a word? If not, it should be. He showed that in big ways over the past 50 years, they both did. Marriage is not always easy and there were often problems and fighting but both took the covenant they made on their wedding day very seriously. They have God in their lives and attend church on every Sunday. They are very moral people and they might make it seem like that is easy but we all know how life throws things at you where choices to do wrong stare you in the face. Making the right choice isn’t always easy. It seems that they both are successful at doing it though and that has helped me in times where bad choices seem like the easy choice. There was a give and take and a willingness to forgive that marriages thrive on. It gave me the tenet that marriage is the most important job you will ever have. Yes job, no not a fairytale. In the end if you take this job seriously and do the work, it does end up looking like a fairytale. After looking through 50 years of photo albums, it was easy to see both the work and joy that went into their amazing journey together.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include that my Dad is the smartest man I have every known (Sorry, Julian but you don’t make too poor of a showing for 2nd place). I know a lot of intellectual and well-educated people, doctors, lawyers, professors, people with degrees after degrees, but he still out smarts them all. You might be curious as to how this could be possible of a man with his GED and no further formal education. It is because he is fearless. If he didn’t know something, he wasn’t afraid to learn about it, whether it be how to build a house and all that entails, or about world politics. He would read, read, read. Newspapers, books, Encyclopedias. We had a set of Encyclopedias and I would often find him with his head in one, just reading. He can hold an intellectual conversation on just about anything. Well, maybe not the intricacies of physics or chemistry but I assure you, having a conversation with him is never boring or short on interesting. In high school, being the idiot socialist I was, I would spout about how Communism was such a great idea and I wished I could live in what was then the Soviet Union. Many heated debates came out of that. I never felt like I couldn’t speak my mind, even though I know now he probably just wanted to slap that nonsense right out of me. He always would allow me to share my thoughts and he would patiently rebut them. He helped activate my mind and drew me to think about things in different ways, taught me how to be a good listener while others were sharing their thoughts, all of which prepared me for the real world of college and employment. All that being said the man can also BS you to where it sounds like he knows what he is talking about but that is just part of his charm.
My dad was soft and firm at the same time, a balance that is unique I think. We followed his rules but always had time for fun. He was silly when he could be and serious when he had to be. There are many details and wonderful stories that would add to how my dad impressed all the wonderful traits one could only hope for in their children and he managed to successfully do this in all 4 of his children. I could write a book on my father, on both my parents really, for everything they have instilled in me, taught me and continue to teach me and my children. They have done it without always knowing they were doing it. They are truly amazing people.
I thank God every day and especially on fathers day for the blessing that is my dad. My life has been richer for the gifts he has given whether he knew he was giving them or not. I can’t imagine the person I would be without him and want him to know that all the good things I am can be directly attributed to him (and my mom). I love him tremendously without fail.
Happy Fathers Day to the best example of a father imaginable.
All my love! Laurie