Like the relationship of most fathers and sons ours wasn’t perfect. We were both headstrong, opinionated and somewhat argumentative, but as a father now, I see more clearly and I realize how much his actions improved the quality of my life.
We were heading to New York, Dad was the best man in a wedding and the nine-hour trip was punctuated by car problems. The late 60s/early 70s Chevrolet Impala Station Wagon was overheating so when we pulled in to fill up with gas, Dad raised the hood to take a look. Of course, I burrowed in beside him and when he removed the radiator cap, hot water shot straight up and Dad instinctively shielded me — giving him second and third degree burns (and even a black eye from where the water first hit him). That’s the way Dad was until the day he died — he always put his children’s needs ahead of his own.
Swing The Bat
I have written before about my Little League baseball career, but every hit I ever earned came because of that first baseball season when Dad, Billy and I headed over the hill in our front yard for batting practice. Billy would catch, I would bat and Dad would pitch. Pitch after pitch and day after day, Dad threw the ball (despite his bursitis) until I became a solid hitter.
Stand Your Ground
“Some people could even find fault in Jesus,” Dad said to a preacher at the church I grew up in.
The conversation centered around some actions taken by members of the youth group. Insignificant actions Dad felt were being blown out of proportion — so he spoke his mind. Dad was never afraid of being in the minority or saying what needed to be said, even when it meant others would feel uncomfortable.
Don’t Be Afraid to Improvise
Besides thinking for himself with regards to religion, Dad was also willing to think for himself in more earthly, pragmatic ways. When the oil crisis of the early 1970s sent the price of heating oil skyrocketing, Dad decided to rely on the skills of his youth and burn wood to heat our two-story, large brick home. By the time I was in high school, we had five woods stoves in the house and Dad hadn’t purchased heating oil more than a decade.
Never Quit Learning
Dad’s life was stalled in some ways educationally because the lack of value placed on education by his parents. He dropped out of high school, but returned to get a GED after several years of active duty in the Korean War. But, his quest for knowledge never did end. In his 40s, he started taking adult education classes at the area vocational school and when the minister at the local church offered to teach men how to preach, Dad was one of the first to take him up on the offer.
Have Some Compassion
Dad was the personification of “I never met a man I did not like.” Dad loved to interact with people. He loved to talk, to argue, to debate, but mostly he loved to help people. Because of his willingness to help just about anyone, a lot of people flowed through my childhood home — opening my eyes to worlds, conditions and even foreign countries, I would have never otherwise known.
I will always remember the viewing at Dad’s funeral. The wide range of people that filed past his casket to pay their last respects. It was obvious he had left his mark. Over and over, people said Dad was someone who would ‘give the shirt right off his back.’
Which is not a bad way to be remembered.