To the men who have children, happy father’s day. Going to use this post today to honour my father. Here goes…
Ok, first off, my Dad was not a perfect man. He was, however, the best father in the world in my book. I learned more from him on many subjects than I did in school. He taught me history, and I remember his words far more than those of the actual teacher I had. I know loads about World War 2, can name all the American states and capitals, and have a working understanding of politics, the old west, and various historical gangsters — all due to chats with my father.
My dad was the youngest of 13 kids. His father died when he was a baby, and though he was raised with a lot of love out in the country, he didn’t have much. He grew up dirt poor, in fact, but had a good mother who taught him to be honest, always pay his debts, and stay clean and well groomed. In school my dad was the class clown, but was mostly known for getting into fights all the time. He had a well known reputation for being a “hell raiser.” By age 15 he ran away from home and started working, and by 19 he found himself 700 miles away in Chicago and setting up his own successful pub business. By law he was not actually old enough to even drink, but somehow he got around this and ran a business based on selling liquor! This was typical of my dad. He also sent money home to help his mother each week until the day she died.
As for my mother, she went to school with my dad out in the country. She was a year older than him and he used to admire her out the window of the classroom while she rehearsed with the school band. She was a majorette twirling a baton, and my dad thought she was the most beautiful blonde he’d ever seen — with pretty legs (as he said). At that time my mother wouldn’t have looked twice at my dad because he was younger, smaller, and skinnier, though as an adult he grew to be a powerfully built man of 6’2″.
The unbelievable thing is that my parents, having gone to school together in a place you’d be hard pressed to find on a map in the Appalachian mountains in Georgia (700 miles away), would actually run across each other later in Chicago. This is a 13 hour drive away, and they did not really know one another except by face. America is huge, and Chicago itself is huge, so the odds of them even meeting this way is astronomical. And yet my parents never acted like it was a big deal! The good thing was my mother felt comfortable with my dad since he came from her home town, so she said yes when he asked her out. Of course they eventually married, and I came along a few years later, being their only child.
Both my parents are an inspiration to me, and some might say I was a “mommy’s girl.” I absolutely adored my mother too. However, since it’s father’s day I will concentrate on my dad. Here are some things I admire about him.
For one, my dad had a drive to succeed. He went from being practically an orphan with holes in one pair of trousers, to owning more than one successful business, property, cars and a large home with an indoor swimming pool. He did all of this from nothing. My dad was always clean and well groomed too, smartly dressed without being flashy. He had a great sense of humour, and if he told a joke he usually had everyone on the floor laughing. My dad was nice to all, friendly and soft spoken, and yet everyone in town knew not to mess with him. The early days of fighting stayed with him, and he had a (well earned) reputation for being someone you should never start a fight with. Let’s put it this way, in my father’s business he didn’t need to hire a bouncer. Anyone starting trouble had far more to fear from my father.
You often hear of men making a success of themselves, but neglecting their kids. Not so with my dad. He was always there for me, and not a day went by that he didn’t give me a hug and say he loved me. Before I was born my dad said he didn’t like kids, but he felt differently afterwards. He had a huge heart, and I recall some children we didn’t know in the neighbourhood looking on as he bought me a cone from the ice cream truck. There were about five of them and they didn’t have any money, so my dad made sure each of them got an ice cream too. This was very typical of him. He never forgot what it was like to be poor, and always based his politics on who he believed would be more supportive of those less fortunate.
Did my dad have faults? Of course. One was that he drank loads! But you know what? His drinking never affected me, nor his productivity in life. Some men drink and get violent, but my dad wasn’t like that. If he drank he’d go upstairs to go to sleep. Also, at times I wanted to make my dad proud of me so much that I found it difficult to tell him if I got myself in a pickle or if I failed somehow.
Another “fault” was that the music gene skipped my dad. When I was 14 and came in with a guitar and let him know I wanted to be a musician, to say he didn’t understand was a bit of an understatement. “There’s no money in that,” he said. He may have been the same age as those rock stars I admired, but he’d have been lucky to know who the Rolling Stones were. If I played music too loud in my room he’d yell up the stairs for me to “turn that screaming acid down!” Not sure where he got that term from, but he always referred to any music I liked as screaming acid. I still laugh when I think about it.
The good thing is that my dad got to see me get married and have kids. Fortunately I did that early at the young age of 17. The bad thing is that he didn’t get to see his grandchildren grow up. Tragically he was diagnosed with a very rare disease called scleroderma, and of the type that the doctor said was so rare a person is more likely to win the lottery than get it. I won’t go into details about this, but I helped take care of my dad for the last year of his life. He was only in his 50s when he passed away.
My dad was not religious but thought it was good that I chose to go to church. When he got ill he said he didn’t want to be one of those hypocrites who “got religion” just because they got ill, but my dad did call on Jesus, something I never thought I’d see. I only saw my dad pray once. My mother and I held his hands as he lay there in the hospital, standing on each side of the bed. He led the prayer, and it was the most beautiful, sincere thing I’ve ever heard. A minister, a preacher, bishop, vicar, or whatever you want to call them, could not have said anything so lovely as my dad’s prayer. And this came from a man who never stepped foot in a church. Though my dad lay ill himself in a terrible state, the prayer he said was mostly for everyone else.
My dad was incredibly young to pass away, but the life he lived here was full. If he did nothing else but be a dad he would have been a great success. He showed his love in word and deed to me every day of his life. Having him as a dad has made me a better person, and given me something to aspire to. Though he was “successful” the things he taught me were all about being a good person, honest, independent to be my own boss, and never to owe people money. When I became a parent I was often good to my children because I would think “how would my parents handle this.” I always felt they were far better than I was at that sort of thing. I miss my dad, but look forward to seeing him in heaven one day.
*Note. There are many great things I have not mentioned about my dad. It is tempting to go on and on, but I will leave things as they are here.