Remembering Dad

If you’ll indulge me for a few minutes, I would like to tell you about my Dad, and how he influenced my life.

My first memory of my Dad was when he took me to a baby sitter on his way to work. I must have been less than four, but I remember crying as I ran after his car, screaming, “Daddy, don’t leave me.”

My Dad never went to college, but he was one of the smartest men I knew. He wasn’t a philosopher, but much of what I’ve learned about life, especially about what’s important in life, I learned from him.

Dad grew up in rural America during the Great Depression as, and this is his word, a “sharecropper.” Things were pretty tough for his family, as it was for most families during that time.

It’s been said that we’re either a product of our raising or a reaction to our raising. My Dad chose to be a product of his raising, which made him the person who was loved by so many.

Dad never thought of himself as brave, but when the world needed him during World War II, he answered that call, as millions of his generation did. Serving in both the European and Pacific theaters, once going three years without a furlough, along with all the others of his generation, my Dad helped save the world.

Dad worked hard all his life. I watched him work in a steel mill and on the railroad. I saw him work nights at a gas station, pumping gas to make ends meet, after he got off work at the steel mill. I’m not sure he actually knew how important it was for me to see him do those things.

For many years I worked with my Dad on our farm. Me working on that farm was his idea, but it was good for me.

Dad made sure we got the best medical treatment money could buy, even when he didn’t know where the money would come from.

Dad took me to church. He taught me that there were going to be all kinds of people in heaven, not just our kind, and he let me make my own decision about my personal faith.

Dad showed me that Moms & Dads could fight and get mad at each other, but that the family is more important than whatever the argument was about.

There were times when my Dad said, “We can’t afford it.” It must have hurt to say those words, but they were important words for me to hear. I was never cold or hungry or deprived. I may have thought I was, but I never was.

Without actually saying it, Dad taught me that if you can’t be happy without money and stuff, you won’t be happy with money and stuff. Love for family and friends, respect for others and self-respect cost nothing, but they are more enduring than all the material things in the world. I learned that from my Dad.

Dad let me see him make mistakes. Everyone makes them, but he shared his mistakes with me so I would make my own mistakes, not his. It took a lot of love and wisdom to do that.

My Dad let me know, sometimes without saying it, that he loved me enough to protect me with his life. I’m grateful that in the last year of his life, Dad and I said, “I love you” to each other, every day.

If someone asked me to describe my Dad in one short sentence, I would say, “My Dad was a good human being.”

In the last year of his life I learned just how strong my Dad’s spirit was and just what a good human being he was. Even when he was often in great pain, and with all the indignity that comes with living in a nursing home, my Dad never lost his sense of humor, his famous wit, or his respect and love for others, right up to his last moment of life.

If class is grace under pressure, my Dad set a new standard for class. And that’s a bar I fear I will never reach.

Happy Father’s Day, dads. More than you may know, you make a difference.

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