Remembering Dad – A Big Part Of Who I Am
He was born in January of 1904 – less than a month after Orville and Wilber made aeronautical history at Kitty Hawk. The oldest child in a family of seven kids, he learned early how to work hard and love it, live life and love it, and answer only to himself for his actions, for no one would be a harsher judge. After achieving an eighth grade education in a one-room school, he left academia forever to help his parents raise his brothers and sisters, after which he went on a hobo’s odyssey to see America. Somewhere between the two World Wars, he served in the United States Army as a master cook. After an honorable discharge, and a few more years making his mark on America, he returned to his roots in Northern Alabama where he met and married my mother. Nine years later, they had their second child. He was forty-five years old, and I was the apple of his eye.
My father was a hard and fast Southern Democrat. He believed in Harry Truman because he was “one of the few statesmen this country ever elected president.” I don’t know much more about his politics than that, except that he and my mother always voted. Happily paying the poll tax and thanking their lucky stars that they could have a say in the governing choices, they would take me with them to the polls located in a small grocery store down the street. I was fascinated with the importance of it all.
He was a very literate man, my father, belying his “unfinished” educational status. He read a lot, so he knew Shakespeare and many of the great poets. He loved “good” poetry and could quote verse with a strong voice and a musical cadence. Robert W. Service was a particular favorite. He loved the stories of the Yukon and the wild freedom they represented. He was well read Biblically also, having read the complete text of the Bible several times over.
By trade, he was a highly skilled structural ironworker who belonged to the same union throughout his long career. He was a diehard union man, but saw the flaws and local corruption just the same. While he would not cross a picket line to work “scab” labor, he would accept assignments out of the bounds of an easy daily commute when times were hard. Therefore, there were times when he would only be home on weekends. Those periods were few and far between, but I remember them with a lasting sadness. I would stand in the road, with tears streaming down my face, and beg him not to go.
When Dad spoke, I listened - not because I was afraid not to, for he never laid a hand on me – but because he constantly earned my respect, and he never spoke foolishness. The example he set as a father and as a man gave me a strong sense of understanding and respect for his gender and my own. Lessons that he taught from an early age have saved my life and my sanity in a world turned upside down. He taught me the importance of being a strong individual, accepting responsibility for my actions, and defending my own honor. I’m sure it was the example he set that I followed in choosing the father of my own children and the man I would spend my life with.
Fathers have such an important role to play in the lives of their children that it infuriates me when that importance is maligned and diminished in the eyes of a socialist society. Men who are excused from their parental responsibilities as unnecessary, or who take themselves out of the family units they have begun have done as much to damage America as mothers who demand the right to put themselves first, ahead of their children.
While some men can be feminized and deliberately sensitized to bury the essence of what makes them men, Dad would have never fit in such a mold. He was already naturally sensitive to the needs of others, yet retained a strong sense of who he was and expected everyone around him to do the same. He would have laughed in the face of today’s political correctness and told the “offended” to get over it. He had a saying that he liked to use whenever someone was upset over some silly thing – he would say, “A thousand years from now, you’ll never know the difference.” That was his way of saying, “Get over it!”
Well, Dad, it hasn’t been quite that long yet, but I, for one, will never quite get over your absence in my life. However, you did your job well, and I thank God for giving me you as my father. You were a big part of who I am, and remembering you every day is the least I can do to thank you.
A Very Happy Father’s Day to everyone who has earned the title!