My father was a quiet working man who loved his family, and took care of them. He and my mother gave my two sisters and I a Norman Rockwell childhood. Our parents were home every night, Mom cooked dinner, Dad worked on the house or yard or garden. We ate dinner as a family, at the kitchen table or the dining room table.
My dad never missed a chance to tell me he loved me. It is my most common and deepest memory of him, to walk by him, have him put out his hand for a touch, and just say quietly, “love you”. He was not a great communicator on all things, but this one thing….he was practiced and good at. I know he was the father he never had, for us. His unconditional, constant, consistent love (and my mother’s) is the one thing that has helped me get over the hurdles that would challenge me as an adult. I knew somewhere deep inside me that I had value, always, because my parents loved me. I didn’t have to figure that out.
Dad always had a garden in the back yard in Iowa. He always set up a little patch for me when I was young, and I would poke radish and carrot seeds into the ground under his direction. I never learned to be a good gardener, lol, because in Iowa basically I found that all you had to do was plant the seeds and they’d grow in that rich black soil. Or maybe my father tended them for me, when I was busy playing with my friends? Maybe, lol.
We had a 16′ bowrider boat that he took us out on the Mississippi River every weekend (we lived 3 blocks from it) in the summers. He taught me to water ski. And probably began my love of the water there. I took it for granted then, but not now. I know how blessed I was to have those hot summer afternoons lazing away on some sandbar or island, secure and happy with my family.
He completely remodeled our old (built circa 1900) 10 room house. We helped, but he did the hard work, with my mother. He played golf with a passion. I remember when he got a hole in one. He got a little trophy and considered that he might be good enough to go pro. It was a dream I guess he had, and the way he worked at things, probably could have done it if he’d started young. He met my mom in the Air Force during WWII, while stationed in Tampa. She encouraged him to go to school under the GI bill and he became a chemical engineer. He remained in the Air Force reserves, and retired as a Lt. Col. They were married for 45 years, until he had a heart attack in 1987.
I’m sure it was his quiet, consistent work ethic that has made me never give up on things in my life. He just kept at things until they were done. It was that ethic I’m sure that finally got me to end my marriage. When I started that process, with a manipulative controlling man who bordered on crazy then, it seemed overwhelming. Something inside of me knew to just take it one day at a time, and I’d get through it. 4 years later I did, with my son, and my life intact. I stumbled a little after that, but not too badly. I think that now, I’ve stopped stumbling and have found something that would make him happy to see.
There are lessons in everything that happens to us. Often I’ve thought that the most important lessons are the most painful to learn. You know, the old “no pain, no gain” thing. My father provided very important lessons to me, that shaped my character. Lessons which were borne of love, not pain.
He was a good man, and I miss him. I know he’s around though. I know love never dies.
Happy Father’s Day Dad. You are the best. I’m so grateful for the gift of you.