I spent a bit of time today thinking about Father’s Day, and about being a father, and also thinking about my oldest son also being a father. I thought of how proud I am of my boys. And it’s been a good Father’s Day for me, having seen one son and heard from the other.
Then it occurred to me a few minutes ago that I have given hardly a thought to my own father.
My dad suddenly passed away in 1988. Born in July of 1920, he lived 67 years. I have to confess that I did not respect my dad much when he was alive, due mostly to his alcoholism.
I do have to say, though, that he loved me and my sister, and he did take care of us growing up as best he knew how. And because he was the man he was, I received a lot of experience at a lot of different things involved with growing up in the country in East Texas.
He taught me to weld (at age 12), before I learned to drive. I learned to adjust the valves on my first car, a VW Beetle, which Dad gave me at 16. I learned a lot of mechanical things, working on cars, and tractors, mowers and plumbing. He taught me how to string barbed wire safely. We had the world’s only home built bush-hog with an army surplus modified Patton tank driveshaft. When I was old enough for a commercial license, he built a pulp wood truck and gave me a chain saw, and I made my summer money that way. Learned a lot about chain saw and tree cutting safety, and rigging with chains and cable. Because we were poor, I learned to work, and to appreciate the benefits thereof. Compared to a lot of city kids, we were rich, in non-financial terms, though I didn’t appreciate that at the time. And in spite of his drinking, he never laid a hand on me.
He taught me a lot about how I didn’t want to be when I grew up. I have never taken a drink, nor smoked.
He taught me to be honest and have a sense of personal honor. He taught me right from wrong. By example, not so much with speeches. He was a lot more patient with me than I was with him, and that was itself a valuable lesson for me, later in life. I’ve come to appreciate all that he taught me, both directly and by example.
We didn’t see eye to eye about a lot of things. But he was my Dad. To this day I don’t know if I really loved him, but I do know the shock it was when I was told of his death, and that day, I cried.
I’d give a lot to have a half hour to sit down and talk with him. I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye.