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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Tribute to my Dad

After the death of my father, I was given a few of his things. One of them was a short story about a blind and disfigured old man who sat in the al fresco portion of a Paris cafe each day, slowly sipping apertifs and listening to the sounds all around him. A visitor to Paris, and to the cafe, noticed the man and after paying his bill, asked the proprietor why the man was allowed to sit outside in full view. Didn't he think that the ugly visage of the blind man would scare away business?

"He is my father,' said the proprietor,'and to me his face is beautiful."

Ah, my father! My Dad! He had been raised during the depression and subsequent world war and later served in Korea. He had gone to college on an art scholarship. He had played basketball and football in school. He was a talented singer, writer and painter and had the "gift of gab." He wound up working in sales for Whirlpool Corporation and was Corporate Sales Manager during the time that company became the largest appliance corporation in the world. He devised an add campaign that featured a penguin with thick horn-rimmed glasses (made to look like my father, actually) and it was so successful Whirlpool put a replica of the statue out in front of the main Admin building. It is gone now, and so is my father. But I have pictures, and he lives on in my memory!

Dad made a lot of mistakes, and one of them cost me about twenty thousand dollars. I think that is why he wrote that story, wanting my full forgiveness for what had happened but reluctant to discuss everything involved. Yes, Dad, I did forgive you a long time ago!

Dad taught me to build models, work on cars, play baseball and football, work, play, shoot guns and all sorts of other stuff. He taught me a lot about life and especially about love. I like girls, don't get me wrong, but I do wish I could feel his scratchy, bearded face against my cheek one more time. My Dad wasn't afraid to hug and kiss his kids and say, "I love you."

Unfortunately, my Dad liked to smoke and drink and eat rich foods and he had a heart attack at an early age. The second one, at age 53, killed him. I am now older than my father was when he died. That seems so very strange to me. I look much younger than my Dad did in his 50's. He seemed pretty old to me at the time just before he passed away. Maybe he knew he was about to go. He spent most of his last days writing and playing his mandolin and reading novels. He was too sick to work any longer.

He was a guy who made lots of friends. He was basically kind to people, loved kids and dogs, and he also believed in God. He carried a "picture" of Jesus in his wallet and once was a faithful church-goer, along with my mom, both before I was born and for a couple of years afterwards. But the pastor of their church, whom they loved, left and perhaps something else happened also, I don't know, but they both quit going to church and both quit talking about God before I was old enough to be aware. I was therefore not raised around church. But sometimes my Dad would talk about believing in God. In the hospital, after his heart attack, he told me he was a genuine Christian and he was glad I had become one as well.

I missed him a lot for a few years. The pain has largely faded away. I am sad for him, that he missed the birth of some of his grandchildren. He would have two great-grandchildren already. One of them already plays basketball and t-ball as a kindergartener....into sports at an early age - like his grandpa and like his great-grandpa, too.

Dad gave me my first novel written for adults (no, not porn stuff). It was a mystery novel called "The Wreck of the Mary Deare" by Hammond Innes. I was in third grade and was a latchkey kid. I came home to an empty house most days to have lunch and then walk back to school. I had not missed a day of school since kindergarten. But the first day after I got the book, I opened it up to read during lunch and didn't go back to school! I stayed home and read that whole book. I was fascinated and hooked, a reader from that time forward.

Dad gave me my first drink of liquor (Brandy, when I was 8 I think) and offered me my first puff of cigarette in front of my Uncle and Grandpa. He did it to throw me off cigs, and that one puff made me cough and gag and I sure didn't want another one! He was the guy who put the first gun in my hand, the first fishing pole, baseball bat, glove, football, ran beside me as I learned to ride a bike, held me up under my belly as I learned to swim. He taught me what love and respect was. He tanned my hide a few times, and I deserved it. But for every spanking he showed me affection and encouraged me a thousand times over.

Did I love my Dad? Oh, yeah, I sure did. Now I am one. In fact, I have been doing this Dad stuff for almost 28 years now. The youngest is 14, so it will go on for awhile. But really after they grow up and move away I am still Dad. When they get older then I take off the authority figure mantle and become mentor and friend. It is a wonderful thing to not just love, but to like your children. I am so truly blessed!

Dad, I tried to learn from you how to be the best Dad I could be. I copied the good stuff you did and tried to avoid your mistakes. Darned if I didn't make a couple of my own mistakes that you didn't make! But I think being a Dad, because I have really tried, is one of the best things I do or have done. I know some of my kid's friends have spent enough time here that I am kind of a second-string Dad to them and I have loved them, too. Thanks, Dad, you gave me a great role model to follow.

Happy Fathers Day to all of you fathers out there and, to all of you sons, I hope you get to give your Dad a hug today.


creeper said...

Nice one, Radar. This is when you're at your best.

Happy Father's Day; I'm enjoying mine too, and appreciating my father's presence in my life, and being there for my kids.

I'm not quite the "tanning the hide" type, a more subtle authority figure (and they're far from disciplinary cases), and hoping to be a mentor and friend to these lovely little people for as long as I live.

Amy Proctor said...

Great post, Radar. It's fascinating hearing this from a male perspective, since I usually get the father-daughter perspective.

Happy Father's Day!

highboy said...

Good stuff Radar. Happy Father's Day to you and you as well creeper. Its my first Father's Day as a dad! He can't talk, but I'm pretending.