Tribute to a Father

I always knew Dad wanted a son, but he got five daughters, so he made the best of it.

He taught all of us how to cast a fishing line, how to check the oil in our cars, how to catch a football. He always told me not to take any shit from any boy, because I was too smart and too pretty. (I assume he told my sisters the same, but most of them didn’t listen.)

He never knew a normal family. He had two older half-sisters, and one brother. He lived on a dirt farm with his mother and grandparents, and his father was in and out of prison for years. He and his brother used to skip school to shoot squirrels and rabbits so the family could eat. Then his parents divorced, and he moved to town with his mother.

Twice-divorced, single, working moms were not common in the 1950’s. So he ran with the hoodlums in the streets, and became something of a juvenile delinquent, a la James Dean. Here’s one of the funniest stories he ever told me:

He had a 194something Ford, and one of the hubcaps had been stolen/fallen off/whatever. So he told his buddies about it. They went through the entire town, taking one hubcap off each car in town, and piled all the hubcaps in his backseat. Dad came out of his job, and saw his car piled TO THE ROOF with stolen hubcaps. He cussed a lot, and then drove out of town and dumped them all in some creek. He said the massive hubcap theft was on the front page of the local newspaper the next day, and he just laid low, and nothing ever came of it, but there’s probably still a pile of rusty hubcaps in some ditch out north of town.

He was a high-school dropout, but he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and then completed his high school education while he worked third-shift at a factory. He and my mother had been engaged for four years, but he refused to get married until he had a high school diploma. They married on his last day of high school; he went to school that day, got his diploma, and married Mom that evening at 6:30 p.m.

He told me the story of that day: He went to school, and was falling asleep in class. The teacher asked him why, and he said, “Mrs. Whatever, I’m getting married in eight hours, and I’ve been working all night.” She smiled, and told him to go home and get some sleep. But he stuck out his last day of high school, at 20 years old, because he would never expect a lady to marry a dropout.

So then he worked, seven days a week, getting all the over-time possible, because he and Mom wanted a large family. He got his apprenticeship, and became a skilled tradesman. They planned for four kids, but then I showed up, too. The year I was born, he was diagnosed with some extremely rare disease. When I was 4 years old, and he was 39, he had a massive heart attack. Almost died (as in, no pulse for several minutes, in the ER). He bounced back. Stubborn man.

He then proceeded to argue politics and ethics and everything else under the sun with me, until I grew up and went to college. That man could make our ordinary family dinner into a philosophical or political debate, about abortion or civil rights or unionization or feminism or whatever. I just LOVED having dinner (they called it supper) with my folks. (My big rebellion was that when I was 10, I told Dad I was a Republican. He almost went apoplectic, and spent the next year convincing me why I shouldn’t be.)

The first week that I was in college, he had a stroke. It paralyzed his left side briefly, but he overcame it, and went right back to work. Stubborn old guy. He told me to quit hanging around, and go back to college. He had always told me, “You can’t have too much education.” Seems he was serious about that.

Nine years later, he was working on Memorial Day. He had decided to retire in August of that year, and filed the paperwork. He had another massive heart attack, and died right there at work. He was transported from my little hometown to a cardiac intensive care unit in a hospital in Indianapolis, only about 20 minutes away, but he was gone. He had turned 62 two weeks before. Mom offered to donate his organs, but with his medical problems, there wasn’t much that would benefit anyone else.

When I got married, Dad refused to wear a tuxedo like all the other men. He wore a suit and tie, but his tie clip was a sterling silver shotgun. At the back of the church, he leaned over and whispered to me, “We can ditch this and go have a beer, if you want.”

I miss him. He was a great dad. And now I really want to go have that beer with him.

Is your dad’s name “John Wayne” by chance?
He sounds like a tough SOB. And a good man, to boot.

Tripler
I’d buy you guys the damn pitcher.

Dad would have loved that comparison. I love it, coming from you. High praise, there, and thank you. He was a good man.

MissGypsy
and now I want to steal your clever sig lines

For a gentleman as strong as he was, I have the highest respect: he’s the guy I’d like to be.

Tripler
You ain’t stealing my sig-lines, but I’ll send you and your father love with this one.

Congratulations – you got the father I used to dream about having.

And congratulations would have gone to him, as well – he got a daughter who has gratitude for the bevy of wonderful lessons and values he gave her.

Gorgeous post.

{Excuse me while I dab away a tear or two…)

That is a wonderful tribute to what sounds like a very fine gentleman MissGypsy.

If our parents leave us nothing but good memories, they have done very well indeed.

On preview, I ditto what chatelaine says too.

raises her glass to Daddies everywhere

I love you Daddy. Thanks for everything.

(BTW beautiful post MissGypsy)

Too bad we can’t clone dads like that.

Darn it, MissGypsy, I can hardly see the screen now. You could be my aunt, but for the time span. You’ve described my Grandfather, who raised me. My mother was going to give me up for adoption since 30 year old women did not have fatherless children in 1946.
My grandfather refused to allow her to “throw away his grand-daughter.” I moved in at 8 days old.
My grandmother was, as I look back, bi-polar. She was depressed or very manic, so my grandfather was my mentor.
He taught me how to use a chain-saw, and finish cement.
He taught me I could be or do anything I chose to.
He taught me to be ethical.
He taught me, by example, to be humble.
I had to laugh when you mentioned your “Republican” phase. I was about 7 when I did the same thing. I’m pretty sure it was 1952, Ike’s bid at a second term. My reasoning was, the bald guy looked friendly, and I guess I thought it was like a sporting event, so I chose the opposing side.
He made me understand that I was loved, but that I was responsible for my own actions.
Long before litter was a word, he taught me to never sully nature.
My grandmother was, by today’s standards, abusive. He protected me as much as he could from her, and he made me understand that I was not responsible for what she did.
He never went to church, but he taught me that God didn’t live in a church, and that being true to one’s self was more important than dropping nickels into a collection plate.
When I was 18, I joined the Air Force. At 20 I married, at 21 I had a son. My husband got out of the USAF, and we moved back to Seattle.
By then Daddy was pretty frail, but he still cooked Sunday dinner for the extended family. Did I forget to mention they had 6 kids of their own, and 3 of them lived close enough to come to Sunday dinner? With their collective 14 children?

When my son was a little over 2, my grandmother’s pastor knocked on my door at 7:00 AM I was puzzled and annoyed. He woke the baby pounding on my door.
I sat in my bathrobe wondering when he was going to get to the point and let me go back to sleep, when he said “Before we go, I want you to understand he did this to himself.”
His words exploded in my face. My Daddy was gone. I still miss him.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.
I gotta go now. :frowning:

MissGypsy, that was lovely!

My own father had a lot of shortcomings, his biggest one was that he wouldn’t stand up to my mother, even when her behavior was endangering us kids. But once he sobered up (when I was 14), it became obvious how smart and funny he was. When my mom died 16 years ago, my dad moved to Florida. He never had a driver’s license, and even at 70 plus years old, rode his bike everywhere. He had a peaceful 14 years on his own.

About two years ago, my sister called me and said that dad’s cancer had spread through his body and he probably had less than a month to live. I was making plans to go down to Florida to see him, but I didn’t make it. He died three days after my sister called.

In The Stand, one of Stephen King’s characters says: A father is not necessary, unless he’s a good father. Then, he’s absolutely essential.

To my dad, who went out in all weathers to provide for a wife and five kids. To my dad, who loves being a dad and was home every night to be with Mom and us. To my dad, who never let us sass our Mom, and taught us to respect her, because HE respects her. To my dad, who was and is one of my best friends in the world.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

It’s funny what dads teach just by setting an example for us to live by…

My father was never a boy scout, but he lives his life by the motto “always be prepared”. Fire extinguishers, first aid kits the size of a tackle box, flashlight with extra batteries And candles with matches, planned escape routes, backup plans whenever we would take a trip, never let the gas in the car get below a quarter tank, know where you are and how to take care of yourself at all times, etc, etc, etc.

Despite, or perhaps because of those precautions, he also never lets a little risk get in the way of having fun. The two of us putting on fireworks shows for the neighbors every Fourth of July with store bought fireworks, making homemade fireworks using the black powder he had for his musket, hiking, canoeing through whitewater rapids every summer, etc, etc, etc.

He always gets along with everyone he meets, even if he doesn’t like that person and I can’t ever recall seeing him really angry. Upset, sure, but never furious about anything. Heck, the only time I can ever remember being spanked was due to a misunderstanding, really! (I was being a brat and not sharing with my cousins. Upon being forced to share, I threw my portion into the yard. From his point of view, it looked like I had thrown it at their car! That was the closest he’s come to being really angry and he gave me several swats on the backside … and then apologized when he realized he miss-saw my actions.)

He always considers others and takes accounting of what they want when deciding his actions. I remember being really frustrated at this as a kid and once snapped at him “When we are at someone else’s house, you say they are our hosts and I have to do what they want. And when someone is at our house, you say they are our guests and I have to do what they want. … Well when do we get to do what I want?” … To which he nonchalantly replied “When you are out living on your own you can do anything you want.”

I remember one time we had company over and I was serving dessert, ice cream sundays. I had made all the sundays and was bringing them to the table, but there had only been two maraschino cherries left, so I put one on my sunday and the other on the one going to the mother of the other family. One of the other kids saw the cherry and said “Oh yeah, I’ll have a cherry too!” … So I walked back into the kitchen, looked at the empty bottle, took a spoon and removed the cherry from my (untouched) sunday and brought it to her. … I didn’t think anyone had seen what I did, until the next day when my dad handed me an entire bottle of maraschino cherries for myself (I LOVE maraschino cherries) with the simple comment “Nice Job.”

When I left for college he handed me a 9" long brass key (looks like an old fashioned skeleton key) and said that “It’s the key to the world. It’ll open any door as long as you Really want it to.” I still have that key. When moving it’s the last thing to be touched after everything is packed. I hand carry it to my new place and hang it in a prominent location. For me it’s the symbol of HOME.

I know that I’ve very lucky he’s still around and I get to call him up and tell him that. … Well I tried but got his answering machine… So I’ll just send him a link to this thread instead.

Love you dad.

A beautiful tribute!

My dad was a good and caring man. A simple man, he worked a blue collar job most of his life. We were never rich, but always seemed to get by. When I was young he worked 3 jobs to try to make ends meet. Once he came home from one of the jobs and I stared and stared at him and finally asked my mom “Who dat guy?” Shortly thereafter he found an office job that paid more, but he liked less.

We were from different worlds, didn’t have much in common, but he loved me. I remember cold winter nights working on my car so I could get to work the next day. I remember cold beer when I came home from college. I got my work ethic from him and my sense of honor.

Rest well day - love you.

I wanted to share something Daddy wrote to me earlier today, words I’ll always treasure:

“I was so looking forward to talking to you. I love you so much, dear daughter. The beginning of my strength…and just what I wanted as a first child. You have always been wonderful, intelligent, and you were such a good baby. All my children are special, of course, but you were first and made it so easy to be a dad. God bless you, honey. Daddy”