I’ve always considered myself fortunate to have been raised by my hero.
My dad’s been my hero since I was a kid, longer then I can remember really. He’s always been a little bit larger than life in my eyes and even though I now stand a couple of inches taller than him and outweigh him by a good 40 pounds, I still don’t seem quite so tall or so big standing next to him. He’s the hardest man I could think of to measure up to and he’s the one man I want most to be like.
With that said, I will admit that my dad was a little on the eccentric side. He might have even been a little bit crazy. He would have certainly told you he was if you had asked. He was also one of the wisest men I’ve ever met and the most aggravating. I’m not sure those two traits go hand in hand, but I think they might.
My dad was one of those soft spoken types who you would never think would be a prankster but always was. He would throw out a question just to test your belief in your religion, your politics or your convictions and when you told him you loved him he would ask you why.
He was also one of the biggest worriers, hardest workers and best speakers I’ve ever met. Growing up with him I chased his shadow and he was kind enough to allow me.
I got to ride along in the bucket of the backhoe in our hometown as a kid when he was excavating to install sewer lines or water lines and I learned more sitting on the porch listening to him talk than I think I ever have from anyone else.
As for the reasons why my dad has always been my hero, I couldn’t really tell you. He doesn’t meet any of the qualifications we tend to attach significance to when it comes to being a great dad. I can’t recall a single time when my dad ever pitched a baseball to me or tossed the football. He didn’t take me to ball games and he didn’t go on bike rides. He didn’t go camping. He never would, but he would show up to your camp site long enough to make sure you had food to eat, and then he would go home where it was comfortable.
He did on occasion take me fishing. But when I had in less than five minutes hooked my older brother, a tree limb and finally my own jacket, he pretty much stopped taking me fishing. I’m not sure he ever fished again. Maybe I ruined the experience for him.
What he did do was find every opportunity to teach you a thing or two about your world and what part you might play in it. While frying ants on the sidewalk with my magnifying glass he would come out and softly ask me what I was doing. When I told him I was killing ants he would go into a five minute sermon on how those ants hadn’t bothered me any and I shouldn’t bother them. He would crumble up a piece of cookie and tell me to watch closely as those ants went about cleaning up the mess he made.
“They’re useful,” he would say and I would roll my eyes. Today I give the same speech to my own kids and smile when they roll their eyes.
My own children were blessed beyond measure to live close to my parents and to learn a little of what I already know about my dad. When they came home to tell me the stories my dad had told them I would nod my head and let them retell his story. I know most of them by heart.
“I’m a rebel,” my dad liked to say and usually when he did one of us would smile and my mom would roll her eyes. He was a rebel only because he would say things just to make you think and most of us don’t want to bother with our own thoughts too much anymore; we’d rather just be fed someone else’s. But he kept shaking us up, forcing us to consider things we might never have considered without his prodding right up to the end.
In all my experiences with my dad over the years I believe my favorite are and always will be those times when I sat with him and listened to him talk about his dad. I smile at the look in his eyes when he talked about his dad because I know it’s the same look I had in my eyes when I talk about him.
I hope, some day, to be so lucky that my children have that look in their eyes when they talk of me.
Happy birthday Dad. I miss you.