|How Do I Get Down From Here?|
As I grow older, however, I have found myself reflecting more and more on my father's impact on my and my life. My dad is not a flashy fellow and I don't think anyone would call him a big talker. He is one of those "men of few words", which I know my mother found infuriating many times growing up. As I think back to my childhood, I struggle to find many special moments my father and I shared -- you know, those "Chicken Soup For the Soul" kinds of events. That just wasn't my dad.
Looking back, I realize that so many things my father did (and still does) have influenced and impressed me. While he didn't say much, his actions spoke volumes to my and my brothers and sisters. He worked hard throughout his life and lived frugally so we could enjoy a life a little better than his. My dad is a hard worker. He only worked for two companies his whole life -- both in the retail grocery industry. Most days, my dad left before we got up and came home at dinner time. He worked almost every Saturday too, so he missed a lot of the little league stuff. (For those of you that know my athletic skills, you realize there was not much to miss). But I knew then and especially know now that he was working for us.
He NEVER complained -- I honestly can't recall him complaining about anything. At one point, the grocery chain he was working for started downsizing and he was moved from being a regional guy (down) to a store manager -- yet he continued to work hard and do his job. He quietly found a new career with a different chain, but was respectful and courteous when he left the old company.
My father takes pride in doing things correctly. You can still tell by the neatness of the yard or the way his truck is always clean. The garage is always organized (I obviously failed to learn from that example). Without words, he showed his children the right way to do things.
He was subdued in how he showed his love to my mother too. His gifts weren't extravagant or over the top -- but he never forgets a birthday or anniversary. There are always flowers on the important dates. Perhaps his biggest "quiet" gift was when he joined the Catholic Church in his 40s. He won't say so, but we all know a big reason was for my mom (my italian Catholic mom, btw).
Although my father is a creature of habit, he is not remotely judgmental -- and it's probably a good thing after all the trials his four kids have put him through. He is a great listener but not a great talker and I think that combination is perfect at times. He was, and still is, a calming effect on the family when trouble rears its ugly head.
I realize the standard by which we attempt to judge fathers and fatherhood seems to have changed in some circles. At times it seems like a competition for the "best dad" award and the criteria include how many sports you can coach or events you can attend. Dads are made to feel guilty for working long hours and chastised for not "remembering what they work for." If you miss the winning little league touchdown or the first recorder concert, you have somehow failed as a father.
Well, I see things differently, and I have my father to thank for that. In his over forty years of fatherhood and fifty years of marriage, my father has been a rock and my hero. He has shown his love for his wife, kids, and community not with big words but in quiet steady actions. He has demonstrated that hard work has its rewards, that listening is more important that talking, and there is little value in complaining. I only hope that I can be half the father my father has been to me.
Happy Father's Day Dad!