Rants in the Pants, Episode 32- Dad

The picture above is of me feeding Dad a cracker. He was a good man and worked hard to make a life for his family. He was a hero in war and a hero on the home front. He was incredibly tough but had a hear that could easily melt. He was mostly self educated and smart as a whip. The following article was written years ago when he was still alive and able to appreciate it. It was submitted to a major website that used to be a hub for news across the internet. I forget the name. It’s been 15 years. The site kept this essay on its front page for 2 years.

Dad

I think of my dad as being half of the reason I am here. When I was just a toddler, Dad was my main teacher. He taught me how to play baseball, fish, hunt, garden. The list of things he taught me is endless. He bought me a Gilbert chemistry set when I was 5. Mom was afraid of us blowing up the place, so she insisted we do our experiments out in the old abandoned milk barn in back. Dad took me camping and taught me how to survive in the woods with only a knife and a book of matches. Our family had many adventures together out in the wilderness.

When I became a teen, Dad worried, as all parents of teens worry, and we fought over our differences. He never gave up hope on me, though. We went through a couple of years not speaking to each other. It was my choice, not his. In the end, I came back to him and discovered that the love I had been missing was his. I have been close to him ever since. I call my parents nearly every weekend and visit them whenever I am in town. Dad is now in his eighties and he still keeps his garden and his love for me alive.

Over the years I have come to know this man well. He has made his mistakes as we all do. He does not let a few mistakes stop him from being a loving parent. Our family has constantly made fun of some of his ways, ones he will never change and that at times irritate us, especially Mom. Dad sometimes is hurt by this. He is a very sensitive person. He is also somewhat modest. For instance, it wasn’t until about eight years ago that I learned he was a hero in WWII. He had mentioned being in the navy and had told us all the fun things they did but he had never mentioned the pure terror and horror of being in war. Then, one day he invited me to go fishing. On that trip, our last fishing trip together, he told me the story of how he shot down an enemy plane from the deck of his ship as flames leaped around him and bullets flew. The plane was strafing his ship and he had the courage to stand in the face of those bullets coming straight at him to shoot down this plane so that it wouldn’t kill any more of his shipmates.

Half of what I am today is because of Dad. He used to tell me things and then say, “I know you don’t believe this, son, but some day you are going to. Some day you will look back on what I have said and you will remember.” He never spoke words more true. I still find myself telling my grown children things I feel they need to know and realizing at the same time that these were the same things Dad told me. I am proud of my children. They have become productive, smart, and wonderful beings. People say I am responsible, at least in part, because of all the work I put into their growing up. Without my dad’s teaching, I would not have done as well at my task of raising my children.

When I think of all that I have done, everything stretches into a long line that is continuing on and will continue on after I am no more. The children I have raised are becoming successful in many areas of their lives and I, as a parent have had an impact on that. Dad is a part of the chain that stretches across four generations. I have not mentioned his dad, because Dad was orphaned just a couple of months before he was born. Dad is the first link in a new chain he and Mom have created. The work Dad has done will have positive effects for years to come. Every link in a chain depends on all the other links to hold it together. The work I have done with my children would not have been done without all that Dad did for me. When I think of Dad’s contributions to me, to my children, and all the other children that will be, I feel both love and gratitude for what he has done. Dad did not have to go to war to be a hero.

He now lives down the street from me in an assisted living facility. He takes no medication and walks daily despite his 88 years. It is now my turn to return the love and care he gave to me all these years.

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