I am a day late for Father’s Day. The day slipped by me. Spent Saturday with dad while he was in town. Yesterday hiking and reflecting.
My psychic, yes psychic, as I believe in all things spiritual, said that I will be guided by the wisdom of an older man. Well, I have been guided by not only his wisdom but his love and actions throughout my whole life. Being pigheaded and stubborn, an inherited trait, I have not always heeded his advice but have learned the hard way. His patience and love have always been there not just to help pick up the pieces, but to help me learn from my experiences.
Let me tell you a bit about my dad.
He grew up the son of a hard-working, but alcoholic French-Irish father and French-Canadian mother. They didn’t have much but my grandparents had a great capacity for love and wanted their son, and later in life, adopted son to have more.
Dad worked hard. He married early, mom was 17, and pregnant he was 21. Do the right thing was the motto back then. My brother was first, then me 2 1/2 years later. He worked his way up from the mailroom at IBM to Sr. System Business Analyst for the Region by the time he retired. He coached little league, Babe Ruth, bowling ( eventually becoming a gold medal bowling coach), played softball, bowled several nights a week, and was inducted into the bowling hall of fame. He still helps run the men’s bowling association for Vt. On top of this, he was a Volunteer Firefighter during the 70s when our city was going thru ” urban renewal” and an arsonist was burning down the town. Sound larger than life? To me, he was and still is.
Some of my favorite stories of dad include him and my uncles helping John Denver out of a snowbank, stopping an armed robber with a broken shovel, taking on 2 would-be car breakers with a shotgun, and his encounter with Bigfoot. One particular memory I have thought of was Christmas Eve 1974. I was 8. I was going to carry baby Jesus in a midnight mass, my brother was going to be the altar boy. Early in the evening, a call went out to all Firefighters. There was a nasty fire and my Dad had to go. Mom and Nana told my brother and me to take naps and the scanner was on low so we couldn’t hear. Father Frank had come over and he, my mom, and Nana was drinking White Russians and praying. ( it was the 70s).
As it came time to get ready to go and dad still wasn’t home. My brother and I were a little scared but we had important things to do. We were at the church early to get ready for the procession. I was proud but a little scared. The church seemed huge now. As the music started and we started to walk, came my dad. He stunk of fire and who knows what else, but he was there. My confidence and faith were restored and I proudly walked down that aisle knowing dad was beside me.
You see, a dad and a daughter share a very special bond. We look to our dads for the qualities we want in our relationships and how we should be treated and valued as a person. As a result, we learn better how to treat ourselves and value ourselves. The reality is, we don’t often understand or recognize this until much later. When we have gone through tough times. Over the past 7 years especially as have looked over my life, mistakes I’ve made, times I didn’t reach out because I didn’t want to disappoint him, I realized how hard it was for him to watch me struggle and learn from my mistakes. But dad always says, do not regret it. Which I don’t. Each mistake has yielded some positives.
My dad is a loving grandfather to 2 granddaughters, and 8 grandsons. 6 of the steps. Growing up he showed them nothing but love and acceptance. He even buried a grandson at the young age of 19. He and my mom divorced when I was 21. They separated while I was in England but put off dealing with me until I returned because they didn’t want me to worry or decide to come home. I moved away that year and was married soon after. 3 years later, he married the love of his life. It was almost as if my dad had come alive again. Many years later, he stood by her as she was diagnosed with cancer. She fought to the bitter end. My stepsister, stepbrother, brother-in-law, and I were with him that night.
My dad’s biggest fear was she would not be allowed to have a Catholic funeral as they had both divorced.
I will never forget the kind Monsenior who talked to my dad privately and ensured him she would and gave her last rites. A small act of kindness and compassion returned to a man who shows these qualities regularly. He was asleep and holding her hand when she passed. We woke him and he tenderly kissed her goodbye. Dad and I went home and explained to the dogs mommy wasn’t coming home. Charlie looked at him with understanding and wisdom. That night I realized how much I have learned from my dad and how alike we are.
A few years later my step sister was diagnosed with cancer. Dad took her in when my brother-in-law couldn’t handle it. She was his daughter too, it was painful for it brought back many memories but he did it for love. Eventually, my brother-in-law manned up.
For a while, I thought I would lose him to grief.
Then Easter about 4 years ago, severe having dinner, and dad was playing with his new smartphone. When I asked what he was doing he sheepishly replied, “texting my lady friend”. Dad had fallen in love again! This man who had lost so much and picked up his life not once, but twice was now showing me that anything is possible in the matters of the heart. As he nears retirement, again, he will be spending his remaining days with a loving, caring, beautiful soul. I can’t be happier. So what have I learned about myself from dad? Life is about kindness, compassion, love, and hardship. Even when it is hard, it is worth the effort. Things are not always bad, even when they seem hopeless. I get my faith, strength, and leadership from him. My deep thinking and fondness for nature and looking for beauty in life and others from him.
Dad’s favorite saying from as far back as I remember is “be good and be careful” to which I would and still come back with “I know, and if I can’t be good, be careful”. Be careful, but still live with love in your heart.