My Dad was a good guy. He grew up during the Depression, third oldest in a family of nine children. Food and money were tight, and they often did without. His dad was callous, raising his family with an abusive iron fist. His mom was gentle and kind but intimidated by her husband’s temper.
My Dad was tough and brave. He never finished high school since he was expected to go to work to contribute to the household. He got a job painting, and then started his own business as a painting contractor that was to become his life-long career. He didn’t want for much in his life and didn’t aspire for great things. He enlisted in the army during World War II and became a sergeant driving a Sherman tank in the Battle of the Bulge. He came under enemy fire, was injured and received the Purple Heart.
My Dad was steady and strong. After the war he met my Mom at a dance, married and bought a house in the suburbs in the 1950’s where he and my Mom raised my brother and me. They eventually paid off the mortgage and lived in that same house for the rest of their lives. Although he didn’t attend church, he drove us there every Sunday in an American-made Chevrolet, one of only 4 cars he owned in his lifetime. He had a quiet faith that he chose to keep private. He survived health problems including a brain tumor, a heart attack, heart bypass surgery, skin cancer and then bravely dealt with mini strokes and the onset of early dementia.
My Dad was faithful and honest with a heart full of love. He stayed faithful to my Mom, even though their marriage wasn’t always a storybook and took great pride in his family. He said exactly what was on his mind whether you wanted to hear it or not, and his temper flared like a time bomb, although he was never abusive. We didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. He never said “I love you” to me until much later in his life, but I knew he did by the way he danced with me atop his shoes, watched me act in my plays and cried at my wedding. Grandfather was his favorite role. The intensity of his love and concern for his two granddaughters was amazing for me to watch. I was almost jealous to see his playfulness, caring and overt affection for “his girls.”
As this economy brings us to our knees, we should take notes from my Dad’s generation on how to live within your means and to be content with the simple things in life. He proved that you don’t need a succession of huge, stepping stone houses, fancy cars and tons of money to live a good life. You just need to be tough and brave – steady and strong – faithful and honest with a heart full of love.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.