Ten Things About My Daddy
Fathers Day is Sunday and dads all over the country will awake to sloppily made pancakes, raw to extra-crispy bacon and gifts ranging from a new pair of socks to giant new bar-b-que pits and power tools. Dad Gifts.
My own dad has been gone for a long time now, decades. But the things he taught me are still with me. Every man wants to see his son do better than he did, that's the best gift of all he'd say when I'd ask what he'd like as a Fathers Day tribute.
I can only hope he wasn't too disappointed, and I can honestly report to you dad that both your grandsons are far better than I ever was, time marches on, the sons are better. Happy Fathers Day.
Ten Things About My Daddy
1. As soon as I could understand English, my dad, who was already 40 when I was born, began trying to infuse wisdom into me – some of the points he made and subjects covered I had no comprehension of at 8 or 10 years old. He died accidentally when I was 19, but as my life unfolded often I was presented with confusing conundrums and some of his long-ago spoken words would echo into my head suddenly making perfect and timely sense, it was as though he was still alive and counseling me right then and there over my shoulder on the spot.
2. He had an amazing work ethic– he labored in The Texas Company oil refinery in Port Arthur, Texas for 40 of his 60 years. I saw him get up out of his sick bed, smear Vicks all over his chest and nostrils, put on extra layers of clothing and go out with near pneumonia to work in the elements at the plant, no warm and dry control rooms like nowadays, this was in freezing cold rain, wind or lightning he’d still show up for work to gauge the tanks from the top with a plumb-bob and open and close the valves by hand.
Sometimes when my own bride would encourage me to take a day off or insist some other function was more important than me going to work that day, the image of my daddy trudging off summer and winter, rain or shine was in my mind and off to work I’d go. Even still, I’ve probably had more days off/vacation than he could have ever imagined.
He was also an entrepreneur, holding interests in several businesses, including his own TV and Radio Repair Shop all as sidelines to his work at the refinery.
3. He was a sportsman. He loved games: baseball, basketball, football – in fact, in the beginning, Texaco hired him away from Gulf Oil so he could pitch for the Texaco baseball team; ultimately he coached all the Texaco plant teams in semi-pro baseball and basketball until the refinery disbanded the teams in the late 1960’s.
What’s really nice is that as my own little league coach, we not only won championships – but to this day my old friends from those days will sometimes recall what a gentleman he was, knowledgeable and how he positively had impacted their own lives.
The fact that my father is still alive for these other fellows in their memories warms my heart, and his love for sports and particularly baseball transferred seamlessly through me to my sons.
He liked to say America is a three-box kind of country, the ballot box, the jury box and the batters box.
4. He liked the color green. I don't know why he just did. And I like it too.
5. On rainy days he’d sit on our front porch with his coffee and the newspaper and quietly and calmly read while storms raged just out of reach. I learned to remain calm in the face of some of life's roughest storms. He used to read the funny-papers to me – Mutt and Jeff were a favorite.
6. He indulged my curiosities– even when at about 9 years old I completely dismantled our lawnmower and he had to buy another one so we could mow the grass. Also, we had a push-type reel mower that had to be mastered by the child before moving to the motorized version. Helped me learn how to work and build endurance.
And Dad, I’m still sorry about the chemistry set incident, I’m glad the whole garage didn’t explode and burn down. I never allowed my own boys to have a chemistry set, even though by the time they came along, chemistry sets were little more than glorified toys with ‘salt and water’ experiments not the actual powerful base and pure chemicals and silicates my 1960’s version had.
7. He was a family man – not only his immediate family, my sisters and mom and me; he visited his mother and sisters every chance he got, attended family get-together’s regularly laughed at old times and new times in backyards from Houston to Lake Charles with loved ones and always a glass of sweet iced tea. Before the internet families got together in person for fun and laughs.
8. Nearly 500 people attended his funeral just after Christmas 1976 on a miserably cold, windy and rainy day. When the hearse arrived at the graveyard, I’m told cars were still leaving the funeral home five miles away. It was the first time I realized how many lives his had touched.
9. He instilled in me that accomplishments in sports, business or any field are temporary and every day is a new sunrise and I must prove myself and never rest on past deeds or reputation. Glory is as good as yesterday's newspaper, you have to write a new story every morning.
10. In many ways that even I can’t begin to describe, I have become Him, and I'm thankful for that.
He wasn't nationally or historically famous, he didn't write the Gettysburg Address or paint a Mona Lisa. He created a loving and caring cocoon in a small Texas refinery town for an ordinary family, their friends and associates. The background he provided and the guidance and inspiration I still feel daily is worth more to me than any lump of gold could ever be. Thank you for all the gifts you gave me.
Happy Father's Day Daddy.