My dad’s greatest achievement was to elevate the value of a common man. He did nothing the world would consider exceptional, yet no man ever lived that did more to inspire, teach, and personify all that I consider the best of all the manly virtues. He did by simply living them.
I can’t recall a single time when my dad sat me down to teach me something—he didn’t need to; he had already shown me. If he sat me down it was to point out where I had strayed from that example and quietly advise me to return to it.
I lived during the “ass whooping” generation, but I never participated. Even as a young boy, the thought of causing my father shame or embarrassment because of something I said or did was punishment that hurt beyond physical pain. There was no greater prize than hearing him introduce me as, “my boy, Jack.”
Does that mean I never got up to youthful shenanigans—heaven forbid, no. It means that my father had been a boy—and he granted me the freedom to be one too. He would sometimes laugh at my life lessons—like coming home from a camping trip hungover. But the laughter was in the lighthearted vein of Yep been there, son Guess you’ll remember it next time, won’t you? And remember it I would.
I remember the volumes of things we said without ever saying a word. And I remember the phone call I got from him.
Except for the months I was deployed, we spoke on the phone every weekend from the day I was allowed my first phone call in boot camp until that day. The phone rang and it was him—it wasn’t the “normal” day we called—and there was something in his voice. And when I asked if he was okay, for the first time ever he said, “No”. When he told me his doctor had just sent him home with 3-4 days to live—time stood still. We exchanged only five words on the phone that I can remember.
“I’m on my way.”
His body has been gone for many years now—his spirit walks with me every day.
I appreciate the sentiment of those posting thanks for single mothers today, I do, but I am straightforward and honest enough to tell you, it is misplaced. As much as single mothers work to fill in the role as best they can—they are not a father. I love my mother, she taught me a lot too, but she could never have done for me what this man did.
The statics are there for the finding—prisons and early graves, addiction, and broken lives abound in homes without fathers present. Dads don’t have to be superheroes, they just need to be there and be real men.
I hope you like this one, Dad—it’s for you.