When I was a kid, Dad and I were coming home on a dark night and we noticed our neighbor (whom we didn’t know) on the shoulder of the road trying to change a tire. What happened next wasn’t extraordinary, but it shaped my life.
Apparently the man didn’t know how to change his tire, so Dad helped by doing it and showing him how. When we left, the man tried to give Dad some money. Dad politely refused it and said, “I may need you some day!” He got in the car and I asked why he didn’t take the money. He told me that when we can help someone we should do so without any expectations other than knowing that we helped someone. Another time, we were in the grocery store and the clerk gave him back and extra $20. Dad realized it and went back and told her. I asked him why he didn’t keep it and he said, “It wasn’t mine and she would have to pay for it out of her pocket. Be honest, son, because that’s worth more than money.”
I was driving down the road few years ago and a lady had a flat. I stopped and helped her out, while my wife and kids waited. She was SO very thankful. She figured out my address and church name and sent me a card of thanks. To this day, truthfully, it’s not a big deal…because in my head it’s what a man does. But she did see it as a big deal. I was simply doing what I had been taught to do.
These are things you don’t think about until later in life and certainly don’t appreciate until you have children of your own. Dad is not perfect. He’s far from it. He made a lot of mistakes in our upbringing. He worked hard, and at times was quite difficult to figure out…and most of all…just like any other parent…the further I get down the road of life…the more I see the things he taught me coming to the surface.
He taught me to work hard for an honest wage. He taught me to be honest (which I hope to do more and more every day). He taught me to provide for my family…and I know that even thought I am 40 and he is close to 70 that if I walk away from my family or fail to do all I can to provide for them…he will still kick the fool out of me. My grandparents passed away a few years back. They passed pretty much at the same time and during that time, he and my uncle did what sons do. They took care of their parents and it nearly ran them crazy. I learned that a man takes care of not just his household, but looks after his parents as well. I intend to look after him and my sweet stepmommy, Jackie…even though he probably will always tell me they’re fine (wink, wink, Dad).
A little over 20 years ago, I had the first of three surgeries on my shoulder. I was in the Navy and living in Orlando, Florida, and I had about 2 weeks of recovery time before heading back to my duties. My dad told me that he would help me get a ticket if I wanted to come home for recovery. I got my ticket and packed my bag (with one arm in a sling an swath) and a friend dropped me off at the airport. Thankfully, it was a short flight and very uneventful. When we landed, everyone began doing the normal thing…and then I noticed this lady struggling to get her bag out of the overhead…and as she pulled and tugged, it became apparent to me that something bad was going to happen. I’m not a tall or a big man but she was much smaller than even me, so I walked up and thankfully, even though I only had the use of one arm, I was able to get her bag down for her. She was so very grateful and I simply said, “No problem,” and went on my way. I didn’t give it another thought. When I got to baggage claim, there was my old man waiting on me. He gave me a proud smile and an awkward hug (bum shoulder being the issue) and we began to look for my bag.
Right as we pulled my luggage from its ride on the conveyor, Dad spun around as if someone had gotten his attention. Apparently, the little lady from the plane had noticed us together, and tapped him on the shoulder. He gave her his attention, and she said, “Excuse me, but is this your son?” He looked at me out of the corner of his eye for a moment…as if he wasn’t sure what was coming next…and then he said, “Yeah, this is my boy.” She said, “I was having trouble on the plane with my bag, and lots of other people were all around, but he’s the only one that stepped in to help…and he was also the only one with his arm incapacitated. You should be proud of the young man you’ve raised.” Dad, grinned his very characteristic sideways grin that we all have come to adore so much and said, “I AM VERY PROUD. I would expect no less from him.” He looked at me and I was actually feeling a little embarrassed, and he was beaming with pride and said…nothing. No words could do justice to a moment like that between father and son. He said, “Let’s go, ” and we went.
That was a HUGE defining moment in shaping me into manhood.
My dad messed up a lot…but he raised me into a man. He continues to teach me…and I teach my daughters what a man should be…hopefully…more and more every day.
Our kids are watching us, men. Let’s be the models for the way we want the future to be.
Thanks, Dad. Happy Father’s Day.
From a son that is proud of his father,