Father’s Day and My Dad….
I’ve read quite a few stories that sentimentally describe a wonderful Mother’s Day story. Father’s Day is different. I can’t recall any of those warm tales specifically about Father’s Day.
I’m a reader. I read the local daily newspaper in its entirety every day. I read the Wall Street Journal Monday through Saturday, although not everything it contains. The technical financial stuff just doesn’t turn my crank anymore. I always have about 2 or 3 books on the night stand that I’m reading. So why haven’t I seen warm, sentimental stories about Father’s Day? Sure, there are many books out today with warm remembrances of someone’s father. I’ve read more than my share of them. But what I’m talking about is specific stories about Father’s Day. I know there have to be some, but let’s face it – they’re scarce.
You know, most Dads are the “enforcers” in the family. Screw up and you’re told “just wait until your father gets home” or something to that effect. Yep, you definitely didn’t get away with anything. No, it’s just that the “man” isn’t here at the moment. And this delay is itself punishment. Imagination runs rampant, tension mounts, stress increases. “Wait until your Father gets home” is quickly approaching. Are you ready?
I’m thinking that maybe this is why we don’t have warm Father’s Day stories. Dad’s for the most part aren’t cuddly. They can be fantastically loving, great providers, respected citizens, admired “family men”. But cuddly? No, that’s an adjective I don’t ever remember that term being used to describe my Dad or any dads of my pals for that matter.
My Dad was a tough Dad. It was his way. There was no alternative. No debate. No multiple choice. His way. Period. He was fair, but there was no “middle ground” with my Dad. Just his way. And maybe having dads like this explains why I don’t recall any Father’s Day stories. While moms are pretty, soft, warm, tidy, and understanding dads for the most part are rougher, tougher, unyielding, perhaps a bit untidy, and always dictate the rules. At least that’s the way it was in our household and certainly in all of my buddies houses when I was growing up. Obey Dad and Mom’s rules or suffer the consequences. From Dad.
My Dad and almost all of my buddies dads were World War II vets. They fought for our freedom overseas. They had seen war and the horrors it produced. They had been in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard and knew how to take orders as well as give them. So it wasn’t a particularly big leap for them to reign one of their kids in when he or she misbehaved or stepped out of line. Little did they know that by doing this it made their kids less likely to write warm Father’s Day stories about them. And I’m guessing they really didn’t care.
I was a “baby boomer” and my Dad was 43 years old when I came along. I only knew him for 21 years as he passed away just a few weeks after my 21st birthday. He had some health problems and back then medicine wasn’t as good as it is today. If it were I have no doubts Dad would have lived many years beyond his 64 years. But I did have my Dad when I was growing up. He taught me to fish and love it as much as he did (which is saying something). He taught me right from wrong, good manners, not to be boastful, to respect others, be a good Christian. Although not all of life’s important lessons originated solely from my Dad, he made sure I practiced them and paid the price when I did not. Flexibility just wasn’t part of Dad’s karma.
The older I got the more I admired my Dad. He had come from some of the humblest beginnings imaginable, fought in a horrible war, worked two jobs immediately after the war, and managed to not only support his family, but do so in a way that made sure we did not want. Mom and Dad were by no means extravagant, but they made sure their children were their first priority.
One year after I got out of high school I gave my Dad a new DAM Quick spinning reel for Father’s Day. At the time it was considered one of the best spinning reels made. At least that’s what the sporting goods store clerk assured me. Dad was thrilled and I’m sure would never have bought such a fine reel for himself. From that day on the DAM Quick reel became his “go to” reel. As much as he loved that reel, I know I loved it more seeing him so happy. As he often would say, “that’s a fine piece of machinery.”
Only after my Dad became ill did I realize just how much I had depended on him. From his unlimited patience when teaching me to drive to his understanding when I let a six pack of beer get the better of me, Dad was my best pal as I approached adulthood. Yes, he had flaws and would never be a poster boy for Dad of the Year, but he never tried to cover these flaws up, never acted like they didn’t exist. It was what it was. If someone didn’t like Dad – tough.
Illnesses have a way of taking even the most vital human beings and eventually bringing them to their knees. Dad’s medical foe was an autoimmune blood disease that would come and go. When it came Dad was really sick and bedridden. When it went away he was back to his old self. Unfortunately as time passed the disease came more often than it went. Fishing trips to Canada ceased. The DAM Quick reel remained in the tackle box.
Eventually it became clear that this was one fight that my Dad would eventually lose. By then I was no longer living at home and was working a full time job as well as going to college with a full course load every weekday night. My time was so filled that I would have to go by Mom and Dad’s house whenever I could break free for short intervals or on weekends. Every time I came by I could see Dad was slipping.
On one of my visits Dad was feeling a bit better and asked me to sit down on the edge of his bed. He grabbed my hand in his and looked me straight in the eyes. Unflinching and with unexpected strength he said, “You know son, I’m the only father you’re ever going to have. I hope I’ve been a good one and that you know I love you.”
Only at that moment did I realize just how simple and yet how profound that statement was. And it has stayed with me to this day.
So today is Father’s Day and I have just told you a Father’s Day story. My Dad passed away about 6 months after our bedside talk. But I’m not telling you this story to make you sad or so you will think my Dad was someone special or different. It’s just that what he said is so true. YOUR Dad is the only Dad you will ever have. Take a few minutes today to call him or go by and see him and thank him for being your Dad. He may have made mistakes, screwed up on more than a few occasions, but he’s still your Dad. And the only Dad you will ever have. Make sure he knows how much you appreciate that.
This issue we have some great deals on the perfect reel for Dad as a late Father’s Day gift or a treat for yourself.
Thank you for your wonderful friendship and support. All of us here at American Legacy Fishing truly appreciate your continued loyalty. We are so fortunate to have so many friends who share our joy and obsession with two of the world’s greatest sports. Thank you once again for all you do!
Alexander Robert says
Thank you for the heartfelt story Tom. As I am expecting my first child this Fall, I contemplate the words and memories of all the fathers and son's stories I hear. I lost my Dad when I was 6 (I'm 37 now). Balance in life….Yin and Yang…has always been at the forefront of how I live my life. I hope to strike a true balane between being a fair, but strict disciplinarian as well as a truly warm and cuddly father. Doing so is difficult, but I feel it sets the precident for a very well rounded young individual. A very happy Father's Day to you!
Bill Debiec says
Happy Father’s Day Tom. Thanks for telling us about your Dad ! Fathers are special.
Kevin Reeder says
Great story Tom………..are you sure we didn’t have the same FATHER? Ditto on almost EVERYTHING you said!
My Father said to me, when I was about 21, “Your mother and I made a lot of mistakes raising you 4 kids. But…….
At the time, we thought we were doing the right thing”.
So, there you have it, Tom………….Fathers are not perfect, but they’re the only Father you’ll ever have!