Today - Father's Day - is an especially important day to me.
I've told you about shooting the guts out of dad's watch with my brother's bb gun when I was about 3, saying I was aiming at my toe, and him telling me he wished I'd hit my toe. Well, that's sort of typical of dad's approach to things with a gentle spirit of humorous good nature. It's not that he was not dismayed to lose a brand new watch, but moreso that he's not a materialistic sort of person, and on some level must have been amused by the event. 37 years later, I still can't believe I didn't get a spanking for that! I would have spanked me.
I could tell you a new story every day for a year and not be finished extolling his admirable qualities. In the early 70s, we had a Bronco II with a powerful winch on the front. We lived in West Memphis Arkansas, across the river from Memphis. The land in that area is completely flat--lots of farmland along the roadways-- and along each roadway a bayou is carved into the earth for drainage/irrigation. When the weather turned cold and we got that rare coating of ice on everything, dad would go out in the Bronco and pull cars full of people out of ditches. I can't tell you how many times I've seen him do things like that and then refuse all offers of payment for his kindness. He would be embarrassed to be asked about it, but if he did talk about it, I believe he would say that God placed someone in his path whose needs he could help meet, and that it is his duty to do so. By observing him I have learned more about true loving kindess than could ever be gleaned from anywhere else.
I think people in this age feel they need to provide their kids with lots of things that show they have high social standing, but that is absolute twaddle. The time people spend with their children is of far greater importance to the child's future than any material object they may be given. I remember sitting in the Bronco and "helping" dad put in a new clutch when I was about 8. I've been hunting with dad, fishing, and on hundreds of thousands of miles of road trips. The summer of 1974 I came to Dallas with dad (mom was expecting sister and stayed home) and he let me man the helm of the radio control. I remember "Sister Golden Hair" by America and Elton warbled "Bennie and the Jets" as I blissed out on the joys of the road in what would become a life-long love affair with driving and listening to good music.
I also remember one two week trip in late '83 up to Arkansas to pick up grandparents, out to California, then up the coast to Washington state, all to visit relatives. We had a 1976 LTD that dad souped up, and it was the ultimate ass-hauling machine. Dad is indefatigable and would drive through the night sometimes, and I'd stay awake with him and talk. (I'm a night owl, too.) We'd slip into the familiar mode of me directing the radio dial, and just talk about things. I knew he could handle it - he's one of those people with such an acute mind that he couldn't accidentally fall asleep, but I hated him to be alone, so I'd stay awake. I loved that - the radio playing softly (Africa by Toto was the song of this trip) everyone else sleeping, and that's when the great unspooling of tales of dad's adventures would occur, spinning magic that only adds to his legend in my heart.
In a way, I owe my fearlessness to him. Dad is a natural-born physical powerhouse who is a bit intimidating, despite his gregarious good nature. People seem to get the message toute-de-suite that his children will not be trifled with. Once my brother was injured in P.E. class, and my dad came to the school and gave the coaches a talking-to. Not only were the teachers mortified of having my brother injured again, they had me sit out P.E. too (I was in the year behind bro's), rather than risk any further injury to the children of such a man. (It's funny when men who think they are badasses meet someone who actually IS a badass!) I'd say those people made a good call. In crises in my adult life, he's rushed to my aid too. I have the confidence that only comes from knowing there is always a giant in my corner, and that no matter what sort of retarded goofball antics I get up to, he loves me unconditionally and will do whatever it takes to defend me.
I have to wrap this up sometime. You know he's a saint to me. If every person were blessed with a father like mine (and I honestly wish everyone did), there would be no need for prisons or homeless resource centers. Dad sent my sister, brother and me into the world with the sense of security one could only have if their papa were a hybrid of Charles Bronson and Mother Teresa, and quite frankly, that is what a father should be. He is incredibly self-effacing, generous, humble and honest and still has managed to provide a gorgeous home to our family and take care of our every need, and then some. He is a good and faithful husband to my mother, and by example I have a real sense of the standard that is the true measure of a man.
Dad is the kindest, fiercest, most brilliant soul I've ever had the privilege to know, and I'm honored to call him mine. I love you, dad. You're the best, and I couldn't be prouder of you. I thank God daily for blessing me to be born into your home.