Today is my Dad’s birthday. For various reasons, I will simply refer to him here at ‘Big Bill’. I lost my dad four years ago and not a day goes by that I don’t miss him at some point or another in each day. I was blessed that he lived to 88, but I still feel that he is gone far too soon from my life.
Let me say here, up front, and make it perfectly clear that Big Bill was by no means perfect. No one is. However, I do believe in my heart and soul that he tried his best all the time. Sometimes he came up short. Sometimes the devil of drink got the best of him, but in the end he beat that too thanks to AA.
On this, his birthday, I am struck by the lessons and values I learned from Big Bill. They are varied, many, and all invaluable.
I love the fact that I learned both what to do in life from him — as well as what not to do in life. I think that may be the true measure of someone being real. You learn from their strengths and their shortcomings. You learn from their successes and their failures.
One thing for sure, I would not give a rip about genealogy, family history, Cornwall, Bohemia, and most of all Family if it hadn’t been for Big Bill.
Most of all he taught me that family is precious. He lived his life always aware of his family and especially his wife. While he was a titan of industry, he made some time for each of us in his life and made super efforts to include my mom in his many adventures and opportunities, which was not always the case in his day.
He also taught me that what our children will most remember about our time spent together may well NOT be the fancy times. They might not be the family vacations. They will, most likely, be the small events that happened together that neither person recognized as ‘special’ at the time. Some of these are:
- Times spent at the Dairy Queen. Sitting on the benches, because we surely couldn’t eat a DQ in his car!
- Times spent learning how to make, fix, or assemble things in his workshop. To this day I cannot smell the sweet aroma of sawdust or the acrid scent of solder melting and not be transported to standing with him during our incredible hours working on something with our hands.
- One day, late in his life, when he finally spoke of his duty in World War II, I came to learn what sacrifice for ideals and freedom truly means and what he did to preserve our way of life with his duty. Because of this every time I see a military woman or man, I stop to thank them for their service.
- I learned to laugh from my dad. Every morning of his life that I recall he started it the same way. Coffee in hand, pipe at the ready, and standing at the kitchen counter, he would open the daily newspaper — to the comics! He said the world of news and business could wait while he started his day with a smile and laugh. Plus, after all, he had to know what was up with Pogo, as his favorite quote was ‘We have met the enemy and he is us”!
- I learned compassion for the less fortunate and that you could care for your family and your own well-being, but still take time and money for those who’s needs far exceeded our own. I would be a far different person today if I had not grown up with those onionskin airmail letters taped on our ‘fridge door from our sponsored children.
- I learned to have great respect for our elders in the family. My dad’s folks lived close by and then in our home with us. My dad always treated his dad with a vast measure of respect. My Gramps and Nana were proud on their own, but I could tell that this respect went both ways … and it taught me huge lessons in family values.
- I learned that you can be multifaceted in your beliefs. My father was one of the most socially advanced men in his generation, but on other issues he was far more conservative. I learned that this was the sign of a true ‘thinking man’ and not someone who just accepted things as rote.
- I learned how the dynamics of a family need to operate. This because our family was for many years influenced and dysfunctional due to the impacts of my dad’s alcoholism. But he invited me to his treatment sessions and I learned the other side, thankfully!
- I learned that family is family. Your side, your wife’s side, your cousins, the multitude of aunts and uncles — all deserved the very same respect simply because they are FAMILY!