Saturday, June 14, 2008

Thanks Dad

I get irritated when folks make the excuse that they're the product of their environment & therefore have no hope of ever escaping their circumstances or bettering themselves. It's such bull.

It's another Father's Day - the 4th one to come along since my dad passed away. My grandson was born one day - Dad had a stroke the very next. Can you say rollercoaster? My dad died a few weeks later, unable to speak or move anything other than his left hand. I remember standing at his gravesite during the funeral, like I was in some kind of fog, while my 2 sons practically propped me up between them as I held my new little grandson. Four generations in a tight little grouping - the 'men' in the family, together for one last time. Bittersweet.

My dad was fantastic in every way. He was loving, kind, patient, good natured & one of the funniest people ever. EVERYONE liked him, sometimes it was downright annoying. He was a great teacher, was very ethical & couldn't have been a better example or role model. On a scale of 1 to 10 - he was a 20. Great guy. We were extremely close & ALWAYS got along. He was big, strong, good lookin' - a man's man & I always wanted to be just like him.

He reminded me over & over, from the time I was little - "There's no such a word as can't". Later in life he had the chance to prove that he believed what he preached. He proved it - without question. It was amazing.

Here's the thing - He didn't have parents.
His mother abandoned him when he was 3, along with his baby brother, who was an infant at the time. Left them alone in an apartment over top of a bar for days until someone found them. His father was a drunk & nowhere to be found. My uncle was taken in right away by a good family (everyone wants the puppy) & eventually he took their last name as his own. Dad wasn't so fortunate. He went from place to place - never staying put more than a year. When he made it to the ripe old age of 6, he had to earn his room & board, working on farms from Pennsylvania to Kentucky. At 15 he joined the service. He figured lying about his age was justified in order to get out of his situation.

So how did someone with that kind of start in life become a terrific dad? It's a rhetorical question - I know the answer. It gets even crazier.

He was a builder. His business was doing pretty well & he was enjoying a measure of success, when, at the age of 47, he fell off a building, broke his back & was paralyzed from the chest down for the rest of his life. He never gave in to it - never quit. It changed what he could do physically - but it didn't change him. He was physically, mentally, & spiritually - the strongest man I've ever known. He was my teacher, my friend, my hero - my dad. THE BEST. He's the one that taught me to dream, to never put limitations on myself & to believe that I could accomplish whatever I put my mind to. I miss him like crazy.

He beat a bad start - tough circumstances & did it again when tragedy struck later in life. I never heard him complain about what was fair - ever.

So - I'm not a big fan of this holiday. Don't think I ever will be.

Thanks Dad - You did a fine job.


Rebecca Ramsey said...

What a tribute to your dad.
And what a life he led! Thank you for sharing such a touching and personal story.

JaxPop said...

Thanks Rebecca - It wasn't one of my easier posts & it surely lacked any trace of humor. I'm thinking of maybe posting some upbeat / funny stories about my dad in the future. He made everyone laugh, especially me.