Nearly every able-bodied man can father a child. Not all, though, can live up to what it means to be a father.
I'm one of the fortunate. I had a father who knew his responsibilities. With Father's Day rapidly approaching, it's a good time to reflect on what the Old Man has meant to me.
Before you get up in arms, the term Old Man isn't a deragatory reference in my family. Actually, I think he kind of likes being referred to as the Old Man. It's an endearing reference that reflects his vast experiences, and subsequent words of wisdom that he occasionally still passes on to me and my siblings. Old Man is akin to being the one with the last word, the sage who can make sense of things when all others are unable to reach a conclusion. Bottom line, it's a term of respect.
My dad, still going strong at the age of 76, continues to run circles around me. He's always had more energy than anyone else in the family. Perhaps that's why he's always been a work-a-holic. Heck, even today he out-works everyone in the family.
Growing up, I've got to be honest, Dad wasn't an every day sight at the house. His primary function was to bring home the bacon, and he performed that task without fail. Dad's trade was that of a can maker. He rarely, if ever, missed his shift-whether he was working days, swing or graveyard. More times than not, each of his work weeks was jammed full of lots of overtime hours. His paychecks amply provided for all six of us kids and Mom, not an easy task when you consider there was only one income funding our household. Mom was a stay-at-home parent...well, at least until most of us kids got up to middle school and high school age. Dad's unflinching work ethic allowed us kids the luxury to have a parent at home. Although I didn't realize it at the time, I credit having such a stable presence at home as one of the reasons all of us kids have gone on to be what most would consider contributing members of society.
As a youth, the times I got to spend with Dad...rare as they may have been...are what make up some of my most favorite memories. I used to love the neighborhood boxing matches he'd supervise in our back yard, as well as the basement ping pong games where he reinvented the left-handed slam (that's the one where the ball missed the table but caught you flush in the chin). Once in a blue moon he'd traipse to the neighborhood school yard with us for a pick-up baseball game. I always laugh when I think back to the expression on his face that one Saturday, when he parked a homer through a second floor class window down at Paine School. Although he was always reticent about displaying his musical talents, I thoroughly enjoyed those infrequent times when he'd pull out a harmonica from one of his bedroom dresser drawers and play a few bars (it was a treat because no one else in the family had any musical talent).
More than anything else, the memories I most fondly cherish are those of Dad just being himself. He was, and still is, a big teaser, taking delight in "getting your goat" with some off the wall story that hinges on ludicrousness and reality.
The biggest influence the Old Man has had on me and my brothers and sisters is his penchant for fairness, for honesty, for equality, for responsibility. He never preached those traits. Instead, he lived up to them. When we strayed off the path, the disappointment in his face said it all (if we still didn't get the message, sterner measures followed).
The Old Man has never been a touchy, feely kind of father. Emotions are kept in check. But he's always been there, through thick and thin, bailing each of his kids out of sticky situations whenever they've arisen. Without fail!
He's the kind of father you can count on. Happy Father's Day, Dad.