The Roundup -

Dad Never Knew

 


It is time to celebrate another Father’s Day. We should honor our fathers, but that doesn’t always happen. At this time of the year I reflect on what it was like when I was a kid, and what it was like between me and my dad. Of course I loved my dad, but when I was a kid I couldn’t believe how many things he did not know. He was a good dad and a good husband to my mother. He tried his best to provide for us as well as he could. He worked hard. He made just enough money to support his family of ten – providing he worked several part time jobs in addition to being a full time mailman. But he should have known how hard life was going to be. He never should have dropped out of college – even if it was to serve our country in World War II. He should have played his cards better. He might have got a better deal than being a foot soldier in the army. He should have known better. But he didn’t.

Dad got injured in his first combat action, was captured, and spent nearly two years in a German P.O.W. camp. But when the war was over, and he got back to America, he should have been able to enjoy his freedom. But he didn’t. “Shell Shock” they called it back then. Now they call it PTSD. He had GI benefits, but never really took advantage of them – except for his trips to the VA for counseling and treatment of his shrapnel injuries. He should have known better. But he didn’t.

Getting married right away and having eight kids, one right after another, was not the smartest thing to do. Buying a house (with a VA loan) was a good idea, but repeatedly refinancing the loan was not smart. He died before he ever knew the satisfaction of paying off the mortgage. He should have known better. But he didn’t.

It was okay that he wanted me to help him with his landscaping and janitorial jobs. It taught me how to work. It gave me a little spending money. That was smart on his part. But it was embarrassing to have the kids at school tease me for being the janitor’s kid. They knew that I had to help my dad clean toilets for a living. And my dad’s hands were callused and he always looked a bit rough. Why didn’t he spiff up a bit for Sunday church? He should have known better. But he didn’t.

Dad knew I was a good student. Once in a great while he even said so. That was a good thing. But when he had to come in for parent-teacher conferences, after I had allegedly misbehaved, he should have stood up for me. He let my eighth-grade teacher, Sister Rosamund, push us around. She was condescending. She made fun of us, and I don’t think Dad even realized it. Or maybe he did. He did, now that I think about it, work for that same school. I should not have received disciplinary action. I was not the only troublemaker. Dad should have saved me from that embarrassment. He should have known better. But he didn’t.

There were some days when dad needed my landscaping help that I simply did not want to work. I wanted to play baseball. Most of the time he convinced me to work. He increased my pay to one dollar per hour. That was smart on his part. But it was dumb because I did not develop my baseball skills as much as I might have. That was bad for me. And I resented him for it. He should have known better. But he didn’t.

One time my dad had a really big landscaping job. It would involve moving a lot of rock around in a wheel barrow, and I was good at that kind of work. I did not want to work that day. I had just made the eighth grade baseball team and was going to be the starting catcher. He let me play ball. That was nice. But he had severe chest pain. He worked anyway. He died. He should have known better. But he didn’t.

My dad was not perfect, but he was my dad. When I was a kid, I thought I was a lot smarter than my dad. In the 49 years since his death, when he died at the age of 49, I have come to realize that my dad knew way more than I gave him credit for. He knew that family was more important than money. He knew that being honest and fair in all of his dealings was more important than playing the big shot. He swallowed his pride a lot. He was truly humble. He knew it was okay to be himself. He never knew that I would someday appreciate these things about him. My dad was great in ways the world did not understand. I should have told him that when he was alive. I should have known better. But I didn’t.

I love you Dad. I miss you. Have a good Father’s Day.

 

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