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Thank you, dad, for everything

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Father’s Day, a day in which society celebrates dad’s and all men who have served as a father figure, will be celebrated on Sunday, June 20.

For reasons known only to them, many children won’t even recognize their father’s existence. I can’t blame these children as abandonment, sexual, physical and other abuse from some father’s can result in emotional scars that never heal.

However, I was blessed to have been raised by a man who was there for his family up to his dying day. My siblings and I could always count on dad’s guidance, love and support, and he never failed to deliver.

Sporting worn dungarees, and boasting a day’s growth of stubble and deadpan expression, dad resembled the farmer in Artist Grant Wood’s classic painting, “American Gothic.”  However, dad was a skilled fisherman whose fishing pole (vice pitchfork) and passion for this outdoor recreation symbolized the simplicity through which he cared for his family.

Dad and I differed in our views about world events as we did interests. He loved building with wood whereas I loved building with words. He painted the house and I painted on canvas. He hunted, I jogged. He loved fishing and I… well, I loved to be with my dad whenever he went fishing.

And yet, despite our opposing interests, dad and I were closer than two peas in the same pod. We could talk, laugh and cry over any subject. Dad loved life and life certainly seemed to love him. He was passionate about his family and compassionate toward people. He spoke well of everyone, was kind to friends and enemies alike, and was generous to a fault.

Now, I’m not attempting to elevate my dad to sainthood. Indeed, he fell far short of perfection and made his share of mistakes. He occasionally lost his temper and cursed – sometimes loudly and colorfully, too. He knew he was mediocre in many ways and openly admitted his shortcomings.

A product of the Great Depression, dad wasn’t wealthy, nor did he care to accomplish feats associated with greatness.

He didn’t enjoy political or social status. He didn’t wear expensive designer suits or dine on caviar and champagne. He didn’t drive a Mercedes, fly a private plane or vacation at lush, tropical islands. He didn’t attend college or write articles for publication.

“I have my fishing poles and a cold beer in the refrigerator,” dad often said to me. “What more do I need out of life?”

Yes, dad was a simple man who enjoyed simple pleasures. And yet, he possessed riches many wealthy people never achieve.

He had family and friends who loved him. He was an honest, easygoing, hard-working family guy who seemed to radiate an aura that put at ease everyone with whom he came in contact.

Photo courtesy of Stock.XCHNG

When it came to his family, dad was the ultimate caregiver, disciplinarian and educator. He taught me to pop popcorn, tie a neck tie (he hated clip-on’s), and catch and clean a fish. He showed me how to plant pine trees (100 in one afternoon), how to prepare (and drink) blueberry wine and change the oil in a car.

When other parents bought fresh produce, dad taught my siblings and I to plant our own vegetables, and my brother and me how to fish. While we didn’t know it at the time, these lessons in self-reliance would repeatedly pay dividends in our adult lives.

Dad used his carpentry, fishing and gardening skills to great effect, be it repairing a leaky faucet or slapping on a fresh coat of paint to a weather-beaten fence.  Through his skills, dad put food on the table and a roof over our heads.

He worked to ensure his children had an education, clothes to wear and a warm bed in which to sleep. And while the groceries occasionally ran low (as it does with any family), love was never in short supply. Each night I went to bed feeling safe and secure knowing I would wake up to a parent who would be there for me.

Despite our opposing interests, dad voiced his pride in my career choice, enlisting in the Navy and returning to college. My happiness was important to him, and he encouraged and supported me in all my endeavors. He made me feel I was the most important person in the world. I am blessed to have been born to such a loving parent.

In August 2002, dad left this world and the people who love him. The family and friends who filled his room to standing-room-only capacity and the tears that filled the eyes of nurses and doctors is testimony to the love he gave and received. As death closed his eyes, a nurse tearfully asked, “Why him? He’s such a kind, sweet man.”

Truly, dad was a rich man. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him, his unconditional love and sacrifices, and how I can never begin to repay him for all he has done for me. Because of the friends I have made and the talented individuals I have come to know, I too, am a rich man. I wonder if my dad ever realized the depth of his influence.

On this Father’s Day I encourage you to reflect on all your dad has done for you, as I reflect on everything my dad has done for me. Thank him for taking you to the ball game and for teaching you ride a bike. Tell him you appreciate all he has done for you. You might never get another chance to do so.

As for me, thank you, dad, for the scores of Christmas presents that carpeted the living room floor, and for filling our stockings to overflowing with mouthwatering goodies. And thank you, for teaching me restraint when I sought to beat up the neighbor kid following his sarcastic remark. Thank you for not giving up on me when my carelessness caused you distress.

Thank you, dad, for complimenting my shoddy lawn-mowing skills, and our backyard horseshoe matches where an ice cold beer awaited the winner. And thank you for the nights we sat on the front porch with a can of beer and billions of stars in attendance. Thank you, dad, for teaching me what life and love is all about. Thank you for the memories – for everything.

Happy Father’s Day, dad, wherever you are.

William J. Dagendesh is editor in chief of CSU-Pueblo TODAY. You can contact him at wj.dagendesh@colostate-pueblo.edu.

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