New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
I am winging it as a single parent for the next few weeks as my wife starts her master’s degree with a residency in Dublin, Ireland. Smack dab in the middle of her time overseas is Father's Day.
Since my wife left, my daughter has constantly been asking, “How many more days until Father's Day?” She keeps telling me how excited she is for it to get here, because she has a “special surprise” for me.
As I cherish her excitement and innocence I reminisce about my childhood and memories of my own dad. I recall him as equal parts hunter, worker and jock. I seem to recall his usual attire to be worn-out blue jeans, shoulder length hair and shirtless. In hindsight he was kind of a Hippie, or maybe more Hillbilly. He always seemed to be hunting or working in our oversized garden. There were also many days spent on the creekside catching our own bait before going fishing.
In retrospect, I think the hunting, fishing and gardening was his way of putting food on the table and providing for his family. Money was scarce and my brother and I knew it, but it was not an issue because we didn’t know any other way. It was fun to us to bring home fish for dinner, work in the garden and partake of the fruits of our labor.
The basement in our rugged old farm house was lined from floor to ceiling with makeshift shelves. These shelves were chock-full of food my mother had spent days on end canning and putting up for the winter. In addition to the shelves we had a big freezer in the basement, which was stuffed with rabbits, pheasant, and grouse that my dad had killed or harvested, if you will. In a separate part of the basement we had old wooden milk crates filled until they were overflowing with homegrown potatoes and winter squash.
My dad knew all the tricks to storing food. It was like the old pioneer days, ingenious in ways; sad in others, but it was our way of life.
Even in those earliest years he instilled in both my brother and I an unparalleled work ethic and an undying respect for the land, along with skills that so many others lack. We quickly learned the value of a truly hard day’s work and how precious a dollar was.
As I grew older there developed a divide between my father and me as outside forces became more prevalent. Gone were the days were I looked up to my daddy with admiration and wonder. That layer of mystery that made him profoundly important to me was slowly being stripped away. As I matured and was exposed to other ways of life I lost my aspiration to be just like him. Gone was the little boy who lovingly mimicked his speech and gestures. Gone were the days of secretly slipping on his giant shoes and walking around the house pretending to be him while he was at work trading his time for money to support our family. No longer would I stand in-front of the mirror flexing my little boy muscles trying to look as strong and tough as the man who brought me into this world.
Through my teenage years and early 20s there was very little communication between the two of us. I was off at school and later lived in several different states. I had embraced what some would call my creative side. I went to school for graphic design and was always involved in music and bands in some form or another. I think these creative expressions were foreign to him. He seemed to shun all the things I did and was involved with. I felt as though he really didn’t care.
After a my first marriage failed I moved in with my grandfather, who was in ill health and needed a hand with his day-to-day activities. I spent most every waking hour with my dad's dad and I quickly saw how much this man had shaped my father. Not only in his physical characteristics and mannerisms, but his speech and lifestyle were similar to my father’s.
Grandpa was an old-school farmer, who was a machinist by trade and farmer by heart. He lived by the belief that there was no need to buy anything if you could make it yourself. This went for food, tools, machinery, cider and even lumber. Most everything could be produced at home with some ingenuity and hard work. I admired this trait in my grandfather and began to once again respect it on my own father.
Eventually, Grandpa succumbed to old age and the onset of Parkinson’s and passed away. Amazingly, my dad performed the service for his own father's funeral! Not just spoke a few words, but led the service and shared a poignant message from his heart to the tear-drenched crowd.
Apparently, in the time I was away my dad had become a caring and loving person. Compassionate to the bone and had even become an associate pastor at one of the largest churches in our area. He was now a fine, upstanding member of the community, garnering respect throughout the region as a pastor and all-around great guy. Since the birth of my daughter I have seen his big grandpa heart soften even more. He is pouring into my daughter all the heartfelt lessons that were shared with my brother and me many years ago. The same lessons I’m sure his father taught him.
I am proud of my dad and what he has become. I love my dad for the multitude of things he has taught me. I only pray that someday I can leave a legacy as grand as his in my wake and raise my children with the respectable fear and admiration that I have been given.
Dad, if I have never told you before: I love you and thank you.