My dad’s a character. As a kid, I had no idea of how special that was.
Unlike TV dads of the time, he did not wear a suit and tie and he never dispensed advice, discussed issues or laid down rules.
I will say he was as good looking as a leading man and as trim and hard-muscled as any TV cowboy. But he was more like George Burns than Pa Cartwright.
Dad seems happiest when he’s entertaining others by telling funny stories. His natural sense of comic timing can keep most people chuckling.
My brother, sister and I thought his stories were corny and his jokes goofy.
But most of my friends wished my parents were their parents. And some of my high school friends, after they grew up, actually became friends of my parents.
Dad would rather go for a walk or rake the leaves than talk philosophy. And yet he is philosophical.
When I asked him if he’d rather be loved or respected, he said, "They can’t be separated."
He told me once he thinks it’s more important to get along than to argue a point.
Lest you think him weak, let me tell you that he practiced Judo long before most people knew what it was. For years, he was a jockey, riding thoroughbreds in regional races. He also swam with Johnny Weissmuller when the star of Tarzan movies came to town.
My dad is 91. He now lives with my sister and her husband. But Dad still enjoys reminiscing with us kids about what a good time we’ve all had together.
As I consider his life, I am amazed at this good-natured man who raised me. Born on the windswept plains of Alberta, Canada, his own father died before dad was four-years old, leaving a widow with no marketable skills and five small children.
She brought the family to Michigan where they were bitterly poor. My dad’s childhood was filled with hunger and constant moving from place to place.
Once Dad turned six, his mother sent him to nearby farms where he worked for his board and room. He told me that one onion farmer he worked for all summer long when he was about 8 never allowed him to sleep in the house. He had a little shed where he slept.
Most of the kids my dad played with ended up in prison as adults. I once asked him what saved him from a life of alcohol, drugs or crime. He said, "I saw where that stuff got them, and I wasn’t the least bit interested."
I never heard a vulgar word escape my Dad’s lips. "Hells bells" and "damn" were the strongest words he ever uttered.
When he was really angry at us kids, he’d call us "Banshees" and send us to Mom for disciplining.
I remember dad taking me to the library to get my first library card and taking me to the bank to open a savings account.
We lived on the lake, so all my summer memories are of him swimming with us kids. Or fishing. In the winter, he shoveled off the ice so we’d have a rink to skate on.
He was married to my mother for nearly 50 years and cared for her during the four years she suffered from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
More people attended her funeral than the funeral home could hold, and they overflowed into the entry way and onto the sidewalk.
My father greeted almost every one.
He had a special story for several of my parents closest friends. This is what he said: "When my wife and I were first married we agreed that I would make all the really important decisions and she would make all the other decisions. And you know, in the 50 years we were married there was never once a really important decision to be made."
So this Father’s Day what can I say about a dad who is not typical?
Only this: I just love my Dad!