The Quiet Hero

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My dad is a quiet man who still has a boyish twinkle in his eyes. He’s not one to joke a lot, but when he does, it’s usually pretty damn funny. He’s worked hard all his life, ensuring that his family has everything they need. He worked long hours and often commuted several hours a day to get to work because that was what was needed. He was the baseball coach at my school for years, coaching my brother and my own classmates, a time period that spanned a decade. He’d work eight or more hours a day, only to come to the school for baseball practice. When the school needed a new baseball field, he and the other dads did the work themselves, replacing the grass, creating a new infield, fixing the benches and fences. When the school had its annual Fall Festival, you’d find him either barbequing in one of the food booths or manning a game booth. I’d usually help in between rounds of musical chairs. When it came time to put on the variety show fundraiser, he was at the auditorium building sets and practicing skits. You can imagine my shock come show time, seeing my dad on stage in a pink tutu with the other dads, dancing to Swan Lake. My dad is always full of surprises.

On weekends, my dad would often go to his store to check on things and I’d tag along. We got to spend time together and he’d always get me an ice cream cone. Then I’d wander around the store while he finished what he was doing. During the summer, he’d take me to play miniature golf on the weekends. That’s where I learned how to judge the distance and slope of a putt. It’s the best part of my golf game. When I was old enough to swing a real golf club, he’d take me to the driving range to practice. As much as he tried, we just couldn’t get my golf swing to work. I guess it was the influence of too much tennis and softball. But we had fun and that was what really mattered. When the Empire Strikes Back came out, he took me to see it because nobody else in the family was interested. He taught me how to draw and paint. I watched him over the years tend to the garden and have learned from his example. I joked with him that his legs always blinded me because they were so white. Now I’m the one out in the yard with white legs that cause temporary blindness.

He always made time for his family, even though he was often tired when he got home from work. He often came to our various events straight from work. As a young child, we would play several hands of UNO before I went to bed. Sometimes we played tic-tac-toe and I’m pretty sure he let me win a lot of the time. He took care of the family cars himself, changing the oil, fixing belts, replacing spark plugs. When my brother’s car broke down in a bank parking lot late one night, he drove down there and tried to fix it. When that didn’t work, he pushed it with his own car the half-mile or so back to the house. He was always telling me to turn off the light and television in my room when I wasn’t in there, which at the time, I didn’t understand. Now, I walk around my own house turning off tvs that aren’t being watched and lights in abandoned bedrooms. He is a wonderful artist and his work covers the walls in the house.

When he retired several years ago, I don’t think he ever imagined spending it the way he has so far. He had wanted to spend time painting and drawing and travelling with my mom. Unfortunately, a perfect storm of loss, illness, and economic downturn has resulted in his retirement being less than restful. He was briefly hospitalized for what fortunately turned out to be a manageable condition. He has been an almost full-time nurse, taking care of my mom while she battles lymphoma. There were months where neither of them got much sleep. Her condition has improved and made life easier for both of them. And during the worst months, he also had to deal with me having my own financial issues. I was having a mini breakdown of my own, and here he was telling me everything would be fine. He was the glue that held us together while we waited for my mom to get better. My parents bought a house for me to rent from them so I could have affordable housing when my pay got cut. If it weren’t for their love and generosity, I’d be up shit creek in a leaking canoe without a paddle. I know I’ve disappointed them with some of my decisions. We’ve all been angry at each other for things that have happened or been said. There are few feelings worse than knowing you’ve disappointed your parents, even when they say they aren’t. But through it all, I’ve had their love and support. And even though it wasn’t funny at the time, my dad and I can now make jokes about my finances. We’ve toasted over shots of Goldschlagger during the holidays. When I’m home to visit, he makes sure there is some good wine or margaritas for us to relax with in the evening. He has made sure that my car has brakes, tires, and working air conditioning. This summer, we will build shelves in my garage so I can finally put my crap up and get at least one car in there.

I don’t think we can ever repay our parents for everything they do for us; I know I can’t. But maybe we aren’t supposed to. So I’ll just try to be a good kid and not give them anymore gray hair. For Father’s day, I’ll barbeque for the family so my dad can relax.

Happy Father’s Day, dad. I love you.

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