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For Dad

Sometimes I wonder if I would have become a writer without my father’s influence in my life. I certainly wouldn’t have developed the skill and desire to read at the level or quantity that I do. When I was seven, my dad read Tom Sawyer to me every night after supper. Second-graders didn’t have much homework in those days. It’s a nice early memory I have of him.

Now that he’s retired, he has time to read several books a month. He also refinishes antiques, paints houses, and keeps an immaculately landscaped lawn. Did his joy of working with his hands contribute to my artistic ability? Hard to say for sure, but that craftsman’s eye influenced me for sure.

One reason why I write humor is because I inherited the smartass gene from him. From what I’ve gathered, I come from a long line of them. From Dad I get the ability to find the humor in almost any situation. That’s a trait that has served me well in dealing with vision loss, failed kidneys, organ transplants, cancer, and hundreds of less serious situations I’ve faced in my life.

This past winter—one of the coldest on record—my dad had his hair cut to a very short buzz cut after chemotherapy caused most of my hair to fall out. It showed me that I wasn’t going through it alone. Not that I had any doubts of both my parents’ love and support through that crisis. I ended up staying with them for several weeks because I was just too frail to be on my own.

I took over the recliner in the den—“his” chair—though he’s never been as territorial about it as Archie Bunker was. It’s where he reads, watches TV, and naps (sometimes all at the same time). But, it was the only piece of furniture in the den I was comfortable sitting in for any length of time, even sleeping there when congestion from a never-ending cold kept me from sleeping in bed.

He shared it willingly, never complaining, and kept the fireplace next to it roaring and stocked with extra wood on the coldest days.

And when I’d gotten so weak I could barely walk, Dad literally caught me when I fell.

The most impressive accomplishment of his took place over several decades. He worked, supported his family, didn’t drink too much, and made sure my brother and I had a stable environment while growing up. Those are all things he wasn’t fortunate enough to have as a kid. When it comes to fathers, mine did a much better job than the one he had.

Somehow, he gave us so much more than he was ever given—but not too much. He taught me that I couldn’t expect the world to just hand me everything I wanted, that I would have to work for what I wanted out of life. So, when the health problems began, I’d already experienced enough hard to work to keep trying, no matter how much of a struggle it might be.

Thanks, Dad, for being part hardass and part smartass.