I know my Dad will probably never read this, but as it is almost Father's Day I have him on my mind. I know without a doubt I was given the best Dad in the universe. Never did a more unselfish man walk on this earth. My Dad turned 80 this year. Not a tremendous accomplishment in itself, many other men have turned 80 or more that is true. However, 10 years ago my Dad suffered a major heart attack. During surgery to put in a stent the Dr found that Dad had suffered a previous heart attack and because he didn't go to the hospital he had lost more that 40% of his heart. He also indicated he didn't think my Dad's condition was as bad as it was because Dad was conscious when the Dr. saw him in the Emergency room and after seeing the extent of the damage to his heart was surprised that he had been.
We all knew the reason that Dad didn't pass out was because he wouldn't ever want to do anything that would worry our Mom. A hero in her own right for winning a very tough battle with colon cancer.
My Dad quit school in the eighth grade, lied about his age so he could get a commercial drivers license and sent his money home to his family. Two years later he would be drafted into World War II because of that lie, as it appeared he was 18 but he was really only 16. When he went home and asked his dad to go with him to the draft board and explain that he really was only 16 his father wouldn't do it, telling him "That's what you get for lying." So he went to war.
He was on the front lines in Japan. He fought in muddy trenches. He saw friends blown apart. He caught malaria. He was just a boy. He doesn't talk about that experience much, but of the stories he will tell makes us realize that there were many horrors witnessed.
Dad was 23 when he married my Mom, just two days after she turned 16. This was 1950. They are still together. They are still in love. They still say "I love you" every night before turning off the lights and going to sleep.
I look at everything I have now, what I was able to provide my kids, all the luxuries. I think of my dad's family losing their farm in Oklahoma, driving west trying to reach other family in Oregon, but running out of money outside of Las Vegas in a small town called Searchlight. They found a cave to live in and his dad found work in a mine. In time they built a porch in front of the cave. His mom would sweep the dirt floors, it was their home for a long while. A cave.
My dad only has an eighth grade education. He impressed upon his four kids that education was so important. His older brothers all had college degrees. Dad was the baby and when the depression hit there wasn't the money to send him to school and so he quit to help support his family. He always felt like he was not as intelligent as his brothers or even us kids. He couldn't spell very well and was very self-conscious about that.
However, this same man built a brick house from the ground up. He did all the brick work. He put in all the plumbing. He did all the electrical work. He built the cabinets from scratch. He showed us how to ride a horse, how to feed it, take care of it, and all the responsibilities of having pets. We had horses, goats, rabbits, chickens, cats and dogs over the course of our childhood. He took care of all the maintenance on our cars from changing the oil to rebuilding the engines. He could figure out the angle of the trusses for a roof and the yardage needed in pouring concrete. He is smarter than anyone I know.
Dad's only concern has always been first for Mom and second for all of his kids. He always wanted us kids to have a new pair of shoes for school, because he remembered how embarassed he was going to school barefoot when his family couldn't afford them. He worked so we could live a better life, an easier life than he had. He went without many times so we didn't have to.
Dad took us camping and taught us how to fish and appreciate the great outdoors. He loves having his family around him. His greatest pride and joy is his kids and grandkids.
Dad is no longer the same strong hero that I have branded in my brain. The guy that could break a wild horse, build a house for his family, take virtually anything apart and put it back together again. His arms look weak and no longer show the strength of his many days of toil and hard labor. He is shorter by inches and walks slowly. His voice is soft and weak and sometimes I have to strain to hear him. But he always has a smile on his face, he still loves his kids and grandkid and great grandkids to be around him, and his still always says "I Love You", whenever we leave.
As with all of us, the days fly by, work and everything else seems to get in the way of taking the time out to stop by the house and see my parents. I know there aren't really too many days left to waste any chances to somehow pay back to this man all he has done in his life, for his family, for his friends.
I love you, Dad.
Always and Forever.