Friday, April 27, 2007

Measure of a Man - Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today is my dad's birthday. Unfortunately, I'd have to visit the cemetary to celebrate with him. He would have been 81 years old. He and I fought like cats and dogs when he was alive, but I still miss him. Weird huh?

Dad was one of those people who measured success by the paycheck. Maybe that's a guy thing, I don't know. But he never made the big bucks, so he didn't think he was a success. He felt like a failure and I wish he hadn't felt that way. I think he was a success and I'll tell you why I think so.

My dad survived teasing as the "fat boy" when he was a teen. (Having been the "fat girl" I know what this is like.) Instead of letting it get him down, he focused on things he did well. He joined the drum & bugle corps and played bugle and coronet. He was good, too. As a sixteen year old, he got his parents' permission to enter the Navy. He served as a radioman aboard a cargo ship in the South Pacific during World War II. He rarely talked about his experiences, but they colored him for the whole of his life.

After the war, he went to college and earned a geology degree. That's also where he met my mom. I will say the smartest thing he did was snag her and not let go once he found her. After they married, they traveled a lot following his job. Oh, I forgot. Mom said he was good in bed. Hey, you make your woman happy in bed, you're a success! Now granted, I really didn't want to know about their lunchtime quickies, but it's nice to know they were horny newlyweds just like everyone else.

Back to the career thing, once they settled in Iowa, Dad was a well respected geologist. He was active in professional organizations and did a good job for the companies he worked for. He even did lapidary work and made some gorgeous jewelry. I have some which I still wear. More important than the outward success, he stuck with his family.

His parents were verbally and physically abusive to him when he was young, yet he didn't abandon them when they were old and needed him. His dad had to be taken to doctors a lot due to a long chronic disease. My father took time off from work to get him there. My grandmother lived with us until her death after she contracted Alzheimer's disease.

That's the measure of a man, for me. Can he be counted on when the chips are down? My dad was that kind of man.

Mom called Dad her "teddy bear." She was scared of thunderstorms and if he was home, she was fine. If not, she was a jittery mess. If she heard a noise in the night - guess who got to investigate? Yup. He did. More importantly, he got out of bed, put on his robe, picked up a flashlight and some sort of weapon and checked on the noise. Usually it was a racoon going after the garbage.

For all our disagreements - and they were many and legendary - I counted on him too. If I had a flat tire (which I never learned to change), I called Dad. He might grumble when I needed him, but he showed up. He showed up for my sister, too. Even if he had to drive a couple of hours to get to us, he'd still come if we called.

There's a line spoken by Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, "If by my life, or death, I can protect you - I will." That says it all. For all his faults, my dad could have uttered that line and not had anyone burst into laughter. That's the measure of a man, and Daddy ya had it in spades.

Happy Birthday!

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