18 June 2011

Happy Father's Day

Father's Day is Sunday.  I am lucky enough to still have my Dad around even though, at 72, he is still relatively young.  His father, my grandfather, Joe Bean, passed away when he was 93, leading me to think that my Dad will be around a long time.  Am I in denial about my father's mortality?  I sure am.  But anyone who knows my Dad can attest to his invincibility.  With two huge hands and the suppport of my Mom, he built everything that we hold dear: our family, our farm, our way of life that hums steadily in tune with nature.  It's perfectly normal on a summer day for either of my parents to grab some tomatoes out of the garden and make some fresh BLTs, like it's no big deal to be so connected to the Earth.   I know that kids always think their dad is Superman, but my Dad is Superman.

Last year I broke my leg and then my Dad fractured his pelvis.  His injury was much worse but, despite some tough times, he's bounced back.  We spent most of the winter in dual recliners in the living room, trying to find something to watch on tv to stave off the boredom.  My Dad was not meant to spend much time indoors.  I could read and watch movies and have a drink every day at 4 o'clock like it was no big deal.  My Dad, however, spends his winter days outside with his friends, chasing fox with his dogs.  He likes to listen to the dogs run.  But, like I said, he's bounced back.

My parents moved us out of town when I was only five and plunked us down on 98 acres on a dirt road in Lima.  My Dad started farming shortly thereafter and we became a "farm" family.  We had horses, chickens, pigs, cows, cats and dogs.  There were combines in our driveway and if it was 8 o'clock on a Saturday morning and you hadn't heard the tractor yet it was because my Dad was somewhere else, probably an auction.  I knew and my family knew at an early age that my Dad did everything for us.  We were the reason he got up in the morning.

As I've grown up, life around me has changed.  My Uncle George, probaby my Dad's best friend, was my Dad's brother-in-law.  I had a sort of hero worship for my Uncle George.  He took me to ball games.  He talked my Dad into taking us on a family trip to Florida to see my Aunt Margaret and her family.  It was the kind of trip that cemented childhood memories.  We went to DisneyWorld and the Ocean and I brought back oranges for some of my 5th grade classmates and I was smooth and styling because it was April and I was tan.  George passed away from cancer in June of 1979.  He left his wife Rosemary (my Dad's sister), sons Billy and Tommy, and daughter Amy behind.  My cousins were in their twenties and my Dad did the best he could to be there for everyone.  Eventually, he and Bill became close friends and went into a variety of businesses together.  Bill married a great gal named LuAnne and became a father himself and they built a house on the road where my parents still live and where I grew up.   Bill and LuAnne and my Mom and Dad were inseparable for a long time.  There were a lot of laughs and good cheer.  My Aunt Rosemary married another George and the family kept growing.   Looking back now it seems like the love and friendship and commitment to family that my Dad lived is a tree that keeps on giving to this very day. 

Friends that I grew up with have had fathers pass away.  Friends that I went to school with have had fathers pass away.  I finally caught up to a girl I had worked with a couple years ago.  A sweet, cute, kind-hearted girl that just entered her thirties.  Her father had passed away since the last time I saw her.  I knew some of these men pretty well, as well as one can.  I respected them and also had a healthy fear of them.  They were not the kind of guys that you lipped off to.   As I heard someone say recently about someone else's father, "Your Dad don't play no f***ing games!" and that pretty much sums them up.  One friend's father caught some kids shoplifting from the neighborhood liquor store.  He picked the kid up by the collar and the seat of his pants and tossed him onto the concrete sidewalk like a bag of beans.  The kid sat there until the cops arrived.  Another one of my friend's fathers responded in kind when a neighborhood kid lipped off to his wife.  That kid got tossed over the porch railing and into the bushes.  I liked these guys and I also think that a little bit of fear of your elders when you're a kid is healthy thing.  Now their sons have become fathers.

Contemplating my father's mortality is taxing.  I know it's all a part of the cycle of life but that doesn't make it any easier.   I think about the times that my Uncle George has missed and how my life might have been different had he lived longer.  I think about the fathers of friends and how they will miss seeing their sons grow into fatherhood.  And then I think about my brother and his five kids (yes, I said five) and how they sometimes follow him around and you can see the hero worship peeking through when they're with him and I grin when I realize that my brother has turned into the type of man that you don't lip off to.  I don't know why but I have been continually blessed with family and friends who know what's important.  And today, like yesterday, I am going to stop by and see what my Dad is up to, and tomorrow I am going to wish him a Happy Father's Day.  I am that lucky.

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