My Dad was born in the 1920s. He was a Depression era farmer, high school drop out, WWII veteran, drill sergeant, abandoned by his mother, tough guy, 25 year survivor of a triple bypass. That all paints a picture that fits him perfectly and at the same time misses the mark by a mile.
Part of his youth was spent living in tents or railroad boxcars. He and his two siblings lived on an Oregon farm with their Mom and Dad, until his Mom decided she couldn’t handle it and abandoned the family. This left three kids to be raised in the worst of situations by a Father who was physically and verbally abusive.
My Dad played, managed and officiated any sport you can imagine. He never missed one of my football, baseball or track events. He brought food for our team and invited everyone over for pool parties after. He criticized the refs and encouraged our team at embarrassing decibel levels. But, he was there.
He never finished high school, but, today his three children are all college graduates. He came from a broken home, but, is rapidly approaching his own 60th wedding anniversary. He never earned much money, but, his kids never wanted for anything.
His internal conflict has always been that he felt his job was to toughen us kids and prepare us for life, while my Mom provided all the comforting, nurturing, and “I love you”s. He desired to do all that nurturing stuff, but, it wasn’t done by his father and he really didn’t know how to do it for us.
Today, I see it in his eyes. He is proud of his kids and he is happy the way he raised us. But, in his eyes I also see thousands of hugs and “I love you”s that he wanted give and regretfully never knew how.
I always claimed that he was never as tough as he tried to portray. There was often a hollow, obligatory tone behind his, “Clean your room!” or “No, you can’t go!” I believe now, as I watch him hug my daughter and lavish love on her that the man he always wanted to be is finally emerging.
He has regrets. I have none. I love you too Dad.