I’ve talked a lot about my late mother in previous columns and how growing up I was a momma’s boy, but I’m the man I am today because of one man – my father.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports there are over 18 million children (roughly 25%) who live without a biological, step or adoptive father in the home. Fortunately, I grew up in a home where my father was always there when I needed him, except when he was off working in a factory to support his family.
Having been a father myself for over eight years now, I have even more respect for my dad than I had as a kid. I took for granted that my dad was always present at all my school and extracurricular events. When he wasn’t working to make ends meet or helping coach one of my teams, he was fixing something around the house. Looking back, I’m not sure he slept much.
As the old saying goes, you don’t truly know what a person is going through until you walk a mile in their shoes. While I only have one kid and not two like my father had, I learned from day one there just isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. I’m still not sure how my dad did it.
Growing up, my father taught me many things: how to play sports; how to mow the yard; how to treat women; how to solve complicated math problems; how important it is to read instructions when putting something together; and how men can help out around the house with things like vacuuming, laundry and washing dishes.
Most importantly, my father taught me that if you want something in life, you have to work for it. Just like my grandfather, who worked his entire life in a paper mill, my father spent over four decades working in various factories that made items such as Windex, truck chassis, paper, salad dressing and passenger vehicles. Yes, he did a little bit of everything to support his family, and I never heard him complain, not even once.
Having worked his entire life in a factory, my father didn’t want the same life for my sister and I as his factory jobs took a toll on his body, resulting in knee and back pain, hand injuries, and even an injury to his shoulder that required surgery. To make sure we didn’t have to go through what he did, my father pushed us to earn a college degree, which required him to work even harder to help pay for part of our education.
Thanks to the work ethic my father instilled in me from a young age, I put my studies first and graduated with honors in both high school and college. With a degree in hand, I worked myself up the journalism ranks to my current position as managing editor of The Delaware Gazette. Unlike my father, while this job may take a toll on my sanity at times, having a desk job has certainly helped with the wear and tear on my body.
While my career is far from over, I’m happy to say my father is finally getting a well-deserved break after retiring from Honda in May. So far, he has been taking it easy and has found time to take in some of his grandson’s baseball games. While it’s far from watching the Big Red Machine as he did in his teens and early 20s, I know my son enjoys having his grandpa in attendance.
Happy Father’s Day to all those dads out there doing the best they can to provide for their children while teaching them important life lessons along the way. No one ever said fatherhood would be easy, but one thing is for sure – it’s been the greatest journey of my life. I was blessed with a wonderful father, and I only hope my son one day thinks as highly of me as I do of my own dad.