The years have flown since my dad’s passing, but with Father’s Day approaching I find myself asking “Who was he?” Seldom did I catch a glimpse of him as an individual, and as the youngest I didn’t have much opportunity to get to know him while I was an adult; consequently stories from his formative years are fragmented.
Fleeing military conscription prior to WWI my grandfather arrived on the shores of New York City from Germany. He was a teenage boy traveling alone and he went on to build a life in America that included numerous hardships along the way–the Great Depression and being a first generation German during World War II. My dad was one of two boys with seven older sisters and details concerning his upbringing were vague, except for the knowledge they had an incredible work ethic that guided them through life’s challenges.
A particularly fond memory of his was going to Sunday church in the family’s horse-drawn wagon. As the story goes… my grandpa’s horse was intent on pulling away from the pack and one-by-one passed the other horses until he was at the front, whereupon he settled into a more reasonable gait. A recurring weekly event, the neighbors were reluctant to believe it was the horse’s decision to pass everyone on the way to church, but rather thought my grandfather was trying to show off his prized horse…
He was a man who loved to fix things, enjoyed telling silly jokes, took pleasure in puttering around the yard, and resolved within himself to pay for his children’s tuition at Catholic schools throughout their education. He loved his family and did his best to rise above personal challenges to care for us all.
In my children I see some of his facial features. The love of silly jokes is alive and well in my son John, who is always working on new puns to share with unsuspecting listeners. My daughter, Anna, loves to spend time gardening in the flower beds, much like the grandpa she never met. My dad’s work ethic is alive and well in the lives of his grandchildren; more importantly my dad’s love of God and the knowledge that He is a very real presence is also alive and well in his children and grandchildren.
Dad’s are important. They teach by how they live their lives, and I am blessed to have had a dad who constantly strove to do his best.