Father's Day is this weekend. This will be the first time in my 52 years of life that I don't have a father alive to call and tell him that I love him. My Dad died on the morning of March 15, 2011.
My Dad lived 81 and 1/2 years. He was born in a little town in Arkansas in 1929. A depression baby. His dad died in an oil refinery fire when he was 5. He essentially had no father, as strange as that seems to me.
My Dad was a hell raiser. Not that he ever told me about his youth, but oh the stories my uncle told. Dad got kicked out of a junior college or two. Something about his grades or blowing up dynamite or something like that. It took him 7 years to get through college in Arkansas. Then he enlisted into the U.S. Army and served in Germany.
He met my Mom in 1952 and his life changed. They married in 1955, and stay married for 56 years.
My Dad was quite a fella. A geophysicist by education and trade – he took us from the most modest of circumstances in Arkansas overseas to Libya in 1965 for the proverbial better life. Our first day of school in 5th grade was canceled when Qaddafi had his revolution in 1969. We were evacuated out of Wheelus Airforce Base on C-130 aircraft during an Arab-Israeli War. We had an exciting childhood.
My Dad was a tough guy. I was afraid of my Dad when I was young. But he was always sweet, gentle, caring and loving to Mom. When Mom became sick, he was her care provider, the cook, cleaner, he did everything.
Dad lived in Libya with Mom until 1988 and notwithstanding a couple of heart attacks he paid for my brother and sister and me to go to snootty, expensive private prep schools in New England for three years each, private fancy colleges like Lake Forest, Rice and Duke for 4 years each and law school for me at Tulane while buying us all cars in the process.
My standard of living went down when I left the family nest and became a lawyer.
Dad had the skills of an electrician, plumber, carpenter, painter, screen repairer, cabinet maker, master dollhouse builder, gardener, mechanic, and cook. He could build, take apart, and fix most anything and everything (skills that jumped past me to my younger brother).
His best skill was story telling, and I suppose that is the one thing I know I inherited from him.
Dad was the most conservative person around, he watched FOX News around the clock and thought that the solution to every international problem was dropping a nuclear bomb on everyone. He teased me incessantly that his oldest son turned out to be a damn liberal lawyer. But he would literally take the shirt off of his back to help every stranger from every race, creed and color.
Dad was down to earth. A man of modesty who drove a 1974 Chevy truck held-together-with-duct-tape, he exhibited great generosity for others. The only things he ever bought for himself were power saws and tools. He mowed his own yard until last year.
Every problem I thought I ever had he had a simple solution to. If he didn’t have the answer, he could talk me into believing that there was no problem in the first place.
I remember visiting my Dad in Arkansas many years ago after I graduated from law school. I told him how hard my first job was as a first year associate, how mean the partners were, and how unappreciated I felt and so forth and so on. He stopped me after a few minutes and said "son, they sound like a bunch of assholes, why don't you get us a couple of beers from the fridge, the Saints are about to play on TV." When I returned from the kitchen with two cold ones, my Dad said "now, what were you talking about?" My response, as I handed him a beer, "nothing Dad, nothing at all."
Over the past six months as my Dad's health faded, I can’t tell you how many people I have met who lost one or both parents 10 or 15 years ago. I have been blessed to have had both parents alive until just 2 months ago. The greatest thanks I have is that Dad was suppose to die after a heart attack in 1981, but he made it through and lived another 30 years.
There has not been a day thereafter that I was not appreciative of God keeping him alive for these past years, a long period of time when we became extremely close. We enjoyed some hilarious times together.
My Dad was a great father. He was my best friend.
Happy Father's Day, Dad.