remarkable times

of a

common life

sidebar articles

June 15, 2001--

Another Father's Day approaches. There are the memories of so long ago, of life around the house with dad, or trips to grandma's for Sunday dinner, or vacations to far off locales, but there are also the things in my own life, things of the present, that strike a note of similarity to my father. Most of the time these are noticed by my wife of 20 years, and are frequently followed with an appropriate comment. But every now and then I catch them myself. It is amusing and even sometimes confounding.

Along with the physical characteristics like the wavy hair, slim build, the curvature of the back, there are traits picked up via proximity, from living in a small house. The propensity to turn off lights in a room when not needed. Dad worked for the Detroit Edison Company and while he may have spread influence among friends and co-workers to use as many electronic appliances as possible, he was more thrifty around his own house. That thrift has been passed down in a number of ways. Having a family that ultimately grew to a size of ten, we eight kids would have been a handful for any parent. And because he worked for Edison, not enjoying the fat paycheck of some, no doubt thrift was required for this household to survive. There were the Thursday beans and hotdog nights, the day before payday; Mom said we often just barely made it. And there was the tuition of the local parochial school for all of us kids. I remember we held onto the '59 Ford station wagon for quite a long time though dad certainly would have loved a newer car, especially after one of those trips to the Ford Rotunda around Christmas time. Oh yeah, affording Christmas for eight kids!

With the family growing, dad needed to expand the tiny home he had built in the a subdivision of Inkster, Michigan. Much of the renovation he did himself, except for the drywall and wiring requiring the professionals. But the carpentry he accomplished mostly on his own. I think one thing I inherited from him is a willingness to try to do things myself, like change my own alternator on the car when it died a few months ago. Or run a new electrical circuit in the bathroom for a fan installation. This mechanical aptitude I like to think I got from him.

But I wish I got more of his drive and energy. While growing up I had little desire to help with projects he constantly conjured up. Not to work on the car, hated to help paint the house. That laziness is hard to outgrow. There was enough cajoling and prodding to get me to take out the trash and mow the lawn much less do any actual real work. I could have learned a lot from dad if I had a bit more fortitude. He had the garage built when I was old enough to help but I didn't. The matters of construction would have come in handy in Melissa's and my first house, a 63 year old house that seemed ready for collapse after we moved in. If I spent more time next to dad when he built the dining room addition or the garage or dormer I could have actually replaced that rotten bathroom window. With a bit of his help I did replace the front door, but only after nearly having a mental breakdown forcing the frame into place.

There may be reasons aplenty why I didn't try to learn more from dad as a kid but I'm not competent to evaluate the dark recesses of the mind, and guessing sometimes does more harm than good. And anyhow, I look back and think dad suffered more with me that I thought I did with him while evolving through an unmanageable adolescence. Becoming a responsible adult (finally!) had a profound affect of how I viewed my dad. Unlike as a teenager, not having much room to see eye to eye, dad and I could at last do things together. After graduating from college and contemplating a serious career decision I could call him at work and ask if I could talk with him about it. He gave me his time at the office that afternoon and we discussed the pros and cons in true father/son fashion, allowing me to see the more profitable potential. The decision I made that afternoon has had a lasting impact on me to this day as I still travel the road embarked that afternoon.

It is indeed a long strange trip we take, yet we take it as a family regardless of the geographical distance between us. I see my dad in me in things like my struggle in stimulating a failing memory. Or my fight to control anger, something dad admitted to me he fought within himself. Or exhibiting a goofy sense of humor, or a love of sweets ("you don't have any cookies?!?!?!"). As time goes on there will no doubt be many things that will remind me more and more of my father. And I will wish we didn't have the thousand mile distance of geography. We could have played more golf together, something dad and I did just the last two years Melissa and I lived in Ann Arbor. There are a lot of things that come to mind this Father's Day 2001, events remembered as well as endowed character, of body, mind, and spirit. Thanks, dad, for all of it. I'm proud to own them.

~ Comments or suggestions ~

elswhere in this site:

front page
the stories
send a message
search this site