What is a Dad?
He’s the one who builds swing sets, gives quiet support, teaches you life’s lessons, and knows how to fix anything. He’s the one who helps you learn to be tough, if needed, and doesn’t sugar coat the ways of the world. He props you up when you’re down and steps into the background to let you get the accolades you deserve. He coaches; he prods; he propels you on to find your own worth and potential.
That’s a father, a dad; the guy who’s there for you when you wreck the car or get into trouble at school. But, he also cheers you on when you’re onstage winning the spelling bee, or playing catcher at home plate as the opponent slides in. He gets misty eyed when you leave for your first date or dress for the prom. He is solid, and the one who also kicks you in the behind when you need it the most.
My dad was a man of few words – the stoic kind you see on a television drama series. He wasn’t the kind to be mushy, but when he said something encouraging you knew he meant it completely.
My dad wiped my three-year-old eyes when they got wet in the pool, and I fussed. He lifted me up when the path was too rocky at the lake. He watched me the first time my nine-year-old self jumped off the twenty-foot diving board, and he just shook his head in disbelief, never telling me it was too dangerous to do again.
My dad meant business when it came to getting good grades in school and always doing my best in everything. Mediocrity was not to be tolerated. He was firm, but he let me paint his nails and give him facials.
I used to wish that he was more of a talkative guy, but as I got older and as we became traveling buddies, he opened up more. I learned more about what made him tick. I learned that some of his stern ways came from wanting the best for his kids, because he was largely unsupervised in his own upbringing. He wanted to make sure we were prepared for the world, one which he believed included working hard for a living and making sure that you were prepared for every disaster.
His mindset was a mark of growing up during the Great Depression in the 1930s, and one that many parents of that era never left behind. My dad was constant and steady, the guy who always went to work and never missed a day in years. He sucked up a lot of strife, so that his kids could have the life he envisioned for them.
In later years, my dad became more and more demonstrative about his love and affection. He learned to express his feelings and told me of his pride in his kids, his grandkids, in me.
This previously quiet man talked quite easily about love and freely gave hugs. He had some regrets about things not said years earlier and tried to make amends for them. He wanted to make sure that all his kids knew he cared. He even learned to cry.
What a gift that was, to see the heartfelt emotion in this man, my dad, my foundation, my rock. His life ended with no things left unsaid, no piece of business left undone. That is the best legacy anyone can leave.
In loving memory of Thomas Gene Readnower.
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