On this Father's Day I woke up thinking about my Dad. My Dad has always been a man of few words. His life has been a life of actions speaking louder than words. The lessons he taught were primarily taught by action and example.
My Dad taught me about hard work by working hard. I never saw anyone work harder than my Dad. He was a contractor. I worked for him every summer from the time I was 12 through my completion of law school. I never really saw him take it easy except for the few days he would take off from time to time. He did not coast through life. He would work all day, come in and eat dinner and then go back to the shop and work some more, building cabinets or laying out plans for the next day’s job. When I was a teenager, our church had a lot of summer activities at a local lake. Some of these outings were for the youth and others were for the entire family. There would be camping, boating, water skiing and just great fun on the beach. The campground was 70 or 80 feet above the beach and the trail down to the shore was steep and seemed even steeper going back up. One year when everyone was having fun on the beach and in the lake, my Dad built a staircase out of sand and dirt He worked for 4 or 5 hours with a shovel carving a staircase into the hillside to make the trek to the beach and back to the campground easier.
My Dad taught about me about doing the job right. He never did anything half way. If he undertook a job or a task, he not only completed it, he did it correctly. He wasn’t an irritating perfectionist, he just a man who did it right. Once he had me and another man build a herringbone patterned, hardwood floor in a men’s clothing store. We had to work on Sunday when the store was closed. He laid out the first few rows for us and then left for another job. Each board had to be hand cut. My co-worker and I worked all day and finished the job. When my Dad came back he looked at the floor and told us the floor was about a half of an inch out of alignment over its 30 foot length. I thought, there was no way that could be true. The floor looked perfect. We measured the floor from one of the walls and found the floor was indeed a half of an inch out of alignment. My Dad was not angry, he did not belittle us, he just said, we needed to start over and do it right. We removed all of the boards and rebuilt the floor. His client was not billed extra for this work. I am still convinced that no one would have every noticed the slight misalignment. But my Dad did and we did it right the second time.
My Dad taught me about love of country. He quit high school and joined the military to serve in World War II and thereafter. As a boy I saw photos of him as a Seabee in Cuba and Newfoundland, with natives in far off jungles, on ships on the high seas. He was on a tanker during the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Pacific Ocean. He told me that when his tanker went to fuel up a hospital ship off shore from the battle, the entire side of the hospital ship was red with the blood of solders being lifted on board. My Dad was not one to wear flag pins on his lapels or make speeches about love of country; he just did what needed to be done. His efforts, his work, his sacrifice taught me about love of country.
My Dad taught me about treating people with respect regardless of wealth or poverty, education, or station in life. He was a highly sought after contractor who had many wealthy and prominent clients. He treated them with respect and dignity. He employed laborers for hard and dirty tasks. He treated them with respect and dignity. I never saw or heard him belittle anyone or look down on any one. He treated everyone as an equal with a right to respect. This is rare in a society where we often treat those with greater resources as somehow more worthy of respect. I have been a lawyer for 32 years, however I still can vivdly remember, sweeping floors on job sites, going to the garbage dump, carrying wood and sheet rock. I am proud of what I did when I worked for my Dad . I learned that a person's worth as a human being is not measured in dollars or by his neightborhood or whether he has a tie on, but by what is in his heart, by how he treats others, and by what he gives to those around him.
My Dad taught me about love of family. He provided for our family. When I needed something, he gave it to me. He put me through college and law school. When I got engaged with no money, he bought the wedding ring. When he and mother would come to visit during my college years, he would bring a bag of groceries. Throughout my life he would always give me a hug and tell me he loved me and he still does.
My Dad was not one to stand up in church and give a sermon about how to live your life. He didn't tell you about some verse in the Bible. He just did those things that we are suppose to do because it is right. He showed his Christianity by helping those around him. If you needed his help, he helped. Most of the time he did not even need to be asked. He saw that help was needed and he helped. He taught the lessons of honesty by being honest. I have never seen the cosmetics of religion as important. The putting on of appearances so people will see how wonderful we are has never been a part of my life. I was taught about the virtures of life by my Mother and Father through their actions.
Some of you know my Dad and others don’t. But I tell you as I write this that I get misty eyed at the thought of him, what he did in life, how he acted and how he treated people. He was a man of few words, but a man of action.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad, I love you.
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