I understand you considered not going to the Army football game because it was almost my time to come into the world. You took me along but I couldn’t watch. I got even by keeping you and mom up all night with the delivery. But those were only the beginning of the inconveniences that I would cause. I am sure there were the sleepless nights and the frustrations of a colicky or teething baby and I can only imagine the scare Mike and I caused you and mom when the doctors told you we had polio.
Then there were the countless irritations of growing up. You had to protect me from the wrath of our Japanese gardener in Tokyo when I pulled all the “pretty green balls” off his tomato plants. I was constantly fighting and bickering with my brother; that must have driven you and mom up the wall at times. Twice you had to deal with the police when I got thrown into jail as a teenager. Why I decided to run that cop on my motorcycle I’m still not sure. I guess it was just one of my many bad adolescent decisions. I am sure I hurt you and caused you real concern as I openly and defiantly challenged your values.
But I guess you know that I never really rejected your values, because now they are my own. I was merely questioning and working out my own way. I appreciate your patience and tolerance as you allowed me to do that. Did you know all along that I would come around?
You didn’t really teach us values as much as you lived them. More than anything else, dad, you modeled integrity and commitment. Honesty and truthfulness were never a question with you. You never searched out the gray areas. You will always be my standard in that way. I watched you faithfully stand by mom after the accident, setting aside your own life and all plans until after the Lord took her home. You took care of grandmother Wyatt and faithfully attended to her needs. Now I am watching you care for Leason, or the shell of what she used to be. When a lesser man would cut and run, my dad stands fast.
Mike, Leslie and I learned relationship from you and mom. I was told I greatly embarrassed mom when I shouted loudly down the grocery isle, “When are you and dad getting a divorce?” I guess it was a new word I had heard, because we never felt a lack of security in our home. Sure, you argued. I don’t think you knew that I would listen at times as you dialogued (sometimes loudly) with mom about her spending. I can still hear you hitting the desk as you pointedly stated, “but we just don’t have it.” But we also saw the times that you would come home from work and take the opportunity to grope a little while mom prepared dinner. She feigned irritation as she smacked your hand. And I’m sure you didn’t know that I often heard you and mom talking in bed late at night. I can clearly hear her saying, “I love you so much” as she cuddled close. The world was not so threatening because we knew our home was secure and safe.
You taught us discipline as you set limits and boundaries for us. I remember hearing more than once, “wait till your father gets home.” Then when you got home we would sit in the den and “have a talk.” The worst part, even when we got spanked, was the waiting. I can remember picking myself up off the floor after I had been foolish enough to back-talk mom in front of you. You loved us enough to correct our grammar. You gave us a work ethic as you let us go out and earn the money for many of the special things we wanted. You instilled self confidence as you repeatedly reminded us that we could do or be anything we set our minds to.
I can remember always being proud of my dad. He was the war hero, downed in the English Channel in his B-17, a committed Air Force officer, the scout master, the football coach, the dad who stood and confidently protected his family from a belligerent drunk at a New Mexico convenience store. I remember how much it meant to me as my dad taught me to shoot my new 22 rifle in a local dump and of the solemn warning to always consider a gun as loaded and dangerous. I remember you pouring a little of your beer in a small glass for me on a Saturday afternoon in the kitchen and how proud and grown up I felt having a beer with my dad. I remember boastfully pointing to the distant silhouette of a C-119 in Massachusetts and saying to a neighbor kid, “That’s my dad!” I know, without a doubt, that it was because of my love and respect for my father that I didn’t get into serious trouble as a teen.
Dad, I’m sorry that I made things as difficult as I did at times. I want more than anything for you to know how thankful I am that God gave me you as my father. You will always have my love, my respect and my honor.