Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Lesson Learned from My Father

First of all, a Happy Day to all the Fathers out there...

Been thinking about my own Dad, naturally, the good and the bad. I know that he wasn't perfect, but I seem to have realized an interesting thing. Even in the 'bad', there were lessons for me to learn.

Lemme 'splain...

Dad, like a lot of the guys on his side of the family, had a highly developed sense of work-ethic. It's not an uncommon thing at all to see the men of the family wake early, go to the shop, plant, base, station, office, etc, work twelve, thirteen, -and many more- hours, and come home only after late night meetings, training sessions, dinner with potential clients, showing the visiting managers around the town, etc. This would go on pretty much the entirety of a man's working life, slowing down only when he did, due to age. A good, strong work-ethic is a valuable thing, especially in this day and age, but it can lead to some issues. When ethic crosses the line into something approaching obsession, well, that can cause some problems.

The problems it caused in my own family was that Dad was so often gone from the house, it got to the point where he was missing out on the family life. His professional career was booming, promotions and raises were there, when he left a company employment offers were usually promising, but he was missing out on everything else.

This did cause some friction between him and Mom.

One of the things that I especially liked about my high school, new as it was, was the swim team. Basically, because the school was in its first years, all the teams pretty much sucked, and walk ons were encouraged - hell, they were desperate for any talent they could get. I had some ability in the pool (read; I didn't loose too much time that couldn't be made up in the relays), and I even made the team in a couple of solo events. To make practice before school, I would crawl out of bed at the butt-crack of 0 dark 30 and sleep-walk to the car where Dad would drive me to the pool. I enjoyed the swimming and the competition, but I enjoyed what time we had during our drives.

When the swimming season ended, I would continue to ride with Dad to the pool. Coach liked the dedication, I liked the rides.

The thing about his 'workalcoholicismicity', he - like others in my family - saw their jobs as a vital point in supporting the family. The more you worked and earned, the more worth that you had, something along those lines.

That idea does have some merit (to a point), but what really impressed me came some years later.

See, he realized what his commitments to work was doing to his family. It wasn't something that came around all of a sudden, it was very much of a gradual process, but he did learn it. About 10 years or so ago, he found out that taking a Sunday off wouldn't kill the business, and even now and then [gasp] a Saturday home from work might be in order as well. Calling home to check in with the folks became a little more spotty now and then, because Mom and Dad were occasionally out to dinner and a movie, even. He would email more and more often, sending funny clips, bad jokes, and stuff that would probably get most folks in trouble for viewing at work (very funny, but kinda naughty).

He started to end his calls and emails with the ever constant, 'be good, li'l boy'.

Damn, I miss that.

It didn't just affect the immediate family, but the extended as well. He made more trips down south to visit his Mom and Dad in the past 5-10 years, and for longer periods of time, than the previous 20. He took us to little towns that he grew up in, saw his old haunts, and met some of his old friends.

It was on a trip to visit his maternal grandmother on her 105th birthday (yeah, really), and afterwards, when he traveled to the mountains to visit with his father, that he died.

So, while it might sound like a sad post, and I guess it is, a little, the point of this post is more about thanks that there really is so much that I'm still learning from the man. I can only hope that I provide similar examples and lessons, building off of those of my father, to my own children, one day.

Love you, Dad. Miss you like hell, love you more.


The Loon said...

What I have gained from your post is that your Father was a remarkable man, Murphy. There are so many men who go their entire lives without learning what he did. Thank you for sharing him with us............I sense much more is to be learned from your memories as time passes.

You're so very lucky to have had such a man for your Father and so lucky to have so much to pass on to your own children.

Old NFO said...

Well said Murph!

SpeakerTweaker said...

I still remember your blogging hiatus when your father passed, and my heart goes out to you still.

I am very glad for you that this Father's Day is still very much a celebration for you. Cheers to your father, sir.