I don't remember ever being close to my father. He was a truck driver, worked odd hours, slept in the day, got up at night to go clock in. We never really bonded. This was evident in a story he would tell practically every holiday around the dinner table. "One day I came home from being on the road and you were sitting in front of that TV watching Sesame Street. I walked in the door, you looked at me then turned right around and kept watching TV." The older I got, the more I despised that story. That's not how it should have been. As a three year old kid, I should have ran to my dad and jumped in his arms when he got home. He absolutely should have won over Sesame Street. But he didn't. As I approached fatherhood I vowed it would not be that way with my kids.
As time passed things never really changed between us. I respected him, honored him as a good Christian son should, but didn't call him for advice or even just to chat. There were private moments when I got very angry with him, asking the four walls why he wasn't around when I was a kid, grieving the fact that we weren't close, and feeling like it was much too late to do anything about it now that I was an adult, a husband and father myself. Talking to him about it, or yelling at him for it would only make him feel guilty and he would bear that burden until the grave, so I never addressed it with him.
Shortly after Dad died, I was reading one of those man books I mentioned. It got me thinking about my relationship with my dad and helped resolve a lot of frustrations I had about our lack of closeness. I realized I was very thankful for my dad. I know he wanted certain things for me like being able to fix my own car. He wanted to pass that mechanic's gene on to me, but once he saw I just didn't have that affinity, he never made me feel stupid about it. Dad never made me feel stupid about anything. He never berated me or belittled my interests. I think the harshest thing he called me was "ding ding," which is Oaky for "ding dong" which my family shortened to "ding." But that certainly never made me feel stupid. I took piano lessons and he never objected because it wasn't sports. In fact, he would always ask me to play "Joplin," meaning Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer." Looking back at my life with him I realized others have suffered much more severe "Dad wounds" than I did.
I know Dad's greatest desire for me was to do better than he did in life. And I know he was very proud of the man I became. A year before he died I was very angry and bitter about how he parented me, but now I'm very thankful for the good, kind, hard working and gentle man he was.
This is Dad serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. I think he looks very cool.