I distinctly remember the moment I looked down and saw my father’s hand coming out of my sleeve. Until then, I had always thought I was my Mother’s son. Since then, I have found myself thinking I am becoming more and more like my Dad every day.
Is it the age, I wonder – me catching up on the staggered track of life – or does it have more to do with the fact that I am now a Father myself? More and more I find myself saying the things he used to say, doing the things he used to do, and marveling at how much smarter he seems now than he was then.
My father was a strong man, dynamic, and dramatic. A man of firm conviction, he expressed his opinions frequently and forcefully. For him, everything was monochromatic, black or white, right or wrong. There were no shades of grey or extenuating circumstances.
He walked into harm’s way daily for 20 years to put food on our table and seemed fearless until the day I came home with 7 stitches in my lip and blood covering my shirt. Before I could tell him what happened, he erupted like a volcano.
I remember the moment clearly because it was one of those ‘aha’ moments. My first reaction was – “Why is he yelling at me now?” It seemed he was always yelling at me. Then I realized he wasn’t yelling at me. He was yelling for me. He was yelling because he was afraid – not for himself, but for his son.
More than anything my Dad wanted me to get an education. At first I thought it was because this was something he had been denied. Now I know it had more to do with a Father’s desire to see a son reach his highest possibilities. My son taught me that lesson.
Daily for 14 years and change, I have watched my son grow and develop. There is no way to describe the delight I take in watching him become who he is, but it something I suspect every Father will understand.
The greatest lesson of my Father’s life is wrapped up in this. The Bard of Avon said it best – “To thine own self be true.” To be what we are and to become what are capable of becoming is the noblest end in life.
Every child is defined by promise and possibilities. Every father, every parent, wonders how their child will fulfill the promise that is in them. Their challenge – and ours – is to become useful, not according to our desires but according to our powers with the ultimate goal of living a life of limited regrets.
All will win. All will lose. Every heart will be hurt and broken. Win or lose, my father would say, take you best shot, let the chips fall as they may, get up, and go on. Never give up. Win, lose, or draw, always try to do better next time, always try to make things better.
My father was raised on ranch in the mountains on the western slope of the Continental Divide. One of the things you notice there is that it is only in winter, when the leaves have fallen and the trees are barren, that you clearly see the contours of the land. So it is with men. The content of our character and depth of our commitment can best be read in the seasons of our distress. It is when we are tested that our true character is most apt to be revealed.