Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Growing Through Life

As I grew up there were many defining moments as well as significant people that influenced what I am today. The molding process that I went through created both the admirable attributes and produced less desirable qualities that I live with today. But there was always a constant in my life, a person that was there for me whether I asked or just needed support. Dad.

My dad grew up in a farming community in northern Illinois. He was the oldest of six siblings and there for had most of the responsibilities. He was up at 5:00 every morning, milking the cows and doing all those other thing a farm boy had to do back in the 1940s and 1950s. As a mater of fact, he actually had to walk 5 miles to school over the fields and through the snow, both ways.

My father was a good athlete. He played 4-H softball in the summer and even threw a perfect game at one point during his career. But summer ball was the only thing that he was allowed to play. The spring and the fall were times of planting and harvesting and he had to work the fields. When he was a senior in high school, he asked my grandfather if he could run on the cross country. He had never been involved in any school sports up to that point and had been asked by the coach to join the team half way through the season. He got the OK and ended up going down state.

He was in the military just after Korea and before Vietnam. He also met my mother while he was stationed at some place in the Midwest. I just don’t remember where. Anyway, after the Army, my parents got married and moved into the farm house across the street from my grandparents so he could help on the farm. Eventually he took a job with a local company and became foreman of the molding department. In the early 60s, the company moved some of its operations to Aurora, Illinois and he was in charge of setting up the production facility so he moved the family to the town I grew up in.

When I was born in 1967, I was adopted into his family. The love my parents and sister has showed me throughout my life has always been unconditional and is ever present. But this isn’t really about the rest of my family. This is about me dad.

As I grew up, he was always there to play catch with me when he got home from work. I remember vividly his attempts to teach me to catch the ball and not be afraid of getting hurt. When I got a little older and I wanted to play soccer, he was there coming to the games and kicking the ball with me in the back yard. He even built a goal in the backyard so I could practice at home. By 7th and 8th grade, I was playing sports year round and even multiple sports at the same time but, always seemed to make it to my games.

In the early 80s my parents got divorced. This is not uncommon and I had many friends who were in similar situations. It was hard on my dad. I know he felt that he let us down, my sister and I, but we al know that it is some thing that happens between people some times. Anyway, I noticed a change in him even though he still would come to any event that I was involved in.

My father was the one who taught me how to play cards. After the divorce he spent time feeling sorry for himself, sitting in a bar, and playing in the card games in the back room. I spent many hours watching his game and learning how to play the games of euchre, and rap poker. Eventually, as a high school kid, I started to play in some of these games when they needed another player. My father would bankroll me and allow me to keep anything I won. See as I had no job at the time, I used this as a way to make some spending money. At the time I didn’t understand the ramifications of his actions but instead, just enjoyed being with him.

A few years later my dad got remarried and found the peace he needed. He was again able to take care of a family and feel that people needed him. The only problem was that the drinking continued and became a major part of his life. His work ethic never faltered but alcohol had found a way into his every day life.

In 1995, my step mother died. She was in her mid forties, ten years younger then my dad, and a great influence on my father. I had been married for a couple of years and lived only two blocks from her and my father.

Is it strange that I lived so close to my father just like he lived close to his father so many years before? I don’t know if there is a connection but I do find it interesting.

In 1996, my second child was born. Of course times were hard and when it was time for my annual trip to the ISC World Tournament, I didn’t have the funds to go. After discussing this unfortunate event with my father, I found an envelope in my ball bag with enough money to enjoy the trip. I later asked about paying him back and he claimed ignorance.

My father has never remarried. He became content with his life and came to understand that he is an important part of his family’s future. I know that if I need some help with a project or just want to get some thing off my chest that he’s there. In the end, I hope that I can take what I’ve learned from my father and use it to be there for my children as they grow through life.

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