My dad would have been 85 today. I can only imagine him as an old man, cracking jokes (often inappropriate) and still asking little kids to pull his finger. He was often a real cut-up.
My dad was absolutely one of the most outgoing, gregarious people I’ve ever known. As an active duty member of the U.S. Air Force, he’d been pretty much everywhere and had met and made friends with hundreds of people. I remember several times in my youth when we were traveling, we’d wander into a store or restaurant in some obscure location and someone would walk up to my dad and ask, “Frank?” … Sure enough, it was someone he’d met years before who became an instant friend.
Dad could also be an adventurer. Perhaps my wanderlust comes from him. No doubt it has roots in the nomadic lifestyle in which I grew up. When we were stationed in Southern Mississippi, Dad found someone to take us out into the Gulf Of Mexico to go fishing. He and Mom bet each other who could catch the bigger fish. Neither of them had ever cast a line in anything bigger than a lake or stream. At the end of the day, Mom’s fish was longer, but Dad’s weighed more. They declared it a draw.
Dad also seemed to know how to do anything. He never cut corners. Once he built himself a workbench in our basement. It was so substantial there was no way to remove it when they sold the house. We used to joke that the whole house would crumble before that workbench. His care and concern with doing things right extended to cars, too. Both my sisters and I had to be able to change the oil, change a tire and do a few other regular maintenance tasks before he would let us get our driver’s license.
Perhaps most importantly, my dad was a family man. He was so proud of all of us. He took up photography as a hobby and delighted in snapping posed family shots for holidays. He adored my two kids. I think the only time I saw him cry was when we were ready to leave after visiting him and Mom. He would hug us all tight and get teary-eyed.
Many people say their dad is their hero. I never thought of him as my hero. I considered him a hero for his choices and his courage to stand his ground. I considered him a marvel of personality and strength. But, I don’t think he was as much my hero as my mentor, my protector and my rock – the one person who always offered advice, knowledge and unconditional love.
This close to Fathers Day, it was a tough decision to post a tribute to my dad on his birthday or wait a week for Fathers Day. Greg offered to write a post for dads, so I decided I’d let him and get my post written a couple weeks early.
There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. I’m lucky to have been able to explore it a lot with my dad.
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