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A testament to fathers, teachers by example

When I was younger, before my dad died, I didn't talk much with him, but I listened a lot and I watched. Now that I'm older, especially on Father's Day, I often wish I had talked more when he lived. I have so many questions I should have asked, c...

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When I was younger, before my dad died, I didn't talk much with him, but I listened a lot and I watched.

Now that I'm older, especially on Father's Day, I often wish I had talked more when he lived. I have so many questions I should have asked, could have asked, wish I would have asked. But I was a quiet child, and he was a big, Bohemian farmer, and I suppose I was half in awe of his massive forearms and broad back. I wonder if many children feel that way about their fathers.

Or maybe it's more a thing with sons than with daughters? I've not seen the research on that. I know when my dad drove my big sister and me down to Omaha to start classes at Creighton in the fall of 1962, my dad and my sister chattered all the way. I pretended to sleep. Perhaps he talked and she listened and I have a skewed perception of the trip, but I recall once or twice wishing I could talk like that with my dad.

After he died in 1968, I wished it more often for a while. Then I realized that he'd shared a lot in the way he met each day, provided for a wife and five kids and played a part in his community and church. Not long ago I ran across a quote attributed to Adam Sandler that sort of describes me and my dad. It goes:

"I never had a speech from my father, 'this is what you must do or shouldn't do' but I just learned to be led by example. My father wasn't perfect.''

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My father wasn't perfect, either, although for a lot of my younger years, I thought he was. I wrote once that I thought he was Superman. He could out-work, out-eat, out-talk and out-sing any five normal human males. Maybe instead of Superman, I'm describing John Henry, the steel-driving legend who raced a steam engine. My dad never did that, but if challenged, he might have tried. And I wouldn't have bet against him.

In my 72nd year, as Father's Day neared, I thought about what my kids might say about me. It's easy to look at all the mistakes I made, all the times I was angry and selfish and closed off. It's easy to think, "How in the world did those kids grow to be such fine, decent adults?'' Well, a lot of it is due to their mother. If I did one thing just right in my life, it was convincing that woman to marry me. She knew exactly how to be a mother. Don't ask me how. It was in her nature. Her nature was to make family the most important thing in her life, the thing truly worth fighting for. With someone like that around, it's almost impossible to totally mess up the business of being a father, as much as I sometimes tried.

Here's another quote about fathers, from a Florida lawyer and politician named Frank A. Clarke: "A father is a man who expects his son to be as good a man as he meant to be.''

When I have doubts about my performance, and I have them sometimes with good reason, I watch my older son being a dad. My younger son isn't a dad, but I'm pretty sure he'd be a good one. The older one takes to it the way his mom took to being a mother. I've seen him throw a bicycle tire across a room because he couldn't get it to hold a patch, and I've seen him squeeze a wrench until it gasped for air when a mechanical issue wasn't going well. But I've not seen him be anything but gentle and patient with his child. He gives her his time and his attention.

When I see that, I recognize that it doesn't matter if I did everything right, as long as he turned out the way he has. He has become as good a man, and better, than I ever meant to be. A guy can't ask for much more than that.

Related Topics: TERRY WOSTER
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