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The older I get, days like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day become more meaningful. My mom is no longer with us; my dad will be 94 in July, and he’s dealing with all those aches and pains that come with being that age. I’ve realized how blessed I have been to have had parents who cared somuch about me, lovedme, and helped to instill the values I hold dear. When I look back onmy dad’s life, I realize how different our lives have been and how difficult he had it compared tomyself. My dad was the oldest son in a family of nine children. There were six girls and three boys. Being the eldest son, my dad was expected to work, even when he was very young. As a child, he helped on the farmdoing chores like milking the cows, feeding livestock, cleaning out the barn, and doing whatever he was told to do. His family had a German immigrant background. While my dad only knows a few German words, he recalls his dad, uncles, and other relatives speaking German whenever they were around one another. They lived through the Great Depression, which my dad still remembers vividly. On the farm, the family had a large garden. His parents gave away vegetables, eggs, milk, and even butchered meat to people who were unable to provide for their families. He said people were always stopping by to see if they had any food to spare. Then there was school. My dad and school just didn’t seem to get along. Many of his immigrant relatives didn’t have a high school education, so he thought it was normal to drop out of high school. So, he quit and started working in a coal mine before the age of 16. From then on, he worked in the mines for about 50 years. One summer when I was in college, he got me a job working in a mine. I’m sure he did that to showme that life was easier if you had a good education. That summer, the mine convincedme that hardmanual labor wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Shortly after he started working in the mines, my dad was drafted intomilitary service. Like most sons of his generation, he was called upon at just 18. He went into the Navy and helped transport fuel to the troops landing at Normandy. I remember when he andmy son went to see“Saving Private Ryan.”My son told me that they had to leave after a fewminutes. My dad couldn’t relive the carnage he saw at Normandy. He was particularly troubled by the sight of seeing somany youngmen drown as they were going ashore. He felt bad because they were only able to rescue a few of the drowningmen. On top of that, my dad’s father was killed in a motor vehicle accident while my dad was away fighting inWorldWar II. He didn’t learn of his dad’s death until several weeks afterward. When I was 12, my dad was severely injured in a coal mining accident. He was not expected to survive, but he did! Within a few months, he was back in the mine working. He knew his family depended on him, and he wasn’t about to let them down. When he finally retired from coal mining, Dad couldn’t bear to sit down and relax. He loved working outside, mowing the lawn, cutting wood, and helping out family and friends. He was there to lend a hand to just about anyone. By the time my dad was in his 70s, it became clear my momhad dementia. He was determined to take care of her until the very end, and he did. He learned how to do things like laundry, housecleaning, paying bills, and caring for a wife who couldn’t care for herself. These days, he spends most of his time indoors. It’s gotten hard for him to walk, but he’s not about to give up. He does home exercises and had attended physical therapy to keep himself going strong. And, in spite of everything he’s faced, my dad still has a smile and a gleam in his eye. His faith, church, family, and friends are what help keep himgoing. He continues to maintain an almost unbelievable positive mental attitude.
So, I just want to say to Dad: Thanks. You have given somuch and expected little in return. Have a great Father’s Day. We all love you.
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This Father’s Day, be sure to call or visit the father figures in your life, whether it’s your own dad or someone else. Let him know how he’s positively influenced your life. It’s always good to remind our loved ones just howmuch we care. And have a great Father’s Day and wonderful summer!
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