This is a picture of my dad, taken in New Mexico, (I think) when he was a sargeant in the US Army. It's an old grainy picture, like most of them of him are. He never talked much about his time in the service, fighting in Italy as part of a battalion known as the Blue Devils. He would have been 87 years old today, but he died when he was 60, the same age I am now.
The things he did talk about though, were things like how important family is. How important it is that you find a relationship with your Creator, whatever that means to you. How important it is that you do your part and find meaningful work and be responsible for taking care of yourself. How important it is that you are kind to people and to animals. That you help the less fortunate. That you learn what humility is and you practice it every day of your life. That you always ALWAYS spend time with Nature, out in the woods, at the river, wherever you could find the peace and quiet of nature.
My dad taught me everything there is to know about love.
For a man of his generation, he was incredibly sensitive and loving and affectionate. He had 6 children that he loved with a ferocity that was unlike anything I'd ever seen. He was always in our corner, he was always our biggest cheerleader, he was always pushing us to bigger and better things.
He was born during the Great Depression, and his country parents had next to nothing. He would tell stories about the hardships and the scarcity of food and how lucky we were that he was going to make sure that we never had to know that kind of want and poverty. And make sure he did. He had a father that was a pretty useless alcoholic and a mother who worked herself into an early grave. He and his brothers were always hunting and fishing and doing anything they could to bring food home for the family...there were 8 children in his family.
He and his brothers and sisters loved each other madly. They all depended on each other all their lives, and they set a great example for their offspring. We have a family reunion every year and all us cousins know each other and where we live and what we do. Some of us only see each other once a year, but we all stay in touch.
My dad dropped out of school in the 8th grade to support his family. He never regretted it. But he always made sure we knew how hard it was for him and how important an education was. When I finally started college, you'd of thought it was the greatest thing that ever happened to anyone anywhere. He told everyone he knew. He was like that about every success I ever had during his lifetime, no matter how small. When he held my newborn son for the first time, he cried like a baby. He went on and on about what a gift this baby was...
It was the compassion and the kindness that my dad practiced every day of his life that made the biggest impression on me. He would give a homeless man the shirt off his back. He was always there to help anyone with anything. He gave people money that he probably couldn't afford to give. He shared his time and his heart with anyone who needed a shoulder or an ear. He told us kids over and over, "everybody has something to share with someone who's in need." He said that he felt like the richest man on earth when he could give someone help. I never forgot that.
So, my post for today, the third day of the Month of Love, is dedicated to my dad. He was Love personified. I loved him to the moon and back, as he would always say to me. I miss him terribly, and I hope he knows that all the really important lessons he taught me about love are in practice in my life today.
Happy Birthday, Daddy.