“Out here a man settles his own problems.” – The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
I was thinking about John Wayne as I decided I would write a Father’s Day post. In looking back at this blog, I have not written about him on Father’s Day for 5 years. Well, it’s time.
I would love to tell you all the wonderful things that he has accomplished. He is an Eagle Scout. He put himself through the University of Idaho setting pins in a bowling alley. He was one of the Liquid Oxygen and Turbopump designers on the Space Shuttle Main Engine. He and my Mom raised three daughters on one salary, and spent weekends working on his Model A. He bought a home, put me through college. All of those thankless jobs that many dads do.
But. He is more than that.
It’s making me get up at 3am in the 60’s, so that we could see the rockets lift off on the East Coast, long before there was tape delay. It’s going to all my church fellowship events, and winning the award for eating the most tacos. It’s watching him honor my mother in their nightly cocktail hour…the one where NO children were allowed. He set the standard for how a man should treat the woman he loves.
He would get me up at 6am when I was in Junior High so that we could run a mile together every morning. And, at the end, he would yell at me to SPRINT. It was me, coming in last in the 800…almost so slow that the next event had started…and looking up in the stands to see them cheering me in, and yelling for me to …SPRINT. He is the reason that at Mile 18 of the LA Marathon, that I did not go with the paramedics. My father. He was waiting for me at the finish line. And, I had the same feeling watching him as I ran that day, too. His face as he watched me. In shock, and something else. Pride, I think.
This man, who stared down a mama bear (in the picture above) and her two cubs. This man who taught me how to fish, and wash dishes, and how to finish college. Because, I was flunking out in Freshman year with a 1.8 GPA, and he drove all the way to Fresno to have the talk with me. You know the talk. Either get it together, or come home talk.
When I got sober, my parents were confused at the turn of events that had them sending their 17 year old to college, only to have her come home as a member of AA. What did he do? He found a man at his work who was sober. He got us together, and this 54 year old man picked me up and took me to meetings with 30 days sober. And my Dad never talked about it with me too much. When I went to make my 9th step amends, he told me that I owed him nothing.
It’s not just my childhood. Last fall, at 77 years old, he drove 290 miles with my mother just to see my son play in his championship football game. And, at the end, Dad prayed that they just could get the hail mary pass and win. And…they did. He is the Grandpa that goes to the Boy Scout camp outs, and is hailed as a leader by the men in our troop. He is now teaching my sons things that he taught me. A few months ago, both of my boys were talking on the way home from Scouts one night, and they said, all they wanted was for their Grandpa to see them both become Eagle Scouts. I sat quietly in the front, full of gratitude.
Mostly. This is a man who knows how to show up for people. Not just me, and not just all of my son’s events. It’s more than that. It’s going to the judge and explaining how my sister’s ex husband deserved a second chance, just so his granddaughter could see her daddy. It’s picking up another ex brother in law and driving him to where he needed to be…without judgement. It’s being the rock when each of us had our turn in the barrel. My Dad is the one, who is simply. There.
If you go to their house on the corner in Woodland Hills, you may see my Mom and Dad sitting out on the porch having a drink. They will be watering his roses or he will be puttering in and out of his garage. But. You will be welcome. To grab a beer, to sit down, to just visit. Because this man. He sets the gold standard for welcoming and hospitality.
I don’t ever remember calling him Daddy. He is always just. Dad. I love him more than I can say. He is the epitome of the John Wayne quote that started this blog post, and still every day I learn something new from him. We come from boots and bootstraps, and he is the reason that I even know what perseverance means.
I am blessed with the best Dad on the planet.
Happy Father’s Day. I love you.