He was maybe 5’8; salt and pepper hair; slow, sly smile; sparkling blue eyes; bull-legged and color blind. He was never the life of the party or someone that intentionally drew attention to himself; rather he was the one that drew attention by his presence. He only boasted about his wife and children, never about himself. He downplayed the many fascinating aspects about him and his life and in one look you knew if he was for or against you. He was a tower of strength, scary as hell to a teenager and a gentle protector of his youngest daughter. He was my dad and my hero.
Today is his birthday, which over the past 17 years since he has been gone has always taken precedence over Valentines Day. Today my thoughts are about him more than usual. I heard someone talking about a hero the other and I immediately thought of my father. What was interesting to me is why this person chose their hero. Peruse the media and you will be bombarded with all sorts of images and stories about so called “heroes” – but so many – at least in my opinion – have done very little to earn such status.
My dad was just one of my heroes. You never read about him or any amazing sports feats that he did or media-worthy exploits; yet he was a hero because above all else he taught me two valuable lessons in his short life: what a man should be and to be myself.
As a young girl I was fortunate to see how a real man loved his children and his wife, took care of his family, worked hard, appreciated and enjoyed life. He suffered through injustices and struggles and instead of using them as excuses he quietly and doggedly faced them and successfully came out better in the end.
He provided for his family unconcerned with appearances but rather on quality. His hands were rough, tattered and stained from being a mechanic; his body ravished by years of back breaking work, service to his country and being a rugged do-it-yourselfer. He never considered himself handsome, although that was the overwhelming consensus of all the girls in my dorm in college.
He was absolutely faithful to my mother, respected her greatly and was her best friend. He was honest with his children; we knew the rules, expectations and the consequences – there were no surprises. To look at him he did not seem scary, but if you crossed his family or were a threat in any way to his children you would see a force like none other – a true force to be reckoned with.
He was the strong silent type but if you were fortunate enough to engage him in conversation you were often treated to snippets of wry humor, wit and wisdom. His word was his honor. He would never give his opinion without request; however if you asked you had better be prepared to hear the truth, the absolute truth served in a respectful yet amazingly simple manner. He treated others in the exact manner he wished to be treated; he did not tolerate lies, malice or unkind acts.
He never allowed being a girl to be an excuse for me; he told me often and provided opportunities for me to see that I could do anything a boy could do. He instilled in me early on that a woman does not choose a man because she needs him; rather she chooses him because she wants him – that a real man is a partner, a defender, a cohort, an alley and a best friend. A man doesn’t belittle his partner, he respects her and treats her with dignity always mindful that it is a choice to be where you are and it is a cooperative effort to remain in a partnership. Hard work isn’t just something that you perform in a physical aspect, but also in an emotional and mental way.
He told me once that he and my mom were very young when they got married and he made a lot of mistakes, but he was grateful that my mom loved him through them. He also gave me the best piece of advice: if I was ever unsure what to do just imagine him standing next to me then what would I do.
The most romantic thing I have ever heard is when he told me when after I had a family of my own that his job was done as a father; that he and my mom had raised their children and now it was his time to spend with my mom alone and he had waited 20+ years for that time.
During his final days when the cancer had ravaged his body he tried to protect me from seeing him in such a frail state; but I learned his lessons too well and told him that is where I was to be – I was his daughter and I would be by his side no matter what. I learned from my father how to be a force to be reckoned with.
The day he died we were alone in the hospital and at one point he looked at me, unable to speak. I knew it was my final goodbye and I made two promises to him that day: that my son (who was not quite 3) would never forget him and that I would be ok. With that he looked to the corner (where I presume his guardian angle had been waiting), looked back at me and left this world.
My father is my hero because the way he lived his life, the way he taught me so many lessons from how to bait a hook and cast to how to never apologize for being who I am. In this world of overnight heroes who seem to come and go as the weather changes, think about who the real heroes are – and why they are your hero. I admire athletic ability but would never relegate it to hero status. This hero of mine left everyone’s world a little better for just being a part of it.
Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.