My father was a remarkable man. He shouldered far more responsibility than most people would want. As the oldest son, he shouldered it beginning when he was 10 years old and his father died. He quit school at the end of eighth grade to support his mother, brothers and sisters. He married pretty late in life and continued to support his mother until she died.
He didn’t complain when his wife spent a great deal of her time and effort caring for her father, even though it meant that they were separated by 30 miles or so for weeks on end. He gave up the job he loved, he was a cop, at my mother’s request and never had another job that was as good. I’m aware of some of the sacrifices he made for my sister and me, but I’m pretty sure I don’t know the half of it. He had an incurable disease and I think he could have survived at least a little longer, but gave up, while he was in the hospital, near the time when his hospitalization insurance expired because he didn’t want to be a burden.
He died when I was 22 years old. He didn’t get to see me or my sister graduate from college, get married or have children. He liked young children a lot better than he liked most adults. He understood that children like whimsy. He would have loved grandchildren and they him. When he was a school bus driver, he’d ask little kids on the bus questions like whether they were married and what kind of job they had, just to make them laugh and relieve their nervousness over this new thing called school.
One memory I have of him is that when we were little if we said he was handsome, he’d insist he was pretty and we’d argue about it until we were laughing.
Because he passed away before I had a family, I never spoke with him about the responsibilities he assumed every day until he died. I couldn’t ask, because I didn’t understand or appreciate them. And because we never had that discussion, I can only speculate about why he did what he did, so I still don’t understand, but I sure as hell appreciate them now. I only hope that he saw himself they way I now see him: a remarkable man.