The Sunday Message

My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me. – Jim Valvano

Here is one of my previous columns about “Father’s Day” that I would like to share once again (with some edits).

Here’s a salute to all the “Dads” in the world. Thank you!

I remember the times I had with my dad very much. He’s been gone now for over 20 years. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t wish that I could talk to him, ask him for advice, or just discuss football, or something – just to hear his voice. I guess part of growing older is losing your parents. Also, part of growing older is learning that your parents were pretty wise. I was very lucky as my Dad and Mom were married for over 50 years.

My dad was a Union man. He lived for his Union (Operating Engineers) and he built roads and bridges across the Midwest. If you cross the Mississippi River near the Quad Cities in Illinois, then you’ve crossed a bridge my dad built. If you’ve traveled on almost any interstate in the Midwest, then you’ve traveled on a road my dad worked on. I remember as a young child getting to sit on one of the massive machines that my dad worked on sometimes 14-16 hours a day, six days a week. Needless to say, I lived all over the Midwest during my younger years and attended seven schools in eight years.

I remember the Union strikes he participated in. I attended some of the Union meetings when they decided to go out on strike. It gave me an idea that sometimes a person must fight for what they believe in. My Dad was a fighter. He fought for what he believed in.

I asked him one time when I was a teenager why his Union Magazines always supported the Democrats in the elections. He said, “The Democrats support the working man.” My Dad was a working man.

I so much enjoyed the stories from his childhood. His family did not have too much when he was growing up. He hunted and fished and did odd jobs. He wore hand-me-down clothes.

One of his first jobs, before he joined the Union, was to run his own digging service. He owned a backhoe, a couple of dump trucks, and a trailer. He hauled gravel for people and for small cities and towns. After a few months in business, he started digging graves. He said it was a good job because someone dies every day. I was a little scared when I went with him to dig graves. But, nothing weird ever happened (unless I’ve blocked it out).

But, one story he told me was about a new road that was being built, so they had to move a small cemetery to another location to make way for the new road. I was not there the day they removed a casket from the ground and it came open. I guess it pretty much freaked out the man who was working with my Dad that day.

My Dad was one of the first to own a Citizens Band (CB) radio. They became very big in the 1960s. He purchased a power amp so he could talk for hundreds of miles. There were CB postcards that you sent to people who you talked over the radio to and they sent you theirs. My Dad’s handle (the name he went by on the CB radio) was Groundhog. He picked this name because he was in the digging service. He had CB cards from almost every state. We lived in a small town and there were three stations on the black and white TV. When Dad turned the power amp on to give his CB more range, he would disrupt the TV signals in town. An older couple started telling people that my Dad was on Hee Haw or the Lawrence Welk show because they heard his voice on their TV. He was a celebrity!

When I joined the military, my Dad was not at all pleased. He called the recruiter and said if he screwed me over, then he would pay a “visit” to him. When I returned from boot camp, my Dad was proud and he continued to be proud of my commitment to my country until his death. My Dad taught me to support my kids and their dreams because if we stop dreaming, we might as well die.

Later in life, I watched my Dad suffer health problems and he could not operate heavy equipment like he did when he was healthy. I saw the glow go out of his eyes as he accepted the fact that his health prevented him from doing something he loved.

So take a minute today to say thanks to your Dad. Call him, send him an e-mail, or go visit him if he lives close. If he’s passed on like mine, take a minute to tell your wife and/or your kids some stories about your Dad and get out the photo album.

In the end, all we have is the memories.