Sunday, October 7, 2007

My Dad, the Hero

I'm composing this in response to Jennifer F.'s group writing challenge, What are three things your parents did right? Yes, it's mainly about my Dad, rather than both of my parents. I didn't deal with him much. I have only come to realize that he did in fact lead our family in nearly every respect very recently. The older I get, the more like him I want to be. So I'm likely to ramble on well beyond three things. If not, it's merely the first three things to come to mind that he did right, rather than the greatest.

He threw me out of the house. (Whaaaaaaaat?) That's right, he did, and I grew to be very grateful for it, and I was glad to be able to tell him so before he died. I was a selfish, sessile, immature ingrate of twenty-three years when he did it. It put me through some hard times, but I would not ever have become self-sufficient had he not compelled me to do so. The number of blessings which have come from this are beyond counting, believe you me, and thankfulness is foremost of them.

He always resolved his disagreements with my mother. It might have taken time, involved obnoxious debating tactics and yelling, and been difficult and trying, but not one of us ever for a moment imagined that either of them would leave. Somehow, in spite of reading dictionaries to relieve boredom, the word "divorce" never entered my vocabulary until age 10. He may have been motivated by the fact that my mother was the only woman he met who actually liked his rotten sense of humor. From this I've taken the lesson to be absolutely faithful and committed to my marriage. I also learned to use and respect reason and logic.

They set limits and made us responsible. They didn't compel responsibility, but rather enforced consequences when we overstepped the boundaries or failed in our responsibilities. One example of this, that I think deserves wider application, was the TV ration (though they didn't call it that). We were each given one hour a week where we could tune the telly to whatever we wanted (of the 3 major networks, CBC, PBS, and the three independent stations that they had in Detroit at the time). One of the by-products of this was that I read a lot, learned a lot from reading, and listened to a lot of good music. In fact, I credit about 20 points of my Intelligence Quotient to this policy alone. Another such policy was that after about age 10 or 12, I forget which, each of us was expected to earn our own spending money; this was before the near elimination of minors as paper carriers. And it probably explains why I had no real anger or resentment when my dad decided to throw me out.

Surely there's more; they encouraged me at all times to seek to do and be better; they brought me to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation for at least the ten years from age 5 to Confirmation at 15; they demonstrated by example that what we could prudently afford was always good enough. He left his copies of The Freeman around for me to read, so that I learned to love liberty. The list goes on and on. But I won't.

2 comments:

Jennifer F. said...

Wow, really powerful story. Thanks so much for sharing!

Abigail said...

that "no divorce" possibility is a powerful legacy, isn't it?