I often reflect about my life choices as an extension of deep-seated values that I learned from my childhood upbringing in Northeast Ohio. My late father’s influence did not necessarily stem from his physical proximity to me then but seemed to arise from my emotional reaction to his life choices that inspired positive behaviors for me as a child. No doubt, his living role model today provides a steady hand of normalcy as I attempt to act wisely in the face of the daily challenges presented to my retirement in the urban world.
My father was truly a man of many actions but few words. His efforts to serve his country well in flying twenty five, dangerous missions over Germany as a B-17 Ball Turret Gunner in World War II stands as a true testament of the courage I admire in him. I would also look up to him for being an accomplished athlete as I recall accompanying him to ball games on weekends to display his hitting/ pitching skills in competitive baseball leagues. Recently my mother provided further evidence of my father’s achievements by showing me the impressive medal he received for participating in the U.S. Marble Shooting Championship of 1939. Yet my most vivid recollection of this matter would be his humble nature as witnessed by his refusal to talk about these matters at home. Picture his son now remembering such paternal humility as a reason to weed out his Facebook friend list today of selfie egotists and avoid stressfully raising my blood pressure as a result of the senseless Twitter rants of the Trump Presidency.
In addition to his unpretentious character, my father took great pride in the value of hard work. Working long days to efficiently maintain a stressful schedule of shipping deadlines as a warehouse manager, he had limited time to spend with me at home. Yet I learned that taking pride in one’s “life calling” meant a great deal to him in his determination to support our family with “blood, sweat, and tears” on his meager salary. Similarly finding such intrinsic reasons for working overtime to become an effective classroom teacher in the past, I now follow his commitment to daily labor by sacrificing my precious time to volunteer for humane, political causes I truly believe in for the betterment of myself and country.
As a military veteran, my father learned to arrange his life in a neat and orderly fashion. Never tolerating the slightest appearance of slovenly action, his tool shelves, clothes hangings and bedroom drawers were always impeccably uncluttered. Fittingly, the American flag that was given to my mother at his funeral would be folded in precise neatness as he would have wanted. As I accumulate more physical possessions in limited condo space as I get older, I realize my father’s decision to surround himself with an organized and equally orderly world seem greatly relevant to me.
Being “passive-aggressive” in nature, my father often faced the urge to lash out when reaching an emotional “boil.” How refreshing it seems now to recall that in the face of such inner turmoil, he chose to treat my mother/son with non-chauvinist respect in times of crisis and rarely displayed his legendary temper when company matters did not go his way. I have likewise displayed a “slow burn” mentality in times of threat and crisis. Yet I see now the wise course of containing my emotions when possible in the face of a politically polarized country where angry minds feeds moments of attack on my progressive-minded values.
My father’s life ended prematurely at age 64 in 1991 as his body and mind wore down from the debilitating disease of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I often reason, consequently, that his body paid the price for his stoic pursuit of his physically demanding work days. Yet his humility, work ethic, orderliness, and kindness, remain as a living legacy that I wish to emulate for the balance of my life. I am truly proud to have been his son.