This past Saturday would have been my father's 73rd birthday. It was a bittersweet day for me as I fondly recalled memories about what he taught me in his rather short 58 years of life. Although he was taken from my family before his rightful time, I feel that he lived a full life-as full a life as could be lived by a relatively simple man who enjoyed the sheer simplicity of life.
My father wasn't exactly the "hero" type. He was the typical doting dad and he had his obvious faults. He was far from perfect, but he had my respect simply because he was my father and I looked up to him as a hero, just as any son would look up to his father in the same way. I never really knew him as anything but my dad, and he took his role very seriously. I remember all the lessons he taught us while my two younger siblings and I were growing up. His motto: "Don't do as I do, do as I say."
Although I have a college degree, I feel strongly that one of the best educations I ever received was from my father. He taught me a number of valuable lessons that I have carried with me to this very day, including how to change a flat tire, what to do when you get stuck in the mud or in loose sand, how to drive a stick shift, and various other lessons that can only be appreciated by someone like me.
I'll be the very first to admit that I'm far from perfect myself, but one very valuable lesson that my best friend and I learned was a couple of summers after I had graduated from high school. Suffice it to say that due to a certain degree of teenage brashness and naiveté, I succeeded in convincing my parents to let me go out with some friends and hang out for a while. Long story short, I came home at around 3 a.m. to a very worried and irate mother and an equally worried, but strangely composed father.
The following morning, my father woke me up at the crack of dawn and told me to get dressed. Of course, I was still very tired after a long night of having fun with my friends, but I did as he asked because I knew that I was in trouble and that I might as well accept whatever punishment he had in store. He ended up driving me over to my best friend's house and made me go wake him up. After dragging my best friend out of bed, we were both transported to my family's sheep ranch where our punishment was to shovel sheep manure out of the lambing pens and corral.
Keep in mind now, this was during the summer when daytime temperatures hovered around the high '80s to low '90s! Needless to say, it was a very nauseating, yet worthwhile experience and when my father asked us if we would ever do something like that again, we both swore to him that we never would, and we never did. Talk about earning respect-my father certainly earned it that day! To this day, my best friend and I still fondly recall that experience and share it with his two boys, telling both of them, "Don't do as we did, do as we say!"
Now, even 14 years after my father's passing, he still has as much influence on my life as when he was still living. I carry with me his name and his legacy. His lessons will live on through me. For those of you who still have fathers in your lives, cherish them as much as you can, and learn as much as you can. Learn to respect them for who they are, and let them be heroes for you in their own special way. My father was, is and shall always be my hero. Happy Birthday, Dad.