For the Love of Dads
By Lori Welch Brown
Bacon, pancakes, the smell of freshly-mowed grass, Old Spice cologne. Just a few of the things that remind me of Dad. He’s been gone a year and a half now. Some days it feels like forever since I’ve talked to him, and other days it feels like just yesterday when I was writing his obituary.
Mom died in 2006, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. With Dad, it’s somehow different. I feel like when he died, he took a part of me with him. Maybe it’s because I’m his daughter. Maybe it’s because he was in my life for 14 years longer. Maybe I’ve had longer to process Mom’s grief while Dad’s is still raw.
Whatever the case, dads are different and special. I know mine sure was. From the moment I opened my eyes, he’s been there for me. In the early years, he provided a roof over my head, put food on the table, and made sure I was safe and secure.
As I began to grow, he became a coach and teacher watching anxiously as my little legs pedaled away from him or dived into the ocean. He was always there with good advice, “Slow down for the turns” or to swoop me up after the wave dragged me under.
He and Mom set the rules, but he was the enforcer. Boy, was he strict. My husband jokes that I’m very black and white in how I think sometimes, and I credit Dad for that. There wasn’t any gray area when it came to dealing with Dad’s laws. Curfew was specific and understood. “Ten o’clock is ten o’clock. If I wanted you home by 10:07, that’s what I would have said.”
There were no veiled threats except for the occasional spanking that never occurred. He didn’t have to spank me. The thought of it looming was enough for me to nip any behavior or action in the bud before it ever happened. Punishment was usually in the form of a good tongue lashing, but it was quick and precise. Dad’s point was succinct. Everyone knew where they stood and we moved on after.
The only rule real you needed to know was this: Dad was in charge. His roof, his rules.
God only knows how he survived my teenage years. That’s probably why he set another rule. “When you’re 18, my job is done” We didn’t have to leave the house, but trust me. There were so many rules, personally speaking, I couldn’t wait to get out. I was actually 19 when I flew the nest. I knew I had to be ready for the world because of Dad’s other rule. “There isn’t a swinging door. Once you leave, you can’t keep coming back.”
He and Mom only had to bend that rule for me twice. Once for a brief stint when I was 23 and in between roommates/apartments, and the next time when I was waiting to move into my new condo at 30. Both times, the rules remained the same except for the curfew which he had lightened up on.
In reality, he talked a big game, but his hard exterior was a cover for the soft, caring person he was. Up until the day he died, he was a dad through and through. Whatever I needed, whenever I needed it, he was there. Be it for gas money, how to fix a leaky toilet, or closest dump sites, he was my go-to guy. Even after I got married, his job may have gotten easier, but he never let go of the reins fully.
He was tough, but never mean. He was intimidating, but never cruel. He was strict, but never harsh. He was respectful always, and respected immensely.
He was also incredibly generous, kind, and mannered. A Southern gentleman to the core. I rarely ever heard Dad say a curse word or speak ill of anyone. It wasn’t his nature. He rarely got riled up or threw a fit if things didn’t go his way which I’m sure was often the case. “No use getting upset about it,” as he’d often say.
I never heard Dad raise his voice to anyone. Not to Mom or any of us kids, even when he was mad. He didn’t have to. The tone of his voice said everything you needed to know. I still admire him for that.
We didn’t have much growing up, but Dad made sure we had everything we needed: Respect, kindness, love, trust, loyalty, character, integrity, and an unsurpassed work ethic. So, I guess in retrospect, we had more than most.
Not everyone is as blessed as me. Many of my friends lost their dad at an early age—college even earlier. Quite a few didn’t grow up with their dad because of divorce or other circumstances. My heart breaks for them as I can’t imagine growing up in a world that didn’t include my Dad. It’s hard enough that I’m faced with it at my age.
To all the dads out there, Happy Father’s Day. If you’re like mine, you wear a lot of hats—coach, teacher, mentor, enforcer, chief cook, bottle washer, mechanic, etc. I hope you get to hang them all up for a day and relax. I hope mine is enjoying a big pancake breakfast and watching some baseball.
About the Author: Lori is a local writer, painter and pet lover who loves to share her experiences and expertise with our readers. She has been penning a column for the OTC for almost 25 years. Please follow Lori online on Medium for more missives like this.