Monday, January 3, 2011

MY DAD - A SPECIAL LIFE

My dad is not perfect.  He is far from it.  I want that to be known right up front because I want to take a little time and look past his faults because his accomplishments and his good deeds far outweigh any chinks in his amour that he may have.  I believe that at this time, it serves no purpose to focus on some mistakes he may have made.  This is a story of a man who did extra ordinary things over his 81 years so far.

Dad had to grow up fast.  His father died when he was a young teen and so he had to take on the responsibilities of helping his mother raise his four younger siblings.  He took part time jobs then full time jobs to help bring in money to the household.  Even with this he found time to learn and play his first true love of baseball.  His mother did laundry for a living and a lot of the Kansas City Blues baseball players would come by for her to do their laundry.  The blues was a farm club for the Yankees so these players were just dropping by on their way to New York.  Such an impression his mother and he made on these players that they remembered the little family long after leaving Kansas City.  One day many years later when the Yankees were in Kansas City playing the Royals, he took us up to the press box to meet Phil Rizzuto, "the Scooter".  Rizzuto remembered him and my grandmother like it had just been a week instead of decades since he had her doing his laundry.  These players respected my grandmother and my father for the situation they were in and how they were handling it.  As a reward most of these players helped teach dad the game of baseball.  These lessons would follow him the rest of his life.

He did not graduate high school because of the family situation but he did play ball.  He played ball in numerous amateur leagues in Kansas City.  His position was catcher, and he was a master of it.  The pictures from those years show a skinny handsome young man standing about five foot ten with a look of determination and happiness at the same time.  He did love playing baseball.

He met his future wife when he was young, spending time at their house as many kids did in those days.  His best friend was my Uncle Melvin, mom's older brother.  They ran together while mom tagged along.  My grandfather held dad in high esteem with great respect.  Dad felt the same way about grandpa and the two of them eventually became very good friends as well.

Dad married mom then served two tours of duty in the army.  He was a sergeant and radio operator who played baseball most of the time while in the army.  During his second tour he traveled Europe playing ball mostly in Germany   When he came out of the service, he and mom settled down in Kansas City to begin their family which would include two daughters and two sons.  Dad worked hard to support this little family and gained respect in his field of sheet metal working as one of the best.  Then the tragedy happened.

One afternoon dad and my Uncle Jack had gone to a ball game.  Dad wanted to leave early because he wasn't feeling well.  Jack knew something was wrong because Dad never left a game early.  That night he suffered a brain aneurysm and went into a coma.  The doctors told mom odds were against him surviving this assault on his brain.  She was preparing for the possibility of going through life without him.  The miracle she was praying for did come about when he awoke.  It wasn't as though he had just been asleep though, there was a heavy toll on what he had been through.  For the next few decades he would suffer tremendous headaches.  Headaches so bad that he needed a shot from the doctors to help him get some sleep.  He became quiet and withdrawn and more than a little grouchy at times.

He continued to work though and supply the basic needs for his family.  He continued his career as one of the finest sheet metal workers around.  He often took in extra work to bring in more much needed money to the family.  Every day he went to work and came home.  He found time to go on short outings on the weekends such as to the Truman Library or Fort Osage.  He became a leader in his church and volunteered to lead some young boys in a program at church.  All the while, he was suffering from these headaches that would have crippled a lesser man, such as myself.

I never knew what he went through on a daily, weekly, monthly basis until I came to work at the same company when I was sixteen.  There I sat and watched as dad would hold his head in pain and figure out complicated math equations to make his sheet metal perfect.  It occurred to me then that he had been doing this for years, for decades, and not once had I heard a complaint from him about having to work under these circumstances.  The people he worked with had a deep respect for him as they observed for years what I had just learned.

Eventually, dad's headaches have become more under control.  He slowly came to the point where he did not need the shots anymore.  He continued life in his quiet way, taking care of his family right up to today.  When I think back on watching my dad work, I have come to have that same great respect that others had for him through the years.  I have learned that a job is a privileged and something that you do not take for granted.  I have learned that you do your best at your job, no matter how many hurdles there may be.  I learned to try to accept life a day at a time, as each day is precious.

While my dad lost his father at an early age, I just as easily could have lost mine but God chose to give our little family this strong willed, hard working quiet man to guide teach and direct us through life's hard lessons.

I know this isn't the best writing I have done and certainly is not written in my usual style.  But this is an unusual story and one that is close to my heart.  It is a story that is very emotional for me so please forgive the bland writing as I try to show how large of a miracle this truly was.

I thank God he let me have my dad.

3 comments:

  1. You are so right, Bill. Few people know what a great and strong man your dad is. He certainly deserves our love and respect. My prayer at that time was that he would live to see his children grown. God answered that prayer and even allowed him to see his grandchildren grown. God surely knew how much we needed him and how he would take care of us all these years.

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  2. I just learned things that I never knew about my Uncle Howard! Thank you for writing this tribute and I do love my Uncle Howard. I knew about the aneurysm but didn't realize how much he suffered for years after that. Wow - he is a treasure! I miss my dad greatly and I am so glad you still have yours! Happy Father's day to you too, cuz!

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