Sunday, June 18, 2006
Happy Father's Day, Pop.
That's my father, Adrien, known to his friends as Terry and to all the people who worked for him as Mr. T. He's in his element up there, at a party, talking to people he didn't know and drawing out what was best about them. He had that ability to make you better than you thought you were and it served him well as a store manager for Montgomery Wards, 35 years in retail, loyal to the company until Mobil Oil bought out the chain and forced him into retirement.
In his retirement, he started a Food Bank and worked a dozen other charitable concerns. My father had two speeds: Fast and fast asleep.
He loved people. If he stood in a line for more than five minutes, he knew the stories of the person in front of him and behind him. I never heard him tell a lie to anyone and, although he was a drinker, I never saw him drunk. Not once.
He could shoot pool like the devil. He was raised in a steel town, and his father took him into those neighborhood bars and taught him how to hold his first cue when Dad had to stand on a box to reach the table.
When my mother was in the hospital he took me to a bar he'd found, one with a decent table, to pass the time between visiting hours. We pulled into the parking lot, full of Harleys, and I asked Dad what kind of place this was. He said it was a club. "They call themselves The Pagans, I think." When he opened the door, a dozen long-haired, leather-wearing outlaws shouted, "Terry!" He'd been there before.
Everything I know about being a good man, I learned from him. Everything else, I picked up on my own.
Here's what he taught me, directly and otherwise:
1. A man who doesn't make mistakes is a man who isn't doing anything.
2. They can take everything away from you except an education.
3. Marriage is hard, and nobody else's business.
4. It is possible to fall in love at age 19 and stay in love for the rest of your life.
5. Leadership is not a popularity contest, but if you're a good leader, you'll be popular.
6. Don't let the fact that you can't sing stop you from singing.
7. There's always something to do.
8. If you have a choice to laugh or cry, go for the laugh. You won't regret it.
9. Oil companies are run by lying, thieving, bastards.
10. Give even the biggest assholes the chance to not be assholes and occassionally they'll come through for you. Not always, but more often than you'd expect.
Thanks, Dad, for everything, but especially the license to make mistakes. I've used that one a lot.
To all you fathers out there, Happy Father's Day. And if he's still around, call your dad.