Today, Father’s Day, we formally recognize and honor our father’s role in our lives.
I hope we each recognize the importance of that role on a far more frequent basis. I find hardly a day when I don’t look up from the desk in my office to the shadow-box holding the flag that draped my father’s coffin 15 years ago, along with the military patches, his dog tag, and of course a photo of him as a young man in uniform at the age of 19 years. Little did he know at the time of the photo that the young farm-boy from the hills behind Shickshinny, would, on June 20, 1944, D-Day plus fourteen, be walking onto Utah Beach, Normandy. It is hard to imagine what thoughts crossed his mind as he trailed across the sand and into the interior of France, Holland, and eventually Germany.
My father was a common man. He preferred Williams, Jones, and Cash to Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart. He chose beer over martinis or fine wines, and Spillane over Steinbeck, Faulkner, or Hemingway. But he was smart and informed, well beyond the eighth grade education he received. He cared deeply for his two sons. Though he struggled to verbalize it, he expressed it daily, and, late in his life, he fell in love with a little blond girl, his granddaughter. I sometimes am befuddled to reminisce of him romping on the floor, drinking tea from cups difficult for anyone older than four to hold, and taking turns with this little girl smearing cake frosting around one another’s mouth. I guess that’s the advantage of a grandchild.
My father was a blue-collar man who often worked the evening shift. I can recall spending days with him before 3 p.m., where it was just he and I. With me riding a green foot pedal fire truck and him watching from the porch top, trying to read a newspaper with one eye while he watched with a smile as I went back and forth on the sidewalk. At the end of the day, he would come into the bedroom where my brother and I slept to say good night. Of course, our day had ended much earlier, while his day ended after midnight and the end of his shift at the factory. On occasion, he would bring home a bag of freshly fried potato sticks from the factory where he worked in the frying room — so fresh that steam was still on the bag. No matter how deeply I slept, I would awake in a heartbeat when prompted by the smell of freshly fried potato sticks.
Later in life, I developed a love for outdoor sports, including fishing and hunting. While my father no longer had a desire to carry a gun (he had carried one for far too long while in Europe) he saw the passion in my eyes, and he relented. Until I was legally able to hunt by myself, he took me afield, focusing far more on safety than a full game bag. He taught me that success was more often measured by returning home safely and through memories of moments shared together. I could never thank him enough for giving in and providing me a gift that I have shared through the years with others — including that little blond girl with whom my father fell in love.
He taught me to be proud and to hold my ground and that sometimes, sometimes, it is better to relent.
The Family Service Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania can provide guidance on the importance of parenting. For more information, contact us at 570-823-5144 or through Help Line at 829-1341. Visit us at fsawv.org or helpline-nepa.info.
Michael Zimmerman is Chief Executive Officer of Family Service Association Wilkes-Barre.