The Wonderful Side Of Never
It’s another Father’s Day.
My Dad was a family man.
I could also say that he was a war hero, a self-taught engineer, and a handsome, intelligent, and athletic man. He could swing a golf club and he could swing my mother around the dance floor.
But mostly he was a family man.
He loved my mother and us kids, and his own mother and sisters and brother and his cousins, nieces and nephews, and my mother’s family too. And later, his children’s families – our spouses and the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. When he would say, as he did often, “Let’s call everybody and have a party,” he meant, let’s call all our relatives and the friends whom he loved like family.
Last week I learned one small new thing about him. My mother and I were talking about movies as we ate lunch, and she said, “You know what your father’s favorite movie was?”
I thought she would say “Patton” – because my father and I watched that movie together and we loved it, and he told me about General George S. Patton and General Omar Bradley. How much he admired them both. Patton for his fearlessness and genius in war. Bradley for his humanity. “Us soldiers were in awe of Patton,” he said. “But we would follow Bradley anywhere.”
But my mother surprised me.
“The African Queen,” she said. “We must have seen that movie 100 times. Every time it was on, your dad would say, ‘We have to watch this.’ Every time.”
So he was not just a war hero. He was a war hero and a romantic.
When I reflect on my father, it seems I always return to the things that he was not. The traits that were just not in his character.
Like how often he swore: Never.
How he complained about his job: Never.
How he would be in a bad mood: Never.
How he lost his temper without provocation: Never.
How he disparaged other people: Never.
How he shirked his responsibility: Never.
How he was rude to a waiter or salesperson: Never.
How he missed Mass on Sunday: Never.
How he told his 3 daughters that girls couldn’t do something: Never.
How he told his son that winning was everything: Never.
How he fought with my mother: Never.
How he was unkind to strangers: Never.
Dad died five years ago, at 88. A nice and happy long life. I don’t believe he had any regrets. He passed away with only my mother at his side, which is what they both wanted.
I sat with him the day before, though, and I rather knew it was the last time. He knew too, I think. When I rose to leave he put his hand on his heart.
“The African Queen” is my favorite movie too.
And my hand is on my heart.