Ode to the Fathers

This sunday people every where will celebrate a day that honors those men who do a often thankless but easily the most important job in the world: Fathers Day. This is a day where we get a chance to thank those men who perform the most important service in the world which is only equaled by the mothers of the world. In support of this day, I thought I would take a minute to talk about my father.

When I was very young (2 or 3 yrs), my mother and biological father seperated leaving my mom to raise 3 boys. When you start off with a sentence like this, most people will think how awful that is, and I'm sure that at the time it was awful for my mother. However, things have a way of working for the best, because that's when she met Larry Pike. After a normal courtship, she later married that man and he became the father of not only two boys of his own, but also a father to me and my brothers.

I call my step dad my father for a couple of reasons. One, he's the only dad I've ever really known. I know my biological father and he is a great friend, but Larry was the one that raised me, taught me right from wrong, and provided the foundation for me being who I am today. Second, Larry officially adopted me when I was eight years old and made what we both already knew legal, he was my dad.

One of the things that I find so amazing about this man is that he willing accepted the responsibility for raising 3 boys that were not his own, both emotionally and financially, and as far as I know, he never even balked at the idea. This man took the responsiblity for the livelihood of 5 boys and did a job raising us that any man should be proud of. I don't think that there are alot of men out there that would do this so willingly or put such an effort into doing it right. He never treated us (me and my brothers) any differently than his own sons and I think the reason for that was, that in his mind, we were no different. We were his sons. I consider this man my only father and I know that my brothers feel the same.

Recently I took a road trip with my father which is something that we had never done before. The purpose of this trip was to spread the ashes of my favorite uncle over the land where he and my father had grown up. It started off as fulfilling the final wishes of a beloved family member, but it ended up being so much more. While this trip was a short one of just a couple days, I learned alot about the man who was my father and gained an insight into how he became the man he is today.

The road trip stated off in Arkansas, where my parents now live, and ended in Sudan, Texas, at my father's childhood home. It was 10 hours one way of just my father, me, the radio and the open road. You have to understand that neither me or my father are that much for talking. Our phone conversations are short and to the point. We say what we have to say and we end it, but on this trip, the radio was played infrequently during that 10 hours as we spent that time just talking. I got to hear stories from my dad that I had to swear I would never share with anyone else, especially my mom. All those things that I use to catch hell for when I was kid, I found out that my dad had done as well, or in some cases, even worse. I guess that's how he knew I was headed for trouble and he got on to me, because he had already done those things and knew the outcome. However, the most important thing about those conversations, was that dad had trusted me enough to tell me. As most sons know, when conversations like these happen, you now know that you are a man in your father's eyes. Sure, you are are still his son, but you are also a man, an equal. A man who can be trusted to learn the secrets and inner workings of the man who has long been your hero. I can think of few things that can mean so much to son.

When we arrived in Sudan, it was something to watch the expressions on my dad's face as he looked at the house he was raised in. To most people, they would have just seen this place as a broken down home on a flat, dusty piece of land in a barren spot of Texas, but from the look in my dad's eyes, he was back home. To the right of the house, there was a old cotton gin where my grandfather worked, and where apparently, my father and uncle spent countless hours of play. Dad took the time to explain to me the workings of this decrepate cotton gin, even though it was little more than a junk yard of parts now, but in his explanation, this place was worked just as well as it did when he was a kid. He talked about the stucco work that my grandfather did on the house, how granddad went about it, and the amount of time it took him. I don't think Dad saw the same broken down house that I did that day. I think he saw the house exactly as he remembered it. A home that his father took pride in and in return, my dad had pride. Sure he made comments about how small the house looked to him now that he was grown, but I don't know that he believed that. He looked at house and dusty land the same way I look at my parents house every time I go home. It was a place of happy memories and love shared with family.

After we left the house, we went drove by dad's old high school to let him relive those days. In doing this, we found the office of the local newpaper. On a whim, we walked thru the door and asked the man behind the counter how far back they kept archives of the newpapers. Turns out, they had newspapers all the way back to dad's high school days. We spent the next hour or so looking thru these old, yellowing copies of news for clips about my father and uncle. Dad has always told us boys about his glory days of football, but for the most part, we thought he was full of it. I come to find out that day that dad wasn't as full of s*&t as I thought he was. He never lied to us about his athletic skills, though he may have exaggerated a bit. :) It was nice to watch dad read those newspaper articles about his high school football days and relive that time in his mind. A several points, dad would point out an exceptional journalistic byline of some distant game that documented my dad's football skills and make me promise to remember the wording so I could tell the rest of the boys about how he was "the man" in his day. I wish I could have taken each and every one of those articles home for him just to see him smile the same way he did that day.

I know this story may not be that important to most people out there, but this was the greatest trip I ever took. I think it's important for children to know where their parents come from and the way they lived. I now know why my father believes in hard work and fought to instill that in me. He was raised that way. Hard work was just a matter of survival in his day. They didn't have the luxuries that I had growing up, but you could tell through his stories and expressions, that they made the best out of what they had. Yet another lesson my dad taught to all us boys. Crying about what you don't have never does any good, you have fight and work for what you want.

So take the time this sunday to find about the man you call your father. Ask him about his childhood and sit back and listen to the stories he has to tell you. Those stories will give you insight into yourself. As the old saying goes, "To know where you are going, you have to know where you came from." I now know what that saying means after this trip. You guys can have your Caribbean cruises and European holidays, I will take a trip back to a dried out, sagebrush filled, tumbleweed infested plot of land smelling of cow manure with my old man any day!


Japher69 said...

And that is what it is all about...

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