Thursday, September 2, 2010


I heard once that no child is born into the same family. With each new sibling, at each stage of the parents' lives and learning, the dynamics are different. After my dad's funeral, I asked my oldest brother, Mike, if I could share with everyone the story he told at the beginning of the service. Mike is 7 years older than me, so his experiences were much different from mine. The older siblings often say us younger ones had it easier growing up. That may be true in some ways, but when a retired sergeant speaks, it doesn't matter if you're the oldest kid or the youngest. It makes you jump just a little. But, I guess I hadn't realized that one of his strengths was also his silence.

Thanks, Mike, for sharing this experience with us. Good job.
(The service began at 11 a.m.)

As you can imagine, this ain’t gonna be easy. But Dad would probably say, “Just read it, boy. I’m getting hungry.”

We hear the word “sacrifice” used often. We hear the word used in relation to the sacrifices one might make for a cause or a country. There are also the sacrifices that a parent makes for their family. Some parents might remind their children of the sacrifices they’ve made, just as people might brag of their sacrifices for a cause or a country. Dad made many sacrifices, together with Mom, and never spoke of them.

Dad served in a world war. He seldom spoke of it and never bragged about it. The only part of the military he ever bragged about was when he shaved half of a drunken lieutenant’s mustache off while he slept. As for the rest of it, he said once that, “It was a job. We did it and then came home." And he never told us of the sacrifices he made for his family, never reminded us of how many hours he worked every day, every week, every year, to keep us well fed and decently clothed.

There were ten of us children, and we never went hungry a day in our lives. Dad never asked for anything in return, except maybe a little peace and quiet when he got home. We probably failed miserably at that. I don’t recall a single quiet meal with ten children gathered around the table. The only quiet part of the meal was when grace was said.

We all have our own favorite memories of Dad. But for my own part, I’m pretty sure that Dad also sacrificed a few hairs on his head. I probably gave him a few gray ones. He had a drill sergeant’s voice up ‘til the day he died. I know he could make me jump when he wanted to. But his patience, though often worn thin, was beyond reproach.

The one example I will share is when, as it often was, my report card from school was filled with, well, bad grades. Dad picked up the baseball and, instead of lobbing it at my head as I deserved, said, “Let’s go play some catch.” And while we tossed the ball back and forth, all he did was say, “So your grades aren’t very good, are they?”

“No,” I said.

“Well, you’re just going to have to work a little harder.”

He gave some other words of advice beyond that, but I don’t remember any of that. What I remember is Dad sacrificing some time when he could have been sitting down after a long day and putting his feet up, and instead inviting me outside to play catch at the end of the day.

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