A Renaissance Man
(Fort Worth, Texas, USA)
I am the oldest of four: three girls and one boy. It isn't easy to be the oldest especially when you are sensitive and shy. My father was a hard man, a tough man in some ways. He could be sarcastic and angry when I was a child, but as he grew older, he became much quieter, not so strict.
Dad was a man to respect and fear, but he was also a man of humor and love. He was fiercely protective of his wife and family. He grew up in a small farming community in Indiana. He was from a good, strong German-American Catholic farming family.
He became an Eagle Scout and a pilot and went into the Army and worked on cars before he decided to be an educator. As a result, he had a very varied working life. He taught us so many things. Boy or girl, he taught us what he thought would help us to be independent and thrifty and strong like he was. That meant that the girls had to know how to change oil and rotate tires as well as how to use power tools and maintain appliances just as well as our brother did. We all learned to mow grass, paint walls, and lean just about anything. Best of all, he taught us how to pray and trust in God.
I remember fondly how he used to say prayers with us and then read to us at night to help us go to sleep. He enjoyed poems and we still remember them. He liked to laugh so we used to watch classic comedy films together as a family. He also liked old James Bond and John Wayne films. He was an adventurer at heart. I find that, although I like a good "chick flick" now and then, I am also partial to male oriented films like war movies, intrigue, and cowboy movies.
I developed a love for classical music, great literature, and beautiful art because of him. We often went to museums and libraries as kids. He had unusual taste in home decor but, thankfully, Mom took care of that. It seems weird to look back and realize that the same man who listened to Beethoven and Heifetz also watched the Three Stooges and the Pink Panther cartoons. He had many interests and enjoyed many things.
Mostly, he enjoyed eating good foods and having a beer or a mixed drink once in a while. He liked Tex-Mex and Italian the best but a good burger would "hit the spot" now and then too. He certainly had a fondness for chili and would eat hot salsa by the pint. I enjoy food too. I have a sweet tooth and with diabetes in our family, I have to be careful. He kept his diabetes under control because he was very well disciplined. I like to think I learned to be too.
He was an historian and a mathematician. I decided to major in history in college but I didn't have the same propensity for math although I never failed a class. He was a modest man but he had acquired a great deal of knowledge about Theodore Roosevelt and early Twentieth Century United States history. He used to watch documentaries about World War II and it was good to share that time with him, learning with him as well as from him.
He taught history, social studies, political science, mathematics, English, and probably several other subjects. Dad knew English, Latin, German, and some Italian. He teased me about learning French but I suspect he was proud of me for it. I even obtained a Master's degree and I know he was proud of me for that.
He didn't like "mushy stuff" like being told he was loved, but we told him anyway. He didn't tell me he loved me very often but I know he did. We fought once or twice but it wasn't long lasting. He didn't hold grudges but he was wary of those who had previously been untrustworthy. I'm like that too.
I continue to think of things he liked or knew or did. It's amazing how much he crammed into his 76 years. From planes and old cars to Mozart and Bugs Bunny, his knowledge and taste were far-reaching. Again, I enjoy some of the same things. He had a tremendous influence on me. Sometimes I notice that I've developed some of his habits and mannerisms. Somehow, I find it comforting that I can emulate him even in small ways. I hope I will always emulate him in his character, his integrity, and his love for God. I know I can never match his excellent sense of humor.
I am proud of my father. I love him. He still inspires me to be better than I am. I feel so lost and hurt without him. I know it's selfish to want him back because he'd be suffering, but in a way, I'm still his little girl. That will never change. I look forward to seeing him again in eternity. It will be good to be with him again.