Though I have inherited my verbosity and nervous energy from my mother, in every other way I am the product of my father. From him came my pragmatics, a roll with the punches attitude, and a belief that the world, though broken, is still beautiful.
My father is a man who knows how to fight but never has sought it out and though he has had days of quiet desperation, he thinks it is unseemly to ever stay in that place. He has never sought an inflated sense of self-importance and has always put the welfare of others before his own gain even if with this came a belief that others must do everything in their power to support themselves. He is an avid follower of religion and history, though for him his own spirituality and the personal stories that exist among friends and family mean more than big ideas and so-called great movements.
My mother is a creature of external love. My father’s love has always been more internal as protection and provision marked his external character. Indeed most of the stories I recount of him involves these things….the drive through the Carolina highlands on a foggy morning, getting my sister and I through the rising Panamanian tide, and his guidance through forests, jungles, coastlines, urban corridors, and mountains.
I don’t think many people know how poetic he could be. He once wrote music and was an avid writer of letters. He was never one to shed tears, but late at night after everyone was in bed, he would sit alone in near darkness lost in thought.
He grew up in crushing poverty, joined the service, fought a war, weathered crisis too personal to mention here, and eventually settled down to an existence marked by hard blue collar work and tending to a small plot of land. At times he had to rely on family to help get us through, but eventually he became the one to whom others turned in times of need and he made sure my sister and I were the first generation in our family to attend university.
At 75, he has refused to slow down. And though he is quick to support the weak, he hates the idea he could ever be such a thing. I remember once driving him to the ER and his loathing that he had to rely on another person, even his son, for such a thing.
From Vietnam, I received a letter from him, apologizing for his absence from his family, but especially from his son. It is one of those few and very personal things that I have decided I should one day be burned with.
All of this and much more are things the few who read this already know. He has filled pages of thought for me and many have seen these things. What is more important though is he has filled my heart and soul even more and it would give me both the greatest and humility if I ever became a fraction of the man he is.