By Chad Hobbs
Webster defines a father as a man in relation to his child or children. My experience with “father” has manifested in ways that leaves this definition sadly deficient. Fortunately for me, I have had a much greater experience regarding this word.
Just last week, I had intended to drive into work when my vehicle decided it had different plans for the day. With a father and a brother who farm together and are both great mechanics, I was quite relieved to be able to limp it into dad’s shop. That is until I realized that neither one of them was there that day. It appeared I would be on my own to fix the vehicle, and ultimately did. This led to a long reflection on just how thankful I was for the men in my life that have guided me over the years.
My grandfather rode a horse to school but graduated into a world at war. I am sure he planned to work the farm where he was born, but his 18th birthday delivered a draft notice from Uncle Sam instead. He did not arrive in time to storm the beaches of Normandy but landed there within the following weeks. As the soldiers began moving inland, grandpa was right there on the frontlines helping to clear the hedgerows. He never talked much about his time on the front, focusing more on the trip over and trip back, if he even discussed it at all. Eventually a mortar shell hit all too close and with shrapnel wounds from the blast, he crawled to his fellow soldier who had been wounded, packing organs back in the man and laid on top of his wounds for pressure, screaming for a medic to render aid. The soldier had been mortally wounded. I guess it was no wonder why he never wanted to speak about his Purple Heart or those horrific days he experienced at such a young age.
My grandfather came home a young man who had just survived hell on earth. My grandmother, who was born and raised in Concordia, grew up during the Great Depression and was forced to load up with her family and cousins in the back of a truck, as they traveled to California in hopes of finding work. She lived in a tent city for several years out there, watching her father and the other men in her family stand on a corner each day, hoping to be selected to work at one of the surrounding citrus orchards for the day.
So, the home my father grew up in was drastically different than the house my son is growing up in today. My grandparents had come into adulthood and parenthood through the experiences of fighting for their lives, neither of which by choice. I on the other hand never had to fight for my survival, neither by war or starvation level poverty, as my grandparents did.
What I did have was a culture shared from my grandfather, and passed on to his son, that you never put off until tomorrow what you can do today. They both had a work ethic that would kill a team of good mules. Hard, constant, enduring work was all they knew and was what they expected from us. I often gazed jealously at my friends who seemed to have something I didn’t. I loved spending the night at their houses because it seemed like a vacation, which is also why many of them refused to ever spend the night at my house more than once.
Sadly, it took me way too long to realize what I had that those friends didn’t. My grandfather and father were preparing me for life. Anyone could have fun and play all day, but what good would that ever do a man? They taught me lessons that prepared me for life after childhood. Things like what a strong father must be.
There was never a day they exhibited fear and I always felt safe when they were around. They rarely found something that was broke that they didn’t fix themselves. They never put their own desires above providing for their family. Nothing stood between completing a job, except for Sundays. God always came first. These were lessons that I cared little for as a boy, but I thank God every day that they kept teaching them all the same.
As I stood in dad’s shop last week, it had finally sunk in. I should have been typing in an office in a polo shirt, but instead I stood there covered in grease, looking at a vehicle that I had just fixed myself. That truck thought it would wreck this ol’ writer’s day, but it had sadly misjudged just who I am. Grandpa and dad had taught me how to be a fixer; they taught me how to be a man.
So, here’s to wishing all the dad’s out there, and especially the one I call my own, the happiest of Father’s Days this weekend. I hope I can fill those shoes of fatherhood like my dad and grandpa did for me.