Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sunday Search: Being True To Father’s Day

This is a long overdue post that I have kept putting off when the thought of writing it has entered my mind over the years. As the most recent urge to record my thoughts coincided with Father’s Day it really was no longer an option to write about my father at greater length. While I have briefly mentioned my father in previous posts, I have consistently left out many of the details… pretty much all of the details in fact. While by no means comprehensive and certainly a work in progress, I dedicate this post to my father.

Growing up in a rather modest row home on Iona Avenue in Narberth, Pennsylvania my father was one who, despite his academic abilities, focused largely on sports during his formative years. In fact, I have been told stories on a few occasions that there were even scouts in the stands when my father was a catcher on the varsity baseball team for Lower Merion High School. And not all of those scouts were focusing on other players on the team or opposing hitters in the other dugout like Reggie Jackson. Because major league teams don’t keep all of their scouting records, this is a story that has no substantiation but, given the honest passion with which they were told and the talent that I saw on display decades later, there has to at least be a little truth in those tales.

What I do know for certain is that following his high school graduation my father knew with near absolute certainty that he was going to be drafted. Not surprisingly, he took his fate into his own hands and figured out a way to go into the military as an officer without the luxury of a college degree. This how my father ended up serving as a warrant officer and helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. While he flew in excess of, conservatively, 50 combat missions and nearly paid the ultimate sacrifice during the Tet offensive on 30 January 1968 at 1830 hours when he was struck by one of the seven 30 caliber rounds that punctured his aircraft, he has yet to receive the recognition for his service with the 155th Assault Helicopter Company (Stagecoach) out of Ban Me Thuot. This is an oversight that I am trying to rectify… I actually found out that this is an issue common with the company in which he served.

Following his Army service, my father returned home and, with his newly found focus, truncated the time it took to receive his degree from St. Joseph’s University (then St. Joseph’s College). With funds remaining in his GI Bill, he immediately pursued and later received his MBA from the same institution. He considered law school but eventually decided to continue his career in finance. Mind you he was also maintaining full time employment and volunteering with the Narberth Ambulance  Corps. Also during this period in his life, he was introduced to my mother (thanks to her brother), a relationship that has lasted for over 40 years.

With his education complete and a young family at home, my father continued thrive in the business world. While there have been certain unpleasant monikers and unpleasant terms used to describe my father during this time, in the end, he was good at his job, didn’t accept failure, hated braggers and name droppers, and expected people to work just as hard as he did. Even years later, I can recall brief moments of conversations echoing from his office. I may not have completely understood them at the time and even now I can’t recall exactly what was said but, as I have gotten older, I have come to understand those moments to be glimpses into his aforementioned work ethic.

I have also come to realize that my older siblings may have had a different experience growing up but I remember my father trying to find the time to help me when he could, attend practices and games, and answer questions that broke through my stubbornness while completing homework assignments. I also recall the moments playing miniature golf on the board walk in Ocean City, my poor attempts to play real golf on various occasions, going to Phillies games at the Vet, and simply joining him during weekly short car rides into the city or along the main line with the oldies station or KYW News Radio (1060) playing in the background.

To this day I still look up to my father and there are new memories made every day. I have come to better appreciate everything that he has done for me and the lessons that he has taught me over the years… some I took to quickly while others it took years before I finally got it. While our conversations have changed over the years, I enjoy the times that he is able to share his experiences and knowledge about subjects with me as well as those rare moments when I am able to tell him about something new or a recent family discovery that I have made.

However, the greatest moment are when I am able to see him with his grandson with whom he shares his name. And the times when we can all experience something new as a family are the memories that will last not just my lifetime but my son’s lifetime as well. There is no greater feeling than when I remind my son that this is your granddad, this is daddy’s daddy. Happy Father’s Day Dad!