The first man in my life was “Daddy”. I was the first born and Dad always said it was me who matured him – he was now responsible for another life. (Two more would follow). This Sunday, much like Mother’s Day, there is no card for me to buy or phone call to make or lunch to plan – Dad’s gone. I miss him.
Dad was the youngest of eight children in a Texas farm family. His childhood stories are of chickens, hunting dogs, harvest and Sunday School. He went to Henrietta High School where he lettered in football and basketball. At 18 he joined the US Navy and served in the Pacific. He was a radar technician which, in World War II, was high tech.
Dad would tell anyone who asked that he hit the jackpot when Mom agreed to marry him. He showed her off proudly to his family and friends. For the sixty-plus years of their marriage she stood next to him, his adored wife.
Dad was a doodle-bugger, a name given to the men who explored for oil in jungles, deserts, rainforests, anyplace with snakes, spiders and no way in or out except helicopters. They set up camp in the middle of nowhere and from there would run lines to “dynamite” the underground area to see if the bedrock showed potential oil sites. He was known as ‘lucky’ as most of his finds were successful.
Dad worked his way up the ladder. He started in the camps and would be gone for three weeks with one week off. However, he never missed the birth of one of his children or Christmas. Birthdays and anniversaries were iffy. As a little girl, if I knew he was coming home “later that night” I would fall asleep on the rug by the front door – this ensured that he would have to wake me when he opened the door. He retired as country chief – the person in charge of all seismic operations in that specific region.
He was also the man who disrupted our lives – we were transferred constantly and he would usually tell us over dinner that we were leaving. As we got older we would yell and scream because we didn’t want to leave our friends. But we did – each one of us graduating from high school in a different country; me in Singapore, my sister in Peru, and my brother in Egypt.
All the teenage angst aside, what Dad taught me first was to love – he loved Mom and she was the most important person in our family. We had to “mind her” and her word was law . . . unless he changed her mind. He taught me be a good human being – Dad treated everyone the same – janitor to president. He respected their position and their work.
He taught us to respect cultures – Dad hired local people and because he was boss man, we were invited to weddings, funerals and ‘rite of passage parties’. We went to most and learned how to party in many religions and languages. Most of all Dad was positive, he celebrated life with gusto and took pleasure in our successes.
At the end of the day what is a Dad, if not the guy who married “Mom” and provided love, education and an example of how to live life.