Friday, September 11, 2009

My Father, My Friend, My Inspiration, My Hero

My father retired today after almost 39 years at the Sheboygan County Highway Department. I decided to write a note to honor what he has meant to me.

He is a great hero in my life, my greatest strength. I cannot even scratch the surface of all the events that reflect his impact upon my life. Even in the midst of my successes and my shortcomings, (Yeah, yeah, I know there have been many) he has always accepted me as I am. I am in awe of his strength, his integrity, and the painful endurance he deals with daily. I only ask that he stays safe and (relatively) pain-free for many, many years. I hope that I can somehow, someway come close to having his strength, his boldness and his wisdom to endure all. Two moments, in particular, stand out amongst his many influences on my life.

The first moment is when my father, mother, sister and me walked out of the gymnasium after I won my last match at the State wrestling meet. I cannot remember which trip to Wisconsin Rapids it was, but that victory earned my spot at Nationals. As we were approaching the car, he bummed a cigarette from someone. It seemed as though his nerves had gotten the better of him. It was the first and only time I saw him smoke a cigarette. (Unless I count the few times he morphs into a cigar aficionado and smokes those horrendous air-tipped Muriels.) Why is this moment important to me? It proved that he had a personal stake in my well-being. At that moment, he was so invested in the outcome that it overtook him with nervousness and stress. Even with the tension created by my matches, driving all over the country to compete was never boring!

The second moment is when I realized I had the same sense of humor. That moment is as clear today as it was then. Jeff had stored his Mustang in the barn for winter. Once the weather broke, he decided to pick up the car. The three of us were attempting to jump start his engine. Jeff popped the hood. As I searched in vain for the latch under the hood, I jokingly asked, "Am I retarded or?" and without missing a beat or letting me finish, my father quickly chimed in with a simple, yet powerful "Yes." Jeff still laughs at me for that. But in that one moment, I realized how I learned to be a quick-witted, mocking, sarcastic asshole – from him. Thanks, Pops. That quick-wit will continue to serve me well.

Although I seem to be a spark plug for disgust and disappointment and a black hole for his hard earned dollars, he has not complained all that much.

Thanks for everything. I may not say it often, but I love him with all my heart. He is the greatest dad in the whole world. I always see a friend in him and I consider myself to be the luckiest son in the world. I was blessed with the greatest, most giving, most FORGIVING parents any child could ask for. Thanks for always being at the practices, at the games, in the good times, and in the bad times.

Now I only hope he kicks back, puts his feet up and enjoys his retirement.

I love you, Pops! (By the way, could I borrow 20 bucks?)

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