It is early morning on Father’s Day. I’m sitting in a comfy chair on the back porch, enjoying the sound of a light rain on the metal roof overhead while listening to the birds and crickets sing, and thinking about what a lucky man I am.
I have a beautiful daughter, a handsome son, four awesome grandchildren, and I’ve been married to the girl of my dreams for going on 47 years. On top of all this, I have a superabundance of amazing friends – friends who believe in me and in whom I believe.
As if this is not enough, and it really is, I’m now in my second year of retirement and having the time of my life – auctioneering with Joel T. Wilson, playing in the dirt (i.e., flower gardening), spending lots of time with family and friends, traveling, camping, hiking, and even reading a few books, which is saying a lot for me.
I’m beginning to understand why “old age” is sometimes referred to as a second childhood. This time of life is as much fun, and possibly more, than the laughing playful days of childhood. The innocence of childhood has faded away, but it has been replaced by an understanding and appreciation of how precious each new day is, inspiring me to live each day to its fullest.
My journey to this happy time of life has not always been easy. My folks divorced when I was an infant, and within a year Mom married my stepdad.
For the most part he was a quiet even-tempered man. Although not a strong father figure, by example he did teach me important lessons about patience, perseverance, and both the necessity and dignity of hard work.
I left home (escaped might be a better way to put it) at age 16. I can almost count on one hand the number of days I spent with my stepdad and mom from the time I left home until I was in my mid-30s.
This relationship void is a story for another time; suffice it to say the missed Mother’s Day and Father’s Day celebrations were of their choosing, not mine.
When my stepdad and mom did reenter my life, and Yvonne’s, it was for us to help see Mom through the last few difficult months of his life, which, sadly, was cut short by pancreatic cancer one month after his 64th birthday. I’m glad we were able to spend that time together.
Interestingly, although I did not meet my birth father until I was 19, he quickly became not only my father, but my dad. I’m sure it was part DNA – I not only looked like Dad but, as quickly became apparent, also possessed many of his traits and mannerisms even though he had not been a part of my childhood.
But our rapid bonding was based on more than DNA. First, contrary to the stories Mom had told, I learned that Dad’s absence was not his choice but was the result of Mom’s continual maneuverings to keep him out of our lives, and the fact that his military career assignments were almost entirely overseas. He gave up on sending letters, but during all those years never missed a child support payment, which Mom insisted always be mailed to her attorney.
Putting the years of separation behind us, Dad and I quickly made up for lost time, building as strong of a father and son relationship as you can build without the benefit of childhood nurturing.
I’m especially glad I had the privilege of knowing and spending time with Dad during his retirement years (and my wonderful stepmom!) He continued to be a role model right up until his death from a sudden heart attack in late July 2007. We spoke on the phone just two days earlier. He was 89, and, although he had suffered a mild stroke a few weeks earlier, he was in good spirits and still living each day to the fullest.
Life is good, and as I said in last week’s column, if given the opportunity, I wouldn’t change a thing. Thanks for listening.
George Brown is a freelance writer. He lives in Jackson Township.