My Dad has been gone 15 years in August, but on this Father’s Day, I still see his presence in who I turned out to be.
I’d like to tell you we had this Ward Cleaver-like father-son relationship, but we didn’t. He only saw me play sports once in his life, never came to any events I was involved in, and pretty much viewed his role growing up as providing a roof over our head, food on the table, and making sure I went to college.
Like all Dads of that generation, he was similar to the way Brett Favre described his father the night he learned he had passed away: Never said he loved you, never gave you a lot of credit for what you did, always scoffed when you asked him for money, but was always there. We could watch entire sporting events together and never talk about anything other than "that was a great play." Same was true playing golf together. We would talk during those times without actually saying anything.
It’s a stark contrast to how I acted when I became a Dad, and I’ll be honest, there were times I struggled with that. It wasn’t until he was in his 70s he decided he wanted to be friends and we talked about this sort of thing. The more we talked, the more I understood.
Like many of us, he learned how to be a father from watching his own father, an Italian immigrant who came to America in 1917, married, had 8 children, but then lost his wife (my grandmother) when my Dad was only 18. Because of that, my grandfather was angry at life and took it out on his sons, who as soon as they could, joined the military to get away from all of that. I got to talk to my last surviving uncle last week, and at 91, he still confirms growing up in that house wasn’t a lot of fun.
But despite all that, my Dad – like every Dad whether he wants to or not – taught me how to be a father by his actions. Yeah, he talked about the Depression way too often – you learned not ask for money from him lest you wanted to hear stories of only having dirt to eat for dinner and being thankful you had even that – but there was another message he communicated I have only recently understood.