Father’s Day; My father is someone I look to for guidance and love and he has been the major male figure in my life for as long as I can remember. Dad was at my camp outs, scout meetings, football and hockey games, ceremonies, concerts and everything else. He would say he has two feet so he could stand on one and kick me in the ass with the other. He was right. I was an unmotivated kid and lived in a comfortable middle class family and cared more about girls and sports than “real life”. I remember his long talks and his guidance as I became a young man. If it were not for my Dad I would not be a college graduate.
My Dad grew up with his grand-parents and his mom. The only male figure that I would call a father figure to my Dad would be his Grandfather Stanley. I remember my great-grandfather and even though I was 11 years old when he passed away, I still remember the grief that my father suffered. My great-grandfather was a no-nonsense farmer from rural Maine and you can see his influence on Dad to this day. My father broke the cycle of absent fathers and I am thankful for his life lessons.
Dad took care of his mother in high school and they eked out an existence. He worked to support his family and I cannot imagine the stressand responsibilities that he faced as a teenager. The only time my Dad saw his father was when he drove through town with his new girlfriend on his side. It was a small community and the kids made fun of him as divorced parents were not common in 1950′s Charleston, Maine. I was embarrassed as a teenager because my dad was picking me up from football practice. I was a “man” and I didn’t need my Dad. He was patient and accepted my crazy teenaged behavior and never belittled me because he knew I foolish I was at the time.
I remember the night in 1982 when he was called that his father died. There was grief and a sense of something that could never be recovered and then he found out later that week that he had been left one dollar in the will so that he could not contest it. His father had moved on and re-married and had children after abandoning my Dad and Grams. It’s the one time I can recall him crying. He was asking my mother how his own father could hate him so much. My grandfather was buried in the Higgins cemetery in Charleston, Maine and he did not have a grave stone. My father was the one who purchased the head-stone because he chose to do the “right” thing. I have never talked with my Dad about that time and I don’t even know if he’s aware that I heard him crying and talking with my mother that one night. I just remember that sometimes you have to do the right thing even under the most dire situations.
When I was at Maine Maritime Academy I got into some trouble and called my Dad. He was angry and upset, but what hurt the most was his disappointment in me. What did my Dad do? He came to school and helped me through my most difficult time in my life. He gave me the proverbial kick in the butt, but he was there and helped ensure that I would graduate. If it had not been for my Dad I would not have fought to stay and graduate from college. I would have been your typical kid floating through life.
Dad graduated from the University of Maine. He went to college on a Blaine House Scholarship which required him to teach in an rural part of Maine. His mother and father did not go to college and when my mom and dad went back for their high-school reunion they were the only couple where both their children had graduated from college. I still remember my sister getting a nurse kit as a little girl, Dad returned it and got her a doctor’s kit and told Leigh that she should strive to be anything she wanted to be. Today my sister is an M.D. and practices medicine in Maine. My Dad was a high-school principal for many years and I know from talking with the kids that he pushed everyone to fulfill their potential.
After graduation I moved to Louisiana for almost ten years. During that time my Dad and I were separated my 2000 miles. We talked on the phone several times a week and visits by my folks were frequent as I could only go to Maine once a year. I remember the day I found out that my son Mac has hemi-paresis like it was yesterday. I called Dad and he had a meeting of several people in his office. He heard my voice crack and cleared his office and spent the afternoon talking me off the ledge of craziness and grief for my little boy. Some parents would not take the call during work, but typical of Dad he did. He had learned the hard life lessons as a boy and young man and was still there for his thirty year old son in his time of need.
I have watched my Dad for 43 years now and his lessons have made me a better Dad in my own right. In 2006 we made a family decision for me to leave the corporate world and these past three years have enabled me to become the Dad I have always wanted to become. I am a teacher and photographer. I used to work in the maritime industry where I would travel all the time. Now the only time I travel is for family vacations. I am daddy-daycare in the summer for five children 17 to 6 and I cannot think of a better job.
My oldest son plays on a travel team for soccer and this year it was literally a part-time job with getting him ready for college recruiting. It was easily 25 hours a week with travel. When people ask me how I can do these crazy things for my children I think back to 5 AM practices at the Alfond Arena in Orono, Maine. My dad would wake me up at 3 AM and drive me down there because that was the only time we could afford ice time as a team before our season started. I think back to those times and tell people that I am doing no more than my dad did for me. He still has two feet and if I didn’t measure up as a Dad he’d still plant one directly in my butt.
The last photograph is their wedding portrait taken inside the Baptist Church in Charleston, Maine on December 23rd, 1967. Mom and Dad chose to have a B&W album because it was 300.00 instead of color at 500.00. They should be thankful, I can’t imagine what color prints from the late 60′s would like like 45 years later? I think it’s amazing that so many images from their album are timeless.
Happy Father’s Day to my Dad!