One of the issues facing you if you’re a baby boomer is something that pills and exercise won’t help. If your parents are still alive, they’re still 18-plus years older than you.
My father is 87. He still is the chaplain for his local VFW, has a Meals on Wheels route and has the added responsibility of helping my mother, who has dementia.
My father was never a demonstrative influence in my life and he never directly disciplined me, although he came close once when I hid the telephone bill so that he wouldn’t see that I was making long distance calls to talk with a young lady I fancied. The phone eventually got cut off. I deserved whatever I would have gotten, but he held back.
When I was growing up he worked two jobs and went back to college.
There seems to be a trait that the Greatest Generation has and that is constantly telling stories about their glory days, especially when they are with friends or family. I have heard how my father won this game or another so many times, I could tell the story better than him.
The sad part about this is that now I find myself doing the same.
I have reached the point in my life that when my father starts his stories, I just listen and act like I never heard them before. I like to see his smile as he adds a little bit more flavor to each story. I always enjoyed my time with my dad; I still do.
He taught me lessons for my life that I am sure he never realized he did. He taught me you have to work hard to accomplish what you want in life. He taught me that however you felt family had betrayed you or let you down they were still family.
I am not sure that my father achieved all the success he wanted out of life, but his greatest success was his children. On this Father’s Day we, his children, owe him a lot and we are grateful that he is still with us.
My other two father figures – my Grandfather Cope and my Grandfather Cavanaugh – were as different as night and day.
My grandfather Cope was from Tennessee. He was once a cowboy in Arizona, caught snakes to milk the venom for medicine and served as a white house guard in World War I. All the soldiers had to be a certain height and have a certain demeanor.
I was always in awe of him. He was injured in an accident that caused some issues that I never understood, but he could build anything and he wasn’t afraid to tackle anything.
My grandfather Willie Cavanaugh was as pure an Irishman as you can be. His sarcastic humor drove my mother crazy. He always wore his Irish hat cocked to the right; he was a roofer and talented tinsmith. My father, when I was young, showed me houses that still had examples of his father’s work.
He and his two brothers served in the service during WWI.
They were the subjects of a big front page story in the Washington Post in 1917 titled “Local mother sends three of her sons off to war.”
My grandfather liked his toddies and the stories about him passed through the family are legendary.
He always called me and my brother and sisters his country cousins. We had to hug him and he always took joy in rubbing his three-day beard on our faces and then would look at us with a twinkle in his eye.
In his 70’s he contracted prostate cancer and when the doctor told him that he would have to remove his prostrate I am told that he said no; he wasn’t going to mess up his sex life.
The lasting good thought that my Grandfather Willie left me was on one summer evening when I was four. I was sitting on the front stoop of his house. He and one of my uncles I suppose were heading to the local tavern. I asked him where he was going; he sat down, put his arm around me and pointed to the heavens. “Paddy,” he said, “keep looking. Pretty soon you will see the moon. Poppa is going to wind it up for you.” I waited with expectation and sure enough the moon arose.
To this day I still believe that my Grandpa Willie winds the moon up each night.
I hope today, if you can, that you take the time to celebrate your father and his life, because before you know it he might be gone and all you will have are some great memories.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads. God knew what he was doing when he made your mold.
T. Pat Cavanaugh is the publisher of The News. You can reach him at 770-787-6397 or firstname.lastname@example.org