My Dad

Bill WebsterIt’s a little strange to write about my Dad when I don’t even have a picture of him. At least one that’s readily available. You see, we are in the midst of moving (yes, again) and all the pictures are packed. But write about my Dad I will. It is, after all, close to  Father’s Day.

(For those of you who MUST have a visual aide to go along with this blog, I’ve gone so far as to borrow a picture of someone who looks a bit like him at least in terms of having an elder statesman like appearance.)

All things told, my Dad was a quiet, soft-spoken man. He was a genuinely nice guy. King of the one-liners, he also knew how to deliver a joke. And (lucky for me) he also understood what being a good  father entailed.

The only child of German immigrants, he was born in western Pennsylvania in 1915. The small family moved to Clifton, New Jersey when his father got a job as a city accountant. His mother taught school. His no-nonsense upbringing reflected both the times ( the Depression and World War I) and his parents’ ambition: to give their son the best education possible and send their son to college. They succeeded in both. Dad went to Newark Academy and then Princeton University. A well-liked man, he served as the class secretary for many years.

During World War II, Dad served on a naval supply ship in the Pacific Ocean. A capable, efficient man, he earned two Bronze medals. From pictures and stories that he used to tell, some of his best friends were from those days. I remember pouring over a black and white picture of my Dad and some buddies smiling and smoking pipes.

When he returned from war, he dated and then married my mother. The couple was a good match: a tall, attractive pair, they both had exceedingly smart minds. Plus their  different personalities balanced out each other.

Like my Dad’s parents, both of my parents worked as well: he as a business executive for a chemical company; my mother as a lawyer with her own private practice. My Dad provided for his family well and my brother, Tom, and I had alot of material advantages. But most importantly, we grew up in a family that loved us. I especially valued the way my father and I would communicate. Alot of it was non-verbal.  For example, as children when Tom and I rode in the back seat of the car, Dad would give me quick look in the rear view mirror just to say “hello”. And we’d both chuckle over one of his one-liners for days, reliving the punch line as we passed each other around the house.

Perhaps the greatest gift my Dad gave me was his trust. He trusted my judgement. (That doesn’t mean, however, he applauded every decision I made!). But that basic faith in me eased over many of the growing pains that typically occur between parents and their children, especially those who grew up in the Age of Aquarius and all that this time period implied. Plus my father understood the importance of cheering from the sidelines. No matter what. He also understood the importance of community and served on the Library Board for many years.

Time went on. I got older, married, and had a family of my own. There are years (sad to admit it, even decades) when I grew apart from my Dad.  However, much to my infinite relief, my Dad and I got a few years at the end of his life to reconnect. I was able to say goodbye to him, telling him that his life had indeed been a blessing as I read and re-read a particular passage in our prayer book. Although it sometimes feels like a lifetime ago, he died at peace only eight years ago in June 2006.

Do I miss him? You betcha. I especially wish I could hear his voice. Nonetheless, I still feel his spirit and his smile. In meaningful ways, he still lives on. Today, in our own ways, my brother and I try to pass his many good lessons on to our respective families. I am always mindful and grateful for the grace and example of his life well lived.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

 

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