Sunday, June 15, 2003

About my Dad

Now, I've perhaps given a warped picture of my dad in past postings. Yes, he's an alcoholic from a long line of alcoholics. His dad was a old drunk who had suffered enough heartattacks and strokes to render him a confused and cranky old man by the time my dad was a young teenager. My grandfather was about fifty (we're not sure exactly what year he was born) when my dad was born in 1937 and from all accounts, looked more like 80. He died before I was born. Both my dad's parents were first generation Americans - I believe his father came over from Germany as a small boy - and neither had much in the way of education. So, in light of that, here are some things I find really impressive or humorous about my dad.

My dad pays the electric bill four months ahead because when he was a boy their bill was usually late and the electricity was often shut off before it was resolved.

There's a street corner in Pittsburgh with a heating grate. Everytime we pass it, my dad says "There's the grate that saved my life... or at least my toes... when I was a boy." He used to sell newspapers on the corner in the mornings before school.

In 1955, My dad was the first member of his family to finish high school. He joined the Coast Guard and then started working in 1958 for the same company he works for today. He started as a lab technician and the scientists he worked with encouraged him to go to college. Newly married (to his first wife) with a new baby, my dad worked full time and went to night school and got his bachelor's degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Later (after the divorce) he did his doctoral work at Princeton.

He met my mom when she was eighteen and he was 33. They married two years later -- he asked her seven times before she said yes. He used to sign his gifts to her "PB" for "persistent bastard". When I was little they told me it was for "persistent botherer".

My dad cries when he talks about sick children and people who have made sacrifices for the benefit of others. He got so choked up while visiting the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach with me, telling me about the movements of the troops to take the strategic points, that I started to cry.

My dad will always offer dessert when we eat out. He will never complain about how much we spend or what we order.

He will offer to loan us - his children - money for continuing our education. Then he will tell us not to pay it back.

Granted, we've had some ugly times in the past. But looking at the whole picture, I have to say I'm pretty darn impressed with what he's managed to accomplish - both for himself and for his children. He's been a good dad. I'm glad to have him.

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