I must have been seven or eight years old at the time.
I joined my mom on her weekly Saturday morning trip to the neighboring town’s grocery store. It was just down the street from Dad’s mechanic garage, so I walked down the long sidewalk to visit him.
Bounding through the door, I made my normal stop to pet and shake the paw of Dad’s white German Shepherd guard dog, King.
I watched from a distance as Dad worked underneath the hood of a car. One thing I learned early was to stand out of his way while he worked. The next thing I knew, flames were crawling up the sleeve of his coveralls! Yes, you read that right. Flames!
I did what any normal child would do. I panicked. I darted out the door and sprinted all the way down the sidewalk to the grocery store to tell Mom.
I can’t remember a more traumatizing experience in my childhood, than seeing the arm of the one who was invincible in my mind on fire. As always though, Dad had everything under control. He put the fire out while I was running, and thankfully, he had no injuries.
I remember it as if it was yesterday.
I learned many life lessons from Dad:
- He taught me to work hard. He was the hardest working man I knew.
- He taught me to be independent and self-sufficient.
- He taught me how to pump my own gas so I would never have to rely on someone else to do that for me.
- He taught me to fight for something I believed in.
- He taught me it’s ok to quit work early to make sure you get to your children’s afternoon sporting events and activities.
- He taught me to take my family on vacations each summer.
- He taught me how to swim.
- He taught me NOT to smoke cigarettes… he smoked them most of his life, which eventually took his life.
- He taught me that it’s good to have a daily routine. His was like clockwork.
- He taught me “you gotta be tough.”
- He taught me not to take myself too seriously, to laugh and have fun. (He sometimes would make this funny face to someone taking his picture!)
- He taught me it’s good to nickname your grandchildren. Lissy and Jasper are what he called Alissa and Zach.
- He taught me to make family a priority.
- He taught me hugs can heal the deepest hurt, and it’s important to say “I love you” to each other EVERY day.
- He taught me to be myself.
Dad was an incredible father. Raising a family of four children, three of them being boys, it must have been hard to make ends meet. But we four kids never knew it. There were many things we did without, but we never felt neglected.
No matter how tight money was, we always took some sort of vacation each summer. We camped often together. Those are some of my most priceless family memories.
Dad was my hero. He could fix ANYTHING, do EVERYTHING, and in my mind, NOTHING was too difficult for him. I was proud to be his daughter!
Dad went to his eternal home in August 1999. I celebrate him on this Father’s Day. I thank for him, and for all he taught me.
He truly was, and still is, my hero.