Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dad’s Day

Every year near Father’s Day I write something here about my Dad. As I sat down to write something for this year I opened my post from last year to see what I said then. I really don’t have anything to add; this says how I feel this year as well as last year. My Dad died ten years ago but in many ways I see him every day – in the mirror, for example – or I hear his voice in mine at those times when I say something he might have said. So the rest of this post contains my random thoughts from last year, but they still ring true.

My Dad had a very successful career as an engineer, first with structural design, later electrical and for the last 25 years of his work life he did plumbing design. He was a very behind-the-scenes guy but his plumbing design work can be found everywhere in New Orleans, from the fountain next to Riverwalk to the drainage ditches on the Claiborne Avenue exit off I-10 to the restrooms, loading dock drains and fire sprinklers at Oakwood Shopping Center. Not bad for a guy who didn’t finish high school; he got his GED a few years after I was born.

I am convinced he could fix anything made before the computer age. His hobbies included television and auto repair and his skill levels were on par with professionals. He taught himself how to repair watches and even made some money helping his mentor part time. Did I mention he built the house we grew up in? Literally every nail, screw, pipe joint and electrical connection. That house suffered some damage in the Hurricane Katrina floods and had to be rehabbed but the basic structure exists to this day and the contractors were amazed at how strong the house was.

Dad was stubborn and judgmental. He and I didn’t get along very well from my senior year in high school till I bought my first house in my early 30s. His tour of that house changed our relationship for the better. He finally accepted that my media career wasn’t a fluke and that I was more mature and sensible than he gave me credit for.

Benny led a very healthy lifestyle, always did the right thing, went to church every Sunday till he just couldn’t any more, then endured Parkinson’s Disease for the last fifteen years of his life. That might explain my cynical view toward religion. If you tell me the Parkinson’s was God’s will, I’ll probably smack you, verbally if not physically.

Dad and I were about as far apart as two people can be regarding beliefs on many things but we had similar approaches to problem solving… the same steps with different results. I didn’t realize the positive impact his sense of logic would have on me till after he died.

Even though he seemed like a conformist and a by-the-book man, he really did chart his own path in life. Hmm, I wonder where I learned that.

No matter how much you might try to distance yourself from your parents, you are always in some way a product of their parenting. Celebrate the parts you like. Time will erase the parts you dislike.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. It’s hard for me to admit this out loud, but I miss you.

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