Appreciation seems to breed joy. This week, I almost lost my father to something that should have killed him. Fortunately, nay, miraculously, I have been given the gift of his presence for a while longer. I have always loved my father; but, this week has given me a chance to understand how much I appreciate him, as well. I am grateful for the many lessons he has taught me through his own life experiences and through his brave and wonderful example.
My father is the last of his kind. When he is gone, his brand of chivalry will go with him. Born at the end of 1928, he was a child of the Great Depression; a time in America that was dark and uncertain. It was a time when children learned early to contribute to the household. He lost his mother to double pneumonia when he was eight years old and watched his father mourn her for years. His father never remarried. He drove his first car at fourteen when his sister dropped him off with the model-T somewhere in Los Angeles and told him to drive home. In 1945, at seventeen, he lied about his age to join the Army Air Corps and was in basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, when the war ended.
Dad spent twenty years in the service. He has served in Vietnam, Korea, Japan and the Philippines, and doesn’t speak much about his tours of duty. There is a newspaper clipping in one of his photo albums that outlines an explosion at a propane station. Dad was blown clear from the building and ended up lodged underneath a chain link fence. Pulling himself from under the fence, he ran back into the burning building and retrieved his fellow serviceman; then drove to the hospital.
His recent malady is a hereditary one. It took his brother and one of his sisters. There seems to be a weakness in the tissues of the heart which caused his aorta to rupture. Rather than calling for an ambulance, he had assumed he’d had a minor heart attack, took an aspirin, did some exercises and finally, days later drove himself to the hospital. He is now 83 and has been an avid gym-goer. Every morning he did 200 sit-ups (a la the military) and rode his stationery bicycle for a half hour. I think his love of life and optimism has had a lot to do with his survival, as well.
Joy. This is the biggest lesson my father has passed on. The love of life; appreciating the simple things; watching the grass grow; loving my family; giving to those less fortunate; enjoying a good laugh; listening to music; these are all a part of Dad’s joy. These are all a part of me. I may not have my father forever, as I had hoped, for now, I know that he, too, like all mortals on this earth, will be taken from me one day; but, when that call comes, though my heart breaks, I will rejoice in having known him; and I will know that I was lucky to have been his daughter.