Monday, November 11, 2013

Love and loss and a Sherman tank

Today's guest post comes from longtime reader and frequent commenter Joe.

This post started out as a tribute to my wife. We were married seven years ago today and I can honestly say she is my best friend, my rock and my reason for getting out of bed each day (along with the two kiddos we were blessed with).

But being Veterans Day, it also makes me think of my Dad, who served 23 years with the National Guard’s 169th Infantry in Connecticut. He was a master sergeant, my Dad, and I’m sure he managed his troops in the same way that he kept our household in line for all those years. His penchant for order and discipline is one of the things that I occasionally despised as a kid. But he was also even-keeled, fair and compassionate, and I like to think that I have inherited some, if not all, of those qualities.

And if I have, it explains why I was lucky enough to land my beautiful wife. Dad died eight months ago, so I need to give thanks to the man who made this all possible for me. So here’s an open letter to my father:

Dad, I hope I can be half as good a father to my children, and husband to my wife as you were to me and Anne, and Mom. I have not forgotten any of your life’s lessons. To always look somebody in the eyes when you are talking with them. To be honest at all times. To treat everyone equally and with respect, no matter how they look or what background they come from. And to do a job properly, or to not do it at all.

Remember the summer of 1988, Dad? I was 16 years old and, like most kids that age, my top priorities were my own free time and hanging out with friends. And you gave me those opportunities. But not until we put in a few hours each night – after you already worked a full day – building the new deck in our backyard. It’s still there today, Dad, and yes, you could probably still park a Sherman tank on it and it wouldn’t budge (loved it when you said that). I only wish I picked up more of your carpentry skills.

Remember when you lost your job as I was getting ready to start my senior year in high school? You reminded me that I was part of the Coombs family, and that we “never give up.” I wondered at that time how the family would manage or if I would be still able to go to college, but somehow you made it all work out. You showed me that nothing worthwhile comes easy, and man, I think of that every day.

Most importantly, you taught me to always be true to my family, my friends and to God. They are all that matters in this life, you said. “You can make a ton of money (still haven’t quite nailed that one down, Dad), you may be famous and you may have all the possessions in the world, but that does not make you a real man,” you told me. And you were right.

I kept to myself for quite a while after you died, Dad. I have not really told too many people what a great man you were. Everyone grieves in their own way, I suppose. I think I have spent most of my time staying strong for everyone else in your absence. There are many hard days, especially when Matthew tells me, “I sure do miss Papa.” Because I do, too.

I also have reminded myself that many people are not this lucky, to have spent 40 years with a parent who has taught them so much, and made them the person that they are today.

I sure am lucky, Dad. And I am thankful for you, today and always.


Mandy said...

Joe, your Dad would be so damn proud. What a lucky kid you are to have him as a dad -- almost as lucky as your kiddos.

Joe said...

Thank you Mandy, I really appreciate that.

nyczoo said...

Beautifully, beautifully said. And just so you know, all those qualities you mention? You got'em. As Mandy said, your dad would be proud.