I miss him. I miss my dad.
My grandparents had two children, a son, and a daughter. For most of my early life, we were a family of six, my parents and four girls until my brother came. There was something special being my Dad’s girl. I was the second eldest, and it didn’t matter that I wasn’t the oldest. We all mattered.
My Dad served almost 27 years with the United States Army.
For most of his career, he was a drill sergeant. There was a rhythm that he followed every morning and each evening. I the morning after shaving and dressing in his fatigues, he would come to the kitchen for a cup of black coffee. He’d proceed to the living room and call one of us kids to bring his boots. We each took turns. It was special to sit and help lace them up. The night before, we had spent time putting black shoe polish on them and using a shoe brush and cloth to get them inspection ready for the next day.
Sitting at dad’s feet was a time of encouragement and yes, a time of remembrance, to focus on making good choices if you had been on ‘assigned reflection time’ for some infraction of house rules. After he left for work, it was time to get ready to go to school.
While each military base was different, in many ways, it was the same. We lived in base housing where similarly ranked people lived. I loved watching my dad work. He wore one of those forest ranger hats.
I would watch my dad follow his routine. I remember watching him with a group marching up and down the parade field. They were being prepared to serve our nation.
I missed my Dad when he left to serve in Vietnam. He was gone for what seemed like a lifetime. Two tours of duty. There was no phone or skype calls, emails, or text messages. His letters didn’t come often. Each one had pages just for my mom, and there were pages addressed to each one of us. He always talked about his feet and the importance of keeping them dry and changing socks. Funny that that memory stands out in my mind.
His return home came in phases. He was physically home, yet part of him was still in Nam.
He didn’t talk about the enemy or the things he did there. Sometimes he spoke about the people in the villages, looking into people’s eyes and seeing their pain. If you sat down next to him when he was seemingly daydreaming, he’d paint a word picture of the countryside, and then he’d transition to the present as though leaving those thoughts behind him.
He Was A Reader
He was an avid reader. Books of all types, but especially about history. There was always a book, a Time magazine, or U.S World News & World Report Magazine next to the bible on the coffee table.
He often told us that you could travel the world, meet people from every walk of life by reading. Reading was a necessity, just like getting an education. We needed to strive to be the best version of ourselves that we could be.
Working with Youth
Retirement from the Army lead to working for the state. There was the Army’s way, and then there’s the government way. He likened working with troubled youth as another version of boot camp. He was back to training young men and women. Several children and teens in Colorado’s detention or youth services programs lives interfaced with the foster care system. When some youth fail to receive guidance, nurturing, and support in their homes they are more easily negatively impacted by others.
My dad would say, most of these are good kids, trying on bad behaviors. They needed parenting and training. He had lots of practice doing both.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
When he was at home, he talked about ‘his kids’ at the facility. He encouraged them to return to their foster homes and make better choices.
It’s been 28 years since my dad passed away from liver cancer. Several attendees at his funeral spoke about his investment in working with the youth.
I miss him. His guidance wasn’t always what I wanted to hear, but it was always what I needed to hear.
I miss his face. You know, that look that only someone loves you can give that makes you straighten up your act.
I miss that he’s not here today to continue his work with our youth.
Dad, thank you for being a teacher of men. Thank you for instilling in me that I am my brothers’ keeper and to love my neighbor as myself. You taught me to serve the hurting and not think of myself as too good to help someone else.
I’m reminded this Father’s Day that my work with families and children involved in the US foster care system is not yet done.