Today, our culture where I live celebrates fathers. Today, fathers will be treated a little bit better. They may allow themselves to sleep a bit later and may be absolved of chores for a day. Some may get a gift or two and may end up feeling a little bit special for the day. Others may not.
For me, I found myself this morning remembering the two father figures in my life. The first, my own father and the other, my grandfather who was my mom's father were the two male role models for me growing up.
My dad was very gregarious, at least as I remember him. He was friendly, quick to laugh and had many friends. My grandfather was quiet, stoic and kept to himself. While physically big and strong in a John Wayne sort of way, he could handle himself and generally did things for himself. My dad on the other hand relied on a group of associates and friends to get things done.
My dad grew up in a semi-wealthy family, went to school, was drafted and returned to work in a bank. There he made is way up and was eventually number two. He seemed to have done well for himself while at the time having a good time. People in the bank liked him. People in the community liked him. He ran the loan department and in a time that was more flexible was able to bend rules to give loans to people who returned the favor many times over as they became the members of a large group of people he helped who would gladly help him.
Being friendly and having a good time was to me my dad's model. He liked sports and played softball with a team at his work. He was the pitcher (of course), was well liked and hung out after games drinking with his work friends. My mom would bring us to games and we knew other families and were friends with the kids of the other families. Everyone had nicknames in my father's circle and when they came by our house for parties and cookouts they all seemed to laugh and have a good time.
My dad's bank was a small regional bank. The kind where they knew every customer and customer knew the people in the bank. The camaraderie at work mimicked the business model and the world around him. This worked until the world changed and banks consolidated. Like a massive wave, a bigger bank bought my dad's bank, the president was 'retired' and my dad was working for a lawyer assigned to merge the smaller bank into the bigger one. Since, my dad was well liked and was basically the operational manager of the bank he was kept for a while as the new president gutted the middle management of the bank. Each and everyone of his friends was let go to a world they were not ready for. Every single one of my dad's friends including himself had spent their entire career at the bank. This did not prepare them for moving on at all. Each had a hard time and most moved away as they gasped for breath to make it till they could retire. My dad hung on until there was nothing left and he found himself at home with nothing to do.
This point coincided with his kids moving on to college and my mom working more. Not the best time for him and I'll skip this part for another day. It doesn't need to be part of my father's day remembrance as I like it more to see the old him having fun with his friends.
My grandfather was very different. He raised his family in a small town that was somewhat rural. They had chickens and pigs and my grandfather worked for the phone company. At some point the family moved across town into a new house that my grandfather built. Not built in today's sense where you throw a pile of money at a contractor but built as in built himself. Yes, he built the entire house. It still stands and is fantastic house. I'm sure he need help framing the house and doing things that required more than one person but he did all the rest. It took a while but when done it was as nice as any other in the neighborhood.
I didn't get to see the inside of that house. By the time I was old enough to remember my grandfather he was living in a mobile home. A nasty divorce in a time where divorces were not fashionable had left him with a car and enough to own a house which had a hitch and wheels underneath. I remember visiting and having the sense he lived in a single room. I wasn't old enough to judge it so I just have a single snapshot in my mind from a visit a long time ago where he made dinner for us and his small house seemed cool to me.
Left with nothing my grandfather had lost at the family game. Of his three kids, my mom sided with him and took him in. My parents had just moved into a new house and soon after had it extended with room for an in-law apartment. A single room with kitchenette and bath in which my grandfather would live. Here is where I spent many afternoons hanging out with him. For me, I found my grandfather to be patient and vast store house of knowledge on how things worked. He helped me take apart and fix things. I helped as he maintained the house. When I got into fixing up cars he'd be hanging around helping and giving advice.
I gravitated towards my grandfather because he was interested in what I was interested in. My dad didn't have interest in cars, building things or how things worked. My grandfather did. My dad was good with people I thought of myself as shy. My dad like sports and I just didn't get it.
Looking back at them I can't help to feel how great an influence each was. My dad in his way taught me to be friendly and to work well with others but it wasn't until I was much older that I was able to grow into it. My grandfather on the other hand really fostered a do it yourself philosophy that has been a core of my life. His sense of self and power I've always strived to emulate.
On further reflection their lives also influenced me in a way which wasn't as positive. Both appear to have been broken by their situations at some point in their life. This wasn't good for setting up a sense of hope for the future. I've always wondered if the same or similar was going to happen to me and it put me on a middle road to avoid each of their destinations.
My dad's downfall at the hands of his work being destroyed put in me a distrust of large organizations and others. My grandfather's do it yourself mentality gave me permission to work independently for most of my live and further fostered a live of doing everything yourself.
This combination has worked to some extent but it is limited. You can only do so much yourself. I'm independent and very capable but I'm not a part of something larger. I've wondered this a lot as I've seen friend's go more my father's route and become wealthy at large corporations. But, the game isn't over. Some win at the corporate game and others do not. Some, I hear, win working independently though I don't think you hear much about it.
My dad, I hope at least remembered the good times before he passed and I hope the same for grandfather that he remembered his accomplishments. Today, I'll remember them both for what they taught me and hope that I've taken their lessons and done the best I can with them.