For My Father

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

I have a hard time writing about my dad. For one thing, I love and respect him more than anyone else I’ve ever met. For another, I know that he really loved his daughters more than anything else in this whole world. I’m not very good with organizing my thoughts and putting them down on paper when it comes to things I’m so passionate and biased about.

My dad is a great man though, so I’m going to try my best to honor him as well as I can here.

As a youth, he worked on my grandparent’s ranch. They raised horses, Arabians. Their horses were some of the best in California. William Randolph Hearst, who was extremely particular about any animal he added to his collection, bought many from them. As a youth, my dad worked hard at the ranch. He developed a strong sense of responsibility and compassion through working with animals so long.

My grandfather was also a great man. He lived through the depression and believed in hard work, but was also very loving.

My dad got caught the first time he ever smoked a cigarette. My grandfather made him smoke a whole pack, which made my father sick enough that he never touched a cigarette again. Nor did he ever mess with booze or drugs.

That’s not to say my dad didn’t have fun as a kid. He often hiked to the nearby waterfalls and spent the afternoon splashing about. He went to Hearst Castle, ate dinner in the great halls and swam in the Olympic pool outside. He also developed a love for speed and cars, drag racing to be exact.

He had many a lady friend in high school and was a very attractive young man. On top of that, he had some very cool cars although his license was often suspended.

Right around the end of high school, he started dating my mom. A little while later, LBJ declared that we were going to war in Vietnam, all young men over 18 and unmarried as of midnight that night were going to be eligible for the draft.

My grandmother wouldn’t have her youngest boy going off and fighting in the war. So my mom and dad were scooted away to Las Vegas where they were married that night. But it didn’t matter, LBJ broke that promise and my dad still got drafted.

He believed in being responsible, no matter how much you desired to not do something. So he went.

He went to Vietnam where he saw one of his best friends get shot right in front of him. They were trained to jump out of helicopters to go on assignment, but one of the helicopters hadn’t guessed the length of the grass bellow properly. So my dad fell and broke his ankle upon landing.

He went to the army hospital, where he saw more pain and suffering than most of us could even imagine. When the government offered him a purple heart, he turned it down. He did not believe a broken ankle put him in league with these other men who were truly suffering for a war we should never have been in.

Finally he was released. Only to be spit on by hippy protesters who called him a baby killer. My mom wasn’t very understanding of all of this she got in fights with my dad because she couldn’t figure out why he would never put on his uniform, even for pictures. They probably shouldn’t have gotten married to start with, now they were developing a rift.

To this day, my father still hates hippies, draft dodgers, LBJ. He also still has night terrors and flash backs to the horrors he saw in Vietnam.

With his VA grants, my dad went to college and got a degree in industrial engineering. He got a job teaching math and shop at his old high school. He was a fantastic teacher and mentor.

Not only did my dad do a great job teaching me math as a kid, but I know he was an amazing teacher back then too. I have been with my dad before when people approached him to tell him that they never got it, they were about to drop out and then they took his class. He turned their life around, taught them things that no one else could get through to them and because of him, they made it through school. That’s powerful stuff, few teachers are reminded of their great works 20 years down the line. But my dad had too strong of principles to last long at a high school.

Being raised the way he was and having such a distrust of hippies, my dad always believed that pot was a horrible drug that made people do horrible things. It is a generational thing.

He caught two boys with marijuana on them at school and brought them to the principal’s office. The principal didn’t care, and let them go consequence free. My dad believed this was a horrible decision on the administrator’s part. He decided that if the schools didn’t care about the students enough to try to keep them away from dangerous substances than he didn’t want to be part of the school system. He quit completely on moral principles.

While I don’t agree about the dangers of marijuana use, I completely admire anyone that can take such a firm stand in what they believe in.

Around this time, my sister was born. My dad took up some odd jobs and some hobbies. He fixed cars from out of the house, he became a pilot, and a few other things too.

My sister pretty much grew up a daddy’s girl. She played in the garage while he worked on cars, she sat on his lap when he flew and pretty soon, he let her start being the pilot with his hands always posed and ready in case she steered the plane the wrong way.

Eventually, he started working for a high school friend’s company doing construction. It didn’t take him long to rise to foreman and he was treated well by the boss. My parents kept having marital problems and then I was born.

They thought divorce was bad for the children, but they always argued. My dad started spending more and more time out of the house to avoid my mother, so I pretty much grew up a momma’s girl. But I still loved my daddy.

At work one day, my dad turned on a gas valve and a spark came out and he was covered in flames. He suffered 3rd degree burns on his arms and had to go to the hospital. His arms are now covered in skin grafts. Ever since I can remember, my dad has always worn blue jeans and blue long sleeved western shirts. Part of this was for comfort, but mostly it has been because he didn’t want his skin to show.

After healing, my dad decided to start his own construction company. Things started out very slow. My sister, around 16 at this point, helped him around the office and my uncle worked as the accountant. Now, even more than before, my dad was pretty much never home.

Things continued to get worse between my parents and they finally got a divorce. Though the court awarded my mother custody, my sister ran away to live with her best friend until my parents agreed she could live with my dad.

Most people claim divorce is terrible and splits up families, etc., but in my case, the opposite was true. My dad missed me and I missed him. Whereas before he’d almost never be home so he could avoid my mother, now he was spending every other weekend with me and I got to see him all that weekend. This was much more than before.

I had fun with my father, he’d take me to watch horse competitions, let me play on construction equipment and much more than he could afford, he’d take me to theme parks. At the time, I thought my daddy was the best because he took me to Disneyland all the time. Now I know my father’s the best because he saved up for weeks to take me somewhere he couldn’t really afford, just to make his little girl happy. This was at a time where his company was hardly bringing in money and my sister and him were pretty much living off macaroni and cheese and hamburger meat.

Time passed, my father met an amazing woman named Carolyn that would later become my step-mother. She and my dad found out my uncle was embezzling money from the company and that’s why they weren’t taking any money in. As low down as it is to steal from your brother to the point that he can hardly eat and you practically have a museum inside your house, my father couldn’t find it within himself to press charges and let him leave the company without any trouble.

Finally, the construction company started making some money. Then something really unexpected happened.

While in high school, my dad liked to fool around with a lot of girls. Only a few people knew because he never talked about it, but one of those girls had a baby with him and they put it up for adoption. My dad never knew what happened to the little girl until one day, she called him, almost 30 years later. He cried and they made plans to meet up.

There was a little animosity between my sister, who had always believed she was the oldest one and my half sister, but my dad and I automatically accepted her into our hearts. Shortly after, she became pregnant and my dad became a grandfather.

Around this time, he married my step-mother. His company became fairly profitable. I eventually moved in with him and after that, he paid for me to move to San Francisco and go to college. He helped pay for my sister to finally get her degree. Even when he did finally start making money, he stayed an excellent father and spent his money on the most important thing to him, his family.

I often say that my dad is the best in the world and that I love him. I really mean that.

With money or without, his main priority in life has been to take care of his daughters and he has done that better than anyone else I’ve ever met. Not only that, but he instilled some great values and work ethics that are rare among others of our respective generations. I can’t begin to thank my dad for all he’s done for me, but I can begin to tell others about my dad and why he is the most amazing father alive.

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