When it comes to Father’s Day, my thoughts extend beyond my dad to a lot of other men who were influential in my life – for good or bad.
My dad, or Pops as we called him, had some interesting and occasionally horrifying views on the world. He always provided for our family and was generally supportive of my sister, my brother and me, aside from my brother’s involvement with various bands; Pops thought any music other than Conway Twitty and John Denver was garbage, and since one of Bill’s ventures was called “Pinko Punko,” you can imagine what Pops thought of their set list.
Pops had a short fuse, and unfortunately that was one of his traits that I inherited. It took far too long for me to address my temper, but part of my personal therapy was recalling how ridiculous he acted when he was angry. I’ll admit I still struggle with it from time to time, but awareness is the first step toward fixing any flaw.
My maternal grandfather, The Captain, provided his grandchildren with this nugget of sage advice as each of us landed our first jobs: “On your first day at work, you only need to ask two questions, ‘Where is the bathroom?’ and ‘When do we get paid?’ Everything else will work itself out.” The Captain had a rough exterior, always pretending to be stern and serious, but inside he was pure marshmallow and never let anything come before his family. Any positive qualities I might possess come directly from him and his daughter, my mother.
My Uncle Joe has an incredible sense of humor and has been the family pot-stirrer for decades. Back when my cousins and I were elementary and middle school-age, our families frequently would spend weekends at our grandparents’ large country home. After dinner, Pops, The Captain and Uncle Joe would remain at the dining room table to discuss workplace issues, the news of the day and, always, politics. These were the days of the Watergate scandal, and Republican Pops and Democrat Captain always would get into it. Uncle Joe would start out arguing on one side, then suddenly switch sides for a couple of minutes before walking away from the table, laughing as the other two sat there riled up and confused.
In college, my editing professor, Rich, doggedly pursued me for a couple of days trying to get me to apply for an editing internship. The work would take place over the summer, and I wasn’t sold on giving up my time away from class. Truth be told, I also had fear of rejection working against me, because Rich saw more potential in me than I saw in myself. He caught me on campus and made me follow him to his office to complete the application. A couple of months later, I landed a slot in the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund Internship Program, just as Rich said I would. The experience was a life-changer, as that line on my resume opened a lot of doors as I pursued journalism jobs.
There have been plenty of other men who have provided inspiration in my life, from my brother-in-law Jeff to former boss Wally to state Rep. Brad Pollitt, who set a great example for me and others during his time leading Sedalia School District 200. As we take time this weekend to celebrate fathers, don’t hesitate to acknowledge other men in your life who have provided fatherly examples of dedication, humor and belief. I’ll celebrate Pops, too, because despite his flaws, he provided our family with a comfortable upbringing and opportunities to pursue our passions.