Today is the 14th day of July. It’s Independence Day in France, it’s the day a peanut farmer from Georgia won the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, and it’s the day my father was born. Today is Dad’s birthday.
My Dad—or I should say our Dad, because he had five of us… three girls, two boys and a lot of responsibility. But when we were growing up in that big and busy household, we really weren’t aware of any of that. He was Dad. He went to work all week, came home every night, worked on the yard or worked overtime on the weekends, got up Monday morning and did it all again. As far as we knew, all the Dads did that. So—no big deal.
Dad wasn’t an astronaut, a movie star, a famous athlete or a steely-eyed mogul of a business empire. What identified Dad was a reasonably successful career, and head of a household of seven living in the suburbs. He took an annual family vacation, occasionally did the “guy” thing of wearing stripes and plaids together, and always thought he looked pretty good. Taken all together, he was probably pretty much an average kind of guy, and not the type you would generally think would be a standard bearer of some kind or a hero. At least, we didn’t when we were kids. Why would we? He was Dad to us, and all our friends had one.
But it’s funny how things change as you get older. Those flash-in-the-pan moments of stepping on the moon, catching the winning pass or winning that gold medal are certainly something to be admired, but we don’t generally sit around and contemplate all the work that went into it. It’s only that moment we all admire. As you climb up that ladder of years, you realize it isn’t the single moments of glory or brilliance that makes the world go round.
It’s that unrecognized, everyday hero who keeps us all going forward. It’s that guy—the one who gets up every day and goes to work, and then comes home and uses all his earnings to support a household full of people. It’s that guy—who takes his kid to baseball practice, shoots baskets in the backyard, shows up at the Father-Daughter Brownie dinner, and drives crappy old cars because he can only afford one nice one, and he thinks his wife and kids should be going around in that one, even though he probably spent more time in the car every day than we did.
He’s that guy. Maybe you don’t know that guy, but we all do. That was our Dad.
I know no one is perfect, and neither was our Dad. And we’re all certainly proof of that genetic link, because none of us are perfect either. But who needs perfect when you have “present and responsible”. Dad was there. He came home every night. He went to work every day. He didn’t spend his money on clothes, flashy cars and personal entertainment. He spent it on us—including college educations for five kids. He didn’t complain about it, he didn’t refuse to do it—he considered it all part of the deal of having a family.
That’s what our Dad was. An everyday hero. I hope he knows how hard we all try to live up to that. I hope he knows how proud we are he set that bar so high. I hope he knows we miss him.
Happy Birthday, Dad!
And PS: Also sending up a happy birthday wish to our Grandfather Leslie as well– Dad’s Father-in-Law.. who had 5 kids of his own that he raised during the Great Depression.. another everyday hero to our Mom, her brother and both her sisters.