Reflections on Father’s Day

My dad had to overcome a lot. He worked a small quarter section farm in North Dakota with some dairy cows. He lived year to year squeezing out a living in times that were not friendly to small farmers.

Then in his 40’s he had a stroke which paralyzed the entire side of his body. As a family, we had to go on government assistance. Neighbors helped out with the farm for which we were very grateful. But my Dad had a long road of recovery ahead of him. He worked extra hard, determined to get back to meaningful work. And he did. With physical therapy he recovered remarkably – even walking again without a limp.

But his farming days were gone. He rented the land and found a job as a night watchman at a plant 25 miles away.  The hours were tough and his physical abilities were limited but he did the job well and he managed to get his family off welfare, although just barely.

His physical ailments continued. He had high blood pressure that was difficult to control. He fell one time and ended up with a blood clot on his brain but survived a difficult surgery. Later in life, he developed Myasthenia Gravis – a disease that made it difficult to swallow. He had to endure a special diet that would thicken his food so that it had more surface area to swallow, but remarkably he kept at it and his condition improved to the point that the special diet was minimized.

Through it all he endured without complaint. He accepted everything that life tossed at him, pushed through it and overcame it.  As I reflect back, I didn’t realize how courageous my Dad was. How much strength he showed us. The resilience and the determination.

There were three of us kids. And because of our family struggles, which allowed for government assistance, all of us managed to graduate from higher ed schools and get good jobs making a good living. My Dad supported us in every way that he could, knowing his limitations and his financial difficulties. But all three of us, a nurse, an electrician, and a pharmacist, have had a better life than he had – because he persevered and never gave up.

He lived on that farm all his life and died in his early 70’s many years ago. As I reflect back, I never realized the remarkable nature of his determination. What we went through as a family was made easier for the rest of us because he accepted the obstacles and simply refused to succumb to them. We accepted it because he accepted it. I wish I had realized all this when he was alive and could have told him how proud I came to be regarding how he lived.

He wasn’t a famous person. He didn’t have circles of famous friends. But he had many true friends that understood his determination. They helped him just as he was always there for them.

He wasn’t active in politics and seldom delved into the issue of the day. Making his life work was hard enough – he navigated the system the way it was set up at the time. Each day was another challenge and opportunity in his small part of the world and that was enough for him.

There are a lot of fathers like that out there. They are not looking to change the world; they are just content to navigate the day to day in the best way they can.

Thank those Dads today. Even if you don’t fully realize it, they are trying hard to help you. To make your life easier than their own. And always putting family first in ways you may never fully understand.

Happy Father’s Day to all.

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