My old man was hard but fair


Bartrand Hubbard once said – “I’ve had a hard life, but my hardships are nothing against the hardships that my father went through in order to get me to where I started.”

My dad is in his mid 80’s now.  His body is telling him it’s nearly time, but his mind remains as sharp as the day. He grew up in a small rural community, riding a horse 10 miles to school every day.

A couple of years ago, I took my youngest son on a journey, to visit and spend time with his granddad. I wanted him to know about those early days. He remarked that my son was a walking magnet, with all the steel in his body, and that he had more ink on him than in the classroom he learned in. (He has a couple of tattoo’s and at the time, two or three piercings).

So … I wanted him to open up to my son. I asked him about those informative years. “Hard years” he said and started to open up. I learned as much as my son that day.  You see, I thought I knew my ‘old man’. Turns out I only knew what he decided I should know.

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My son and my Father, a mismatched pair

I never knew about the beatings he regularly got from his ‘old man,’ my grandfather. I did know about his brother chopping off his toe, but not about being chained to the chopping block because of it.  I had always wondered about the truth of this, but when he started reminiscing with my son, I began to believe in the reality of life during the depression and those years that shaped my dad into the man he became.

He would over the years say to me on more than one occasion. “Your grandfather was a hard bastard…but a fair one!”

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Somehow, that cliché ‘Like father. Like son’ rings in my mind. My old man was hard. But fair! I never really saw him show true affection to me or my five brothers all that often, but then, I was not really around most of their growing years.

He did love us… unconditionally, protected us and kept us safe. Many times he covered my arse. I just did not know it! Not then at least.

I do now, but it was to be many years later that I learned the truth. We never came to blows, but there were many harsh words. He was, after all just trying to instill the values he had been taught by his father, into me. I really didn’t want to listen.. At 16 I knew it all and it was the dawning of ‘The Age of Aquarius’ and I had an adventure to begin.

Some years later, when he got the call that no father wants to hear, “Your son has had a very serious accident and may not make it through the night…you best get here quick.”

He just downed tools and come hell or high water was going to be at my bedside. No questions asked.

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He was there and remained until I was out of immediate danger. He cared not for his business or any other matter, apart from getting to the hospital to be at the side of his eldest son.

As we drove that August morning some 2 years ago, my own son began to learn more and more about this kind, loving and compassionate man…My father, his Granddad.

We stopped at a little country café for lunch and all my old man wanted was a cold beer and a plate of seafood chowder.

I have never seen that smile since.. He was in old man’s heaven.

We got back into the car and he proceeded to ramble on about his lunch for what seemed hours, issuing directions with military precision on how to get to the family homestead. After an hour, my son and I looked at each other bewildered, as we were so certain we were just plain lost!!

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Next thing, we are right outside the gate to the family farm. He had let us to this gate with pin point accuracy.

It was about this time that he demanded we stop for lunch because he had not eaten since breakfast and he was hungry.

My son told him he had lunch an hour ago and couldn’t understand why he was getting so agitated.

Sadly my dad passed a matter of months after I wrote this. I did get to visit him one final time.

The seasons come and go, but the memories never will.  I for one, would love to be calling my old man this Fathers Day, to tell him how much I love him.

Yes … he did teach me well. I hope through him, I have taught my boys well.