Sunday, June 18, 2017

traveling man

Some fathers are men of place. My father was a man of the road.

He was the guy Willie Nelson sang about in "On the Road Again." He had no greater desire in life than to be behind the wheel of a truck driving somewhere.

Most of my earliest memories of him involve trucks. Logging trucks. Pickups. Semis. That was what he knew how to do. What he liked doing. And it was a quintessential American dream. To be free from the humdrum life of daily drudgery.

I suspect part of that came from growing up essentially as an orphan. His mother was institutionalized for what was described as "health reasons." And his father could not raise him. So, he ended up in the care of his mother's sister -- my great aunt Madge -- and my great uncle Noble. I always saw Noble and Madge as my grandparents on his side of the family. And I guess that is what they were.

But it left Dad with a sense of rootlessness that he worked out in a driving life. Constantly tracking down the better life as if it an elk running down the middle of a never-ending highway.

And it made him happy. He did not really care whether or not his businesses made money. Just that they provided him with a truck. He worked to enjoy life, not to be rich. And he faced life with a laugh -- leaving my mother to deal with the results of that carefree life.

His humor led to one of his greatest attributes -- his charity. My mother never knew how many people would show up for holiday dinners -- or just family meals. Dad would meet someone on the road who had no family or place to go, and he would invite them to our house for a meal and the friendly banter of our family dining table.

He died almost 21 years ago. In his eulogy, I called him a common man. A friend of his took umbrage at the characterization. She said he was a great man, not a common man.

Great he was. But he was, at heart, a common man. He found pleasure in the simple things of life. Freedom. Humor. Charity.

We could all use a larger dose of that in our own lives.

Happy Father's Day, Dad. Keep on truckin'.

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