Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

An article on Woodlands Online presents a brief history of Father's Day, and reminds us "to spend time with dad and show your appreciation for all that he does for your family." It may also be a good time to record your own personal memories of a father or an important father-figure in your life. This Father's Day, I would like to pay tribute to my brother Mike, who was my surrogate father when I was growing up. Mike recently survived a serious heart attack, which makes this Father's Day a little more special.

I was only four when my parents divorced and my mother had to work to care for her five children, of whom I was the youngest and only girl. While the eldest brother went off to join the Navy at age 17, it was my mother's second son who stepped up to help with the kids. On a typical day, after putting in a full day at his own job, Mike would come home and take care of the kids, getting dinner and putting us to bed; then at 10 p.m. he would head for the bus stop to meet my mother, arriving home from work. On payday, both of my teenage brothers, Mike and Jim, handed their paychecks over to Mother, and she, in turn, gave them each an allowance for their own use during the week. Mike taught me to write my name and he taught me the "correct way" to wash dishes, lining up three chairs at the sink. I would walk from one chair to the next, washing, rinsing, and drying the dishes -- and if they weren't clean, I walked back and did it over. Mike has a very strong work ethic that he passed along to his younger siblings and to his own children -- they are some of the hardest working people I know. Mike also taught me how to behave and to respect others . . . and sometimes those lessons were hard.

Mike suffered a severe heat attack just three weeks ago, and we almost lost him. Gratefully, he survived, and owing to his strong determination and to his general good health and fitness, he recovered beyond what the doctors might have guessed. Mike is now home and "looking forward to a great summer." Truly, you cannot keep a good man down. Happy Father's Day to Mike and all those sons, brothers, grandfathers, uncles, and friends who step in and lend support when and where it is needed, and to all those dad's who have gone up against some pretty incredible odds to "be there" for their kids.

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