Blog 1733 – 06.21.2020
Happy Father’s Day
Forty years ago I celebrated my first Father Day as the father of two fine step-sons, David and Ben, as we and their mom Sandra were anxiously awaiting the arrival of their little sister Emily who would arrive a few weeks later. Emily for thirty-two years always made Father’s Day especially wonderful for me.
Thirty years ago my wife Linda and I and our new son Jonathan celebrated our first Father’s Day together. I hope to get to have the for some years now rare privilege, due to my traveling work, of getting to spend a part of Father’s Day with my son, Jay. The Jay is short for Jonathan David James Wallace White.
Emily Elaine has been gone almost eight years and David Jerome her older brother four years. I still hear from Ben occasionally, but it has been sometime.
I am grateful for the children that I have gotten to love in this life. I am glad I got to be a dad and that I had a wonderful if flawed dad that taught me we all are wonderfully flawed. Children especially young ones often see there Moms and Dads through such adoring eyes that it comes as quite a shock when usually as teenagers they start to realize that their parents are far from perfect. Well, and we knew that about you, the saner of us, early on but loved you all the same. It never ceases to amaze me how teens still continue to scream at their parents “You don’t know me” when we knew them several years before their first conscious memories. No real mystery there, most of us are well into our twenties and some far passed that before we begin to know even what we want, let alone who we are.
I was almost thirty before I became a dad for the first time and almost forty the last time, but I remember wanting desperately to be a dad at nineteen. If my first little bride and I had stayed married and she not died almost twenty-one years ago we would have celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary this past January. I remember thinking ahead to that in early January of 1970 just days before I left for eleven months in South Vietnam. My dad’s war was seventy-five years ago. He came home whole and fathered me and my brother a few years later.
It is hard to believe my war was fifty years ago and sometimes even hard to believe that I have a thirty year old son. My life has not been as neat as I planned nor as flawless as I thought it might be and by others it might seem far from ideal and quite messy. But then I have learned that just as moms, dads, and children can be quite wonderful without being flawless so can life. I have had and am continuing to have quite a wonderful life.
Some years after he passed, I put together some stories that my dad had typed in all caps on an old Underwood typewriter before he died in 1997. For a cover page I blew up an old picture of him that he had had taken in Honolulu in his sailor suit with a beautiful Hawaiian girl in a grass skirt. He was about nineteen in the picture, the same age as I was in my war. I chose a line that he had written in one of his stories as the title for his book, “More Than My Share.” Unlike others who lived through The Great Depression, World War Two, and the not so nifty nineteen fifties for poor people of color and even poor white folk, my dad seldom complained and was generally content with his lot in life even often glad and grateful.
When I think of our poor Dad’s Day gift choices, usually an on-sale bottle of Old Spice aftershave, (Of that my Dad did indeed get more than his share) dad’s Father’s Day smile was for some other reason. I think I know what that was, he was glad and grateful that he got to be a dad. A couple of years before he passed, we were home visiting and had damaged a couple of tires in route there. Dad suggested I take the tires to Bob’s Gulf Station nearby and tell Bob that I was James White’s boy and that he would take care of me. I proudly repeated those words to Bob and he did take care of me and the tires.
In a couple of month’s my wife Linda and I will celebrate our thirty-first wedding anniversary. That has been quite a remarkable feat considering that we both are often so very certain of our different opinions on so many subjects. The greatest gifts we have ever given to one another are a stubborn never say die love and a wonderful son. Linda more than anyone, even my beloved children has made so many of my Father’s Days wonderful, with thankfully few if any bottles of Old Spice, more of Boss Hugo Boss.
Happy Father’s Day to all the flawed smelly dads out there today who have probably said “Do as I say not as I do” more than once or at least hoped that their children will do even better than they have. What we do speaks so loudly it is often hard for our children to hear what we say. But, as the song says, “Children will listen if not always obey.”
Happy Father’s Day, to all the wonderfully flawed.
Your friend and fellow traveler,