The greatest man I ever knew

My father’s father
All the years my father’s father lived, I thought, correctly, that he was the best man I had ever known and would ever know. His whole bio would be very compelling, but I’ll just hit a couple of highlights. He was a humble, praying man, but he carried an air about him that was indomitable, unmovable, undefeatable. He was ox-strong, working as a roughneck his entire adult life. He was dedicated, above and beyond, to the care and good of his lifelong wife. I only knew the second-hand accounts of his younger adulthood; apparently he was a stern disciplinarian and brooked no foolishness. There were probably times when his boys didn’t see his heart in such matters until much later. I do know that it was always there, but Papa was cut from the mold of Texas men: stoic, strong, sober, courageous, honorable; not so terribly expressive.

I do know his 3 boys were a handful, spirited and strong-headed themselves. It took a strong dad to keep them heading the right direction, but Papa had it covered and then some. Two of the three sons went on to become great men. The third was unable to tame his own high spirits, but was still strong and good-hearted, and left his mark for good.

Papa met Christ relatively late in life, in his 40’s I believe. And I believe that happened due to the influence of his second son, my father, who grew up to be a preacher.

Passing the torch
Perhaps you think the title of this essay refers to my grandfather. It does not. Since Papa died in 1998, I have watched his son, my dad, who I always thought was the second best man I ever knew, finish becoming that man. He is the patriarch of a great clan of 4 generations, and he commands the roost with strength and gentleness.

My father raised 4 kids who were themselves spirited and strong (Mother Nature just loves karma, yes?), and before he became a minister, he was a roughneck, a truck driver, a warehouse dock hand, and pretty much whatever it took to feed the family. Like his father, he was resolute, unbeatable even by a life marked by hard knocks. Like his father, dad has been singularly devoted to my mom, who if I may say, was a great, great find and has been instrumental in making him the man he is.

He was an authoritarian father, and I more than my siblings grated against that, because of my own cat-like personality (I don’t take herding all that well). But like his father before him, the love was always there, even when I didn’t see it. His unbending standards for the kids were like the forge and hammer – there’s only one way to do that, and that’s the hard way. He was 4 for 4 on raising kids who grew up to make a difference and pass on the legacy.

Growing never stops
Looking back, there was another interesting thing I saw but did not recognize at the time. Papa never quit teaching my father, and my father never quit learning from Papa. That is a family trait, as my father has never quit teaching me.

The patriarch torch passed from a great man, my Papa to another great man, my dad, and in one generation this family is better than the one before it. That’s a tall order but I know it to be true. And it’s because my dad is the best man I have ever known and will ever know.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

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