He’s a man of few words.
My father, Joe, is a farmer and a cowboy. He can be a very intimidating man. And that came in handy when I was a young teenage girl. He said very little to my friends, and even less to any boy who came to take me on a date. He had a way of putting a bit of fear into all the teenagers in my world.I didn’t understand it at the time.
Now, looking back, my father knew exactly what he was doing. I am raising two children, 6-year old Joey, named after my father and my 2-year old daughter Josie.
When you have children, you begin to look a lot closer at how you were raised. And my father got it right. When I was a little girl, I lied about something small; to this day I do not recall what it was. But I do recall my father making it very clear that you must never lie. That day, I learned the value of keeping your word and telling the truth.
As a young girl, my father had me work hard on our family farm — milking cows, picking rocks and making hay. That is when I learned the value of a strong work ethic. And one time, a young man arrived to pick me up for a date, he honked the horn for me to come out to his car. But my dad told me to stay in the house, and that I would not be going anywhere that night, since the boy did not come to the door.
That night, I learned about respect.
And when my brother Jeff was a teenager and he had to undergo heart surgery, my father, in the hospital waiting room, prayed so hard he broke his rosary.
That day I learned about the importance of a strong faith.
And when Jeff married Sarah, on their wedding day my father quit smoking, cold turkey, so he would live to see his grandchildren. That day, I learned about strength of character and willpower.
And when my mother had cancer, my father stayed by her bedside and would not leave. That is when I learned about dedication.
And one Christmas, my father drove my mother to tears with simple gift: A cassette tape. And when she played it, it was my father singing all of their favorite love songs. He had never sang to her before.
That’s when I learned about true love.
And once a year, on Easter, my father quietly pulls out his accordion, sets up in the corner of the living room and plays music, starting with “Little Peter Cottontail” followed by a few polkas, and my entire family joins in singing and dancing. Then, his grandchildren line up and play along with him, completely out of tune. The entire time, he plays and looks at his grandchildren with complete pride and love.
What no one knows is he practices all year, just to perform for us on Easter Day. And that’s when I learned the importance of tradition and how much my father loves his entire family.
And on my wedding day, before my father walked me down the aisle, he showed me what he was wearing under his tuxedo shirt. A T-shirt with a photo of me as a little girl. And as the tears welled in my eyes, I knew. That day, I learned how much a father loves his daughter.
And years later, when the marriage ended and my heart was broken, we didn’t talk about it at all. He simply knew his daughter, knew I never wanted a divorce and knew there must be a good reason.
That day, and every day, the man of few words said it all.