The Greatest Man I Always Knew

There is this old Reba McEntire song that I love about a strained relationship between a father and a daughter.
“The greatest man I never knew
Came home late every night
He never had too much to say
Too much was on his mind
I never really knew him
And now it seems so sad
Everything he gave to us took all he had”

This doesn’t speak at all to the relationship I had growing up with my own Dad but I love the song all the same because it is touching and I really just love anything Reba sings about.
She could sing about hemorrhoid cream and I would be all OH SWEET LORD DID YOU HEAR THAT REBA SONG ABOUT THE BUTT ACNE??
But it gets to me every time I hear it because my Dad put so much of his life into providing for our lives and the last line that everything he gave to us, at times, took all he had.

I don’t talk about my Dad too much on the blog here, occasionally I mention him here and there.
Believe me, it’s not at all on purpose.
There is a friend of mine who I met through blogging, we broke through the blogging wall and are now personal friends even though we live all the way across the country from one another.
She posts pictures of her family all the time on Facebook but I never see pictures of her dad.
I see her husband, her two adorable children, her mom, sister, her brother in law.
Heck,  I see her horses and her dogs all the darn time but never her dad.
Then over Easter weekend, I saw a picture of him on Instagram.
Like a Bigfoot sighting, (sorry to compare him to Bigfoot, he doesn’t look like Bigfoot, he is quite handsome but you know what I mean), I was taken aback.
She….has ……a ……dad?
He is never in the picture.
It was so nice to see him.

Dad’s sometimes get kind of lost in the crowd and my Dad is one of those who takes a backseat, let’s others take the limelight, steps back and just enjoys the view from the back row.
Never one to toot his own horn, my Dad is a brilliant human being.
He is one of the smartest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
I know this because he taught me math.
I am one of the dumbest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, so if he can teach me math and I can later go on to get a B in a college statistics course?
Well, I think that pretty much explains itself.At the publishing of this post, my Dad is celebrating his last official day before retiring after working for most of his life.
He has been working for a company since 1989, the company that moved us from our little Ohio town to Chicago those many years ago that eventually took he and my mom on to Peoria, Illinois and later to Chattanooga, Tennessee, the United States headquarters, where he is saying good bye to that company for good today.
But my dad has worked many more years than that, since the day he walked out of his New Jersey high school not including the little jobs he undoubtedly held before leaving the little town he called home the first 17 years of his life as well.

My Dad was born a hard worker.
Born into a hard life, one of 12 children who lost his mother at age 14 and had his family divided up into foster families after that.
My Dad is a survivor, an inspiration and one amazing human being.
I am constantly aware of how lucky we are that we got him in the coin toss of life.So I am dedicating this blog post today to my Dad in honor of his retirement.
I still have no idea after all these years, exactly what it is he does.
He worked for a company called Komatsu which is the competitor of Caterpillar for those who aren’t familiar.
He worked in the Engineering Department.
He handled all the budgets.
He was a HUGE deal.
And everyone he worked with, came in contact with or dealt with him over his 34 year career at Komatsu absolutely loved my father.

And that there is all that matters to me.
Because to me, he is the man who taught me how to play basketball for HOURS in our driveway in the dark.
The peacemaker of the family, the person who did the aforementioned math wizardry at my desk all those many evenings.
The man who taught me to love music so deeply and connect on a level with Carole King and Elton John in a way that when their music comes on the radio, I am transported back to my childhood.
He was the soccer coach to my brother’s soccer team, the guy who patiently taught me how to drive a car, the person who taught me how to mow the lawn.
To me, he will always be, my Dad.

Dad and I Easter 1994

Not many people know this, but for a few years, my Dad worked part time, in addition to his full time job at Komatsu,  during the holiday season with me at Kohl’s.
For fun.
Yes, for fun.
It was so much fun having him come in and work those shifts in the Men’s Department, I loved having him a few departments away and my co-workers ADORED him.
I remember my friends at work counting down the days until my Dad’s shift.
Because when he was there, he got s@#$ done.
And I loved sharing those rides to work back and forth too.

 

Grampa and Anna sleeping

My Dad has thrown himself into being a “Grampy” then a “Papa” as soon as he found out the first stick showed two lines.
It has been so much fun to see him get so excited about enjoying the second round of children in his life.
I know for the first round, he was so busy with work and college that it was hard to enjoy it fully as a parent.
So this time around he is enjoying every moment of it and not letting go.

Dad, daughter and son at beach in Wisconsin

My Dad is a great dad and helped my Mom raise two great kids.
My brother and I have had moments in our lives that we both probably aren’t too proud of at one time or another but honestly, we are two pretty good human beings, all things considered.
We don’t have criminal records (as far as we know),  we go to the dentist every six months, we eat our veggies even if they are out of a can and we love the hell out of our family.
For the most part, we have our shit together and that is pretty rare nowadays if you see what is out there…..just watch MTV for two hours on a Saturday afternoon and get back to me.
My parents are a testament to that.

My dad and I at my wedding

My husband loves my Dad.
In fact, he calls him “Dad”.
” Can I call you DODD.”
Sorry, only hardcore Rodney Dangerfield fans will get that and my Dad will get that too.

Anyway, he loves him and not in a suck up way but in this natural way that has developed over years of getting to know him.
My Dad is one of those people who doesn’t know a stranger.
He will immediately draw you in with anecdotes, small talk of things that he knows might interest you.
He knows you like sports?
He will ask your favorite team.
He is a trivia champion and will know the capital of the state you live in, what they manufacture and what the hit song was in the year you were born.
He hangs the moon in my world.
He taught me all there is as it pertains to my musical knowledge and trivia nerd-ism so to love me is to love my Dad.
It is no wonder then that my husband has fallen in love with my father.
It is like looking in the proverbial mirror.
I am my father’s daughter from allergies, to migraines to musical wisdom to useless knowledge about the largest ball of twine.
And I am very proud of that.

 

Dad and Mom laughing

My childhood was amazing and full of laughter and music.
I mean it wasn’t always rainbows and lollipops because then I would sound like an annoying Tampax commercial.
But it was a lot of fun and those two adorable nut jobs up there are a huge part of that.
The laughter in our home is a huge part of why I am who I am today.
I don’t think my parents were laughing this much when they got my math grades but now they can sit back and laugh and laugh in hind sight.
Right?
Dad?
Mom?
Hello?

My dad and I in the Smoky Mountains

I know you are more than ready for retirement, retiring much later than most but I also know that for a lot of people, men especially, it can be hard, this retiring from the workplace.
One could say that your most important days are behind you and that is a hard pill to swallow.
I am here to argue that point, for I am here to say that your most important work wasn’t done within the walls of Komatsu but within the walls of your own home.
And that is just beginning now that you are retiring.
Being able to spend time with Mom, going on trips and not looking at your watch, hell you can even take your watch off now!
What a relief that will be!
You will be able to do woodworking again, something you have missed so much, be able to go golfing again,  go out to breakfast with your friends.
You will finally be able to see your grandchildren’s activities and be involved in their lives for the first time in years, which I know has been so hard for you to miss and they miss you so very much as well.
Yes, your best work is yet to come, Dad and I know all of us can’t wait to see it.

We are so very proud of you and all that you have done in your career.
You are such an inspiration to all of us.
Go home today, have a beer and a big dinner and take a nap.
Like Reba said, you gave us everything,  now it’s your turn.
I love you so much,  Dad.
Think I’ll go put some Carole King on and go shoot some hoops.
Wanna join me?
You’ve got the time now.

 

17 thoughts on “The Greatest Man I Always Knew

  1. Kari

    Awww, Happy Retirement to your Dad! I have a hoop shooting father of my own and can understand every word you say here. I think our dads would be great friends, just like us.

  2. Kari

    I've visited a few times but not commented yet, but I felt the need today to say this was the sweetest post ever. Having lost my own dad almost 8 years ago now this made me miss him but also think of him in a sweet way. Thanks for that and congratulations to your awesome dad!

  3. Kari

    This is all kinds of awesome. Makes me want to know your dad in person! He lives in my home state now–I was born and reared in Tennessee! Will he and your mom stay in the South now? Surely they will, since you need to go back and spend time down there. (So sorry that your spring break ended badly!)

    Many, many congratulations to your father. Wish the world had more men like him!

  4. Kari

    Oh Kari, this is priceless. I lost my Dad when I was 4 1/2 in a plane crash. My Mom never remarried, but she did a darn fine job of raising my brother and I! You are so very very blessed to have grown up in such a wonderful family with such a loving Dad. Congratulations to this sweet man on his retirement!! Time to kick back and do what he enjoys. He earned it!! (They are next to me…NC here) 🙂

  5. Kari

    What an absolutely beautiful testament to your dad, Kari. I teared up just reading about him and your relationship. Thanks for sharing him with us today.

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