With Father’s Day quickly approaching, I can’t help but think about my dad. Truth be told, I think about my dad every day. Often, it is the wish that he was here, that I could talk to him and hear him laugh. I lost my dad to soft tissue sarcoma in 2006. It was nine months from beginning to end from diagnosis to his passing. He was only 56 when he passed and that was far too young. My father was a force of nature. My own personal super hero. I have yet to meet anyone exactly like him, the mold was indeed broken upon his creation. I see elements of him in others but there is no one who will ever fill the void that was created when he left this world.
I find myself looking for elements of my dad in everyone and everything that was connected to him. I never noticed the resemblance between him and my uncles until he passed. Whether it is the lopsided grin of my Uncle Brian, the finger spin and proclamation of, “Let’s go!” by my Uncle Mark, the repeated story telling and chuckle of my Uncle Chuck, or the intent thought process and love of history of my Uncle Vince, there are whispers of my dad in all of them. I tell my bean all the time, “spend time with your uncles, it is as close to your Papa Ron as you will get.” It does my heart good when my uncles take the time and make the effort to hang out with and support my bean. Say what you will about the Tonkin boys, they are all good men with family being at the center of their heart.
My dad was a driven, hardworking self-made man. I believe part of his drive was the fact that he felt like he had something to prove to the world and himself. As an adult, reflecting on my dad as a human being, not just my dad, he had fears and insecurities that lurked in the shadows of his confidence. I know my dad was not perfect, however in my opinion, that was part of his charm. It was part of what made him so lovable and respectable. My dad struggled and even at the end of his days when he had created a life that was much easier, he never forgot where he came from. One would never see my dad living in a plush neighborhood, or driving designer trucks. He was a man’s man, who loved the farm he grew up on, drove, an albeit, high end Ford truck, stopped at his favorite local watering hole on an almost daily basis, and always, always gave a second chance to the underdog.
It is said that women marry their father. In some regards, this is accurate for me. I see the very best qualities in my husband and they are qualities he shares with my dad. My husband is hard working, driven, self-motivated, and a workaholic. My husband respects hard work, the man with ambition, and the guy who keeps trying despite the obstacles placed before him. The Bibbed Wonder, has a kind heart, fights for the underdog, and if he loves you, he will move mountains for you. He is patient with a slow burning fuse and like my dad, when angered, he is a force to contend with. My dad used to get a look in his eye when he had had enough and was ready to explode…as a teenager, I called it his murdery eyes…I was on the receiving end of that look more than once. My husband has the same look when he is angry. Eric, like my dad, will put up with a lot of nonsense but once he has reached his limit, look out. Also, like my dad, Eric is a wonderful dad. He goes out of his way to ensure our daughter feels loved, capable, and valued as a person. I see the same look in Eric’s eye when looks at Jordan that my dad often had when he looked at me. There is nothing better than that look that speaks volumes of love, pride, and unconditional acceptance. Just like my dad could do for me, Eric makes everything right in the world for the bean. It matters not how much I support, discuss, and listen it is never quite as calming as a few words spoken by daddy. That is a daddy’s super power.
I feel at times there are forces at work to eradicate everything in this world that was related to my dad. He doesn’t have a grave or a tombstone, there is no memorial. His remains are selfishly kept where no one can go to morn him. His company, his life work, his pride and joy, was used, abused, taken for granted and unceremoniously put on the auction block to the highest bidder. My dad would have done everything in his power to repay all debts, to help those who helped him, and to try to maintain his good name. My dad often said the only thing a man truly possesses is his name and his word. He worked hard to make good on both. There are those who ride on the coattails of his good name and think that is enough.
I am not one of those and I say this with pride. I try to honor my dad the best way I know how, to live the lessons he tried to teach me and to hand those lessons over to my child. I think, I would like to believe, my dad would be pleased as punch that I am trying to make a life on the farm he loved and grew up on with his beloved brothers. My child, who never had the honor and gift of meeting him, intends to carry on the tradition of living on this farm and continuing to honor her Papa Ron.
He would have adored my daughter. He would have nurtured that small spark of mischief and probably created a little monster, but he would have adored every lovely hair on her head. I am thoroughly convinced he had a hand in sending her to me. Although she has never met him, she still loves, respects, and honors him. I suppose in the grand scheme of things, there is no better monument than that.
As Father’s Day approaches, remember dear reader to stay safe, stay smart, honor those who came before you, and wash your hands.