“Fallin’ down isn’t hard, it’s the getting up we struggle with.”
Some of you observed that I spoke of my parents in my last article yet focused on my mother the most. So, now it is time to give my dad his due.
I have told you stories about my parents in the past, and some of you may have noticed that I talk about my parents during certain times. I have written articles during holidays, but you may have noticed that I talk about my parents during times of “crisis.” I do that for good reason. The collection of stories I tell you about my parents serves as lessons when I find myself in crisis.
My dad was the oldest son and was raised in West Virginia during the Depression. He was raised Catholic in the Bible Belt, which at times created its own problems. What my father learned, and shared with us, is that crisis shapes each of us. Some in good ways, others in bad ways. My father was taught at an early age that we were placed on this Earth to be of service to others. When I look at my father from my vantage point today, I am in awe.
My father’s dad came from a farming family, but my paternal grandfather found his way as a railroad man (that journey is a story for another time). My grandfather died in a train accident before any of my siblings or I were born. Losing your parent at a young age affects you. Losing your parent due to a tragedy bears heavy on you.
My father lived in the very small town of Rowlesberg W.VA. A town that was once wiped off the map in one of America’s worst flood disasters. But the town would rebuild. Rowlesberg also was the site of little known, but pivotal role during the Civil War. It is the character of Rowlesberg that created the character within my father. Service to others above yourself.
My father wanted something different in his life, something more than the mountains of West Virginia. Yet it would be later in his life that he came to realize that those mountains made him the man he became. So, he quit high school and joined the Air Force. He served in the Korean War and was eventually station at a little airfield in Portsmouth, NH. It was there where he met my mom.
My mother’s family underestimated my father, because he was just a “hillbilly.” Unaware of his upbringing, spending part of his education being tutored by nuns, they thought my father was lacking in certain social skills. He would prove them wrong many times over. Just because a person prefers the simplifier things life, it does not mean they are unrefined. A lesson my maternal grandfather learned at my parents wedding.
My parents didn’t dance that much when they were dating. However, my paternal grandfather was an incredible dancer. My grandfather was convinced that my parents first dance would be a disaster because in my grandfather’s word, “this wasn’t a square-dance.” My father said nothing.
My grandfather took it upon himself to give my father dance lessons. Throughout the lessons, my father had two left feet, missing the beat and rhythm, stepping on my grandfather’s feet. It was worse than my grandfather feared. My grandfather gave up, convinced of the pending embarrassment.
My parents had a fairly large wedding at one of Worcester’s largest churches. At the reception my grandfather prepared himself for the embarrassing spectacle that was about to take place. He in fact was proven wrong.
My father was taught to dance by “the nuns.” My father was in fact a very good dancer when he wanted to be. Why didn’t he tell my grandfather, or show him that he could dance? Because he was just a “hillbilly,” and no one bothered to ask him. My parents first dance was beautiful if for nothing more than the look on my grandfather’s face.
Where my mother often gifted me books, my father gave me one book in his life, a biography of General Patton. Where my mother provided a certain type of refinement, my father taught me about bravery, service, duty, and chivalry – traits my mother valued in my father.
My mom made my dad whole, and my dad respected and revered my mother. My parents were equals in everything they did. We as kids also realized that they were a team, that if we tried to pit them against each other, we kids would lose.
Two wars, losing a father at a young age, working three jobs at the same time (while serving in the military) to support his young family – while also financially helping his widowed mother. Just a hillbilly. Hardly.
I am my father’s son. I resisted the similarities when people would point them, because none of us want to turn into our parents. Boy were we wrong. Now, when people tell me I am like my father I am humbled. For as much as my father thought that he was a “simple hillbilly,” he was an incredible human being.
Today as a look around our world I see good, but I also see selfishness. What we do and how we act serve as an example. For, in our absence our children will bear witness to our actions, they will remember how we acted in crisis.
That is why I tell you about my parents, because “fallin’ down is easy, it’s the getting up we struggle with.” That struggle is made easier to handle when we have the hands of others helping us up.