Art Callaham: Fathers truly are a 'different breed of cat'

June 17, 2012|By ART CALLAHAM

We celebrate Father’s Day on a Sunday in June each year and I’d like to share a few memories and impressions of my father that have stayed with me for many years. Fathers are a “different breed of cat,” or so Byron Nelson the great golfer might have said. Nelson actually referred to winners as the ultimate different breed of cat and that comparison, between winners and fathers, might well reflect how special fathers can be. 

Or is that should be? We hold up winners, in all aspects of life, to be special and obviously some fathers should also be held up. Some fathers stick around, through thick and thin and help raise their children; however, some don’t. Some fathers create an atmosphere of love and caring around their child or children; some don’t. To me, my father was somewhere in between; yes, he stuck around, but an atmosphere of love and caring, at least in the years when I grew up, was not exactly apparent to me.

Now don’t take any of this the wrong way, I loved my father, cried when he passed away nine days before my mother; however, I’m not sure that I always liked him. Dad was strict, profane and very direct. To a 13-year-old (and that was the year when I was sure my dad lost his mind — not to get his mind back until I was 30 years old) strict, profane and direct didn’t set well.

Needless to say, for almost 20 years my dad and I didn’t get along. For those 20 years I missed many of the things in life that young people, like me, should have learned from their dads. The following few paragraphs are from my brother and illustrate an example of what a rebellious young kid missed when that kid — me — didn’t think his dad was a winner. 

From my brother Bert: “Some events are very clear in my mind, and defined me when I became a dad. It was my father who showed me what it meant to be of service to others and what it meant to be a dad.”

“Our high school played sports in West Virginia’s Coalfield Conference; in those days Hinton High School was a double A school in size. We played against several of the larger triple A schools each year in football, basketball and track.”

“My senior year we played Oak Hill, triple A, as an away game in late October. That year a very unusual arctic cold front descended on southern West Virginia during the week of our game. When we arrived in Oak Hill, the temperature was in the low 20s and falling. After our warm-up exercises, we returned to the field house for a brief period of time prior to the start of the game, basically to just get warm.”

“Dad worked on Fridays until 3 p.m. and generally would not make it to all of my away games. I had not seen dad while we were doing our warm-ups and I suspected he would not make it to the game. As our team went back onto the field, one of my buddies punched me on the arm and said, ‘Look at your dad on the sidelines.’ Sure enough, he was there and he had somehow found and brought with him, two 25-gallon oil drums. He had a fire going in both; keep in mind that this happened ‘back in the day’ when no such thing as heated benches existed.”

“I don’t know where he found the wood to burn, but he kept those fires going for the entire game. This is just one example of my dad giving back and not asking anything in return. I gained a new respect for him that cold winter night and learned that helping others when they don’t expect it makes you a better person.”

I miss my dad today and wish I had respected him more than I did “back in the day” when I was growing up. My brother figured it out and I didn’t. It took me until my dad was gravely ill to recognize what my brother figured out years earlier.

So, for all the dads who read this column, some advice: stick around, raise your kids; that is your responsibility. Show concern for others, it might just rub off. And kids (from 6 to 60), respect your dad, get to know him, he’s probably a winner in spite of what you think.

Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.

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