Father’s Day is one of those special days. I was fortunate to have a father growing up. Unfortunately, he passed away at 67 from an enlarged heart, a common diagnosis of professional football players from the 40s.
My father supported my athletics but never pushed it. Year round, he would cook breakfast after morning workouts. He was also supportive of my track coaches.
His advice was, “Listen, follow their advice, work hard and let them coach.” It paid off.
Being of Norwegian-German heritage, father was very reserved. Talk about his football career usually came only after a question from me and then it was a short answer.
In 1953, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader took a poll to determine the best athlete in South Dakota in the first half century. My dad won overwhelmingly. It was a nice recognition for him and a curse for his kids. My brother gave up sports. I left football and concentrated on track. More than once, a coach would ask me, “I bet your dad taught you a lot?” In fact, he did not. Track, not football, was fine for him.
As for myself, the best thing I have done was my special trips over a 10-plus year time span. We have three children. Catherine turned two when we brought twins home, Charles and Ellen. I took one child on a week’s vacation by myself. They planned them and still talk about them. As an example, Catherine walked across the Mississippi the summer before the eighth grade, just as I had. Charles, a UND aviation grad and now an air traffic controller, usually had an airport on the itinerary. Ellen still talks about being unable to see anything because of the tall corn during our August travels in Iowa.
The common theme over several generations – keep it personal, genuine and simple. It’s the connection that counts for a day and for a lifetime.