Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Old Man

It's all my father's fault! 
Well, no, not really. He is the guy on the left hand side of the picture, standing next to my mother. He's wearing a uniform, but I have it on good information that he was not a happy soldier. He had tried to enlist as a teenager, was turned down, then got drafted during the Korean War. He didn't go overseas, saw no combat, and just wanted to get out of the Army as soon as he could, and get back home. 

I don't blame him. I probably would have felt the same way. It isn't a lack of patriotism; the Williams clan is as patriotic as they come and more or less bred for service. My Uncle Howard was a decorated Marine, serving in the Pacific during WWII. My Dad and me, more a matter of temperament, I think.

Anyway, he and my Mom, the lady on the right hand side of the picture, were happy newlyweds. The Army experience was not going to last long, and Dad was going to return home, graduate from the Wharton School, become the youngest VP in the history of a major manufacturing company, father me, and sadly, die from a heart attack at age 29.

It is strange to refer to him as my old man--the truth is that in the hereafter, I would be introduced to someone nearly half my age as my father. Wait a minute! He has stopped aging. If I go on for another ten or twenty years, he would be like a grandson!

Too weird.

I was less than two years old when he died, so on a conscious level, I never knew him. He cast a long shadow over my childhood, but like all shadows it lacked specifics, was only an outline, filled in with darkness. There was a time when I would make up wild stories about my dad, so that he life and death seemed dramatic and somehow more important (or maybe just more interesting.) Of course, this was before I had any grasp of the heroism of an ordinary life. 

So here is my appreciation of a man who fathered me, but a man I never knew. I know how much my Mom loved him, and so, I love him, too. I am long over any of the adolescent resentments of abandonment or any of the other dramas engineered by early loss, and am free to love him paradoxically, without apology. He did not abandon me, he died.

From what my Mon told me, he was a straight shooter, a real square, who did not cheat, saved his money, believed in hard work and education. I am sure that had he lived, he would have done his best to foster those same qualities in his son.

So, here's to you, Dad! Happy Fathers Day, Ken Williams, Sr. I wish we could have had more time together, but we didn't. All things considered, I've turned out pretty good.

It's all your fault.

1 comment:

  1. A great tribute to your dad. I'm sorry that you lost him at such a young age. It is good that you remember him through the love and eyes of your mother.