I don't talk much about my dad on the air. And when I do, I tend to mention what a short fuse he had. And believe you me, it was short. I also mention that Dad had a hard time coming to grips with the fact that I had become a conservative. He was a dyed in the wool FDR liberal. Late in life, he would proudly proclaim he was a socialist. And he was. Often times I fixate on the differences between Dad and me. On this Father's Day, I stopped to consider something I once believed Dad wouldn't want to hear; that he made me the conservative I am today.
1. Hard work. Something about Dad has come to amaze me. Anytime I met someone who knew Dad I would invariably hear the same thing: "Oh Clarence Bader, yeah, I know him. Boy is he a hard worker." It was lost on me at the time, but what an amazing thing for so many people to say. Can you imagine how hard a worker you have to be for that to be the most oft repeated impression people would have of you? And I saw this work ethic. He was amazing. And truthfully, I was a lazy slug as a kid and he pushed me all the time. In 2004, shortly before a stroke would rob him of most of his ability to speak, he told me what I hard worker I was on the farm. I was at a loss for words. I eventually told him I didn't remember it that way. He told me I was wrong. I don't consider what I do work. That said, I have made a vow that nobody will work at it any harder than I do. Others have more success, but it won't be for lack of effort on my part.
When I was a kid and got my first part-time job it paid about $2.60 an hour(I believe that was minimum wage then). My dad pointed out to me that I had to do $2.61 an hour worth of work just to be worth a penny an hour to my employer(he didn't bother explaining it was actually more than that, given the expenses my employer had employing me, but I got the point). Of all the lessons he shared with me, that one stuck perhaps more than any other.
2. Knowledge is power. Dad didn't go to college. But he felt strongly that his kids should, and six of eight of us did, two of us receiving master's degrees. Most members of The Greatest Generation hoped for a better life for their children than the one they had. Dad demanded it.
3. Learn from your mistakes and failings while you're still young enough to make it matter. As I mentioned above, Dad had a short fuse. As a kid I promised myself I wouldn't inherit that. It took me a long time, too long, to recognize I had, in my own way. Dad saw me get short with one of my daughters and used it as an opportunity to express regret for the way he so often blew his top and urged me not to travel down that road. Dad would be gone two years before I'd finally, truly, learn that lesson.
4. Skin color is irrelevant. Because this was so important to Dad is why I let it get to me when liberals try to paint me as racist. If they only knew what both my parents instilled in me when it comes to accepting people for who they are, especially in matters of race.
5. Be very suspicious of government power. It's fascinating that Dad never realized that this strong, wide libertarian streak ran counter to the otherwise liberal worldview he held. I had eye surgery as a teen; Dad refused to surrender his SS# or mine at the hospital. Talk about being ahead of your time. A DNR warden once parked in our driveway trying to catch a poacher. Dad chased him away.
6. This probably should have been first; family comes first. I remember when my wife and I announced we were engaged. In a moment alone Dad told me; you're used to only worrying about yourself(I was 29). When you get your ass through your own doorway at night, it's all you have to worry about.. That's about to change." Again, sage advice was somewhat lost on me. This was coming from a man who raised eight children. He knew of what he spoke. This didn't really hit me until I held my daughter in my arms for the first time.
7. When you screw up, admit it. I was rotten at this as a kid and Dad suspected it would cause me problems in life if I didn't fix it. Ultimately I did, but not before it caused me the problems Dad feared.
I could go on. But these are the things about Dad that occurred to me as I sat down to write this. For many years, I focused on his shortcomings, even, to some degree, blaming him for my failings. It's a practice I finally stopped. Dad lived long enough to see me become a conservative talk show host. When the end was near the hospice folks who were taking care of Dad told us to go and say our goodbyes while he could still understand and, to some degree respond. I told him I know we disagree on a lot of things, but I hope I make you proud. Even though stroke aphasia left him unable to say more than a few words at a time, he said "you do, never doubt that."
That was July 2007. It's what I think of most on this and every Father's Day. That, and how I owe Dad(and Mom) for everything I've achieved in life and that he'd be proud to know that. And with this June 19th marking what would would have been my parent's 65th wedding anniversary, I think about how one man shaped his corner of the world more than he could know by being a father who wanted the best for his children. Happy Father's Day, Dad.