I have very few memories of my father, but they are all good. Born in September 1930, he’s pictured here in his ’48 senior year football jersey. He played tailback for St. Ambrose Academy – at the time both a Catholic high school and college but now a liberal arts university in Davenport, Iowa.
I remember him assuring me Santa Clause was real and driving in the back seat of the station wagon when my mom would pick him up from work. He’d hand us kids chewing gum after sitting in the front passenger seat. I didn’t know then that he didn’t drive because of the risk of epileptic seizures from his brain tumor.
I remember him cooking stove-top popcorn and watching television with us seven kids when Mom had her bowling night. I remember him not spanking me for wandering out in front of cars in our residential street. I can see him wearing a white t-shirt and at one point using a cane even though he was only in his 30s. And I remember him being nice to me. Dad passed away in September of 1967 after suffering with his cancer for ten years. I was five. This picture is of him in the Army stationed in Germany during the Korean War. The Veterans checks I received related to his service helped put me through college.
So most of what I know about being a Dad came to me from father figures. I had a step father from the time I was 10 or 11 years old. We weren’t close but Hal taught me about responsibility. How to maintain my car. We even fished, but we didn’t share many common interests. He was an electrical engineer and I have him to thank for being raised in the relative comfort of middle class America.
My first father figure from outside my family was my high school sweetheart’s dad, Miguel Lopez. Miguel also had an engineering background. He moved his family from Mexico City to the U.S., first to Wisconsin and later to Austin, Texas where I met them. Miguel has three daughters and treated them with tremendous understanding. Having five sisters, I could relate to that. Once, after being caught in compromising circumstances with his daughter, he cleaned his gun collection in front of me. Miguel was very much like a teacher, constantly coaching. He’s still healthy living near Houston.
My final father figure is my father-in-law. Dr. Collier is about as ideal a father and human as is possible in a man. And he likes college football which is about all I really look for in any guy. The example he sets helps guide me to be both a good husband as well as father. At least I try. Dr. Collier turns 80 this year. We intend to celebrate with a family trip to the Lost Pines Hyatt along the Colorado River near Austin this July. Having lost my father way too young, I very much appreciate having a father’s life to celebrate.