Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Old Man

When I was young, I feared my father. The reasons are obvious as anybody who's ever met him can tell you he's a very large man. At six and a half feet, imagine growing up in a household where this gigantic creature wandered about, striking fear into the hearts of me and my brothers. To this very day, I still draw him as if you were looking up toward him and the sun was behind him. You have to squint and look directly into his eyes to see him, but his towering stature makes the sun appear as if it were coming up over a mountain. His eyes you could see, but a large shadow cast over his face. His hairy thumbs were as large as my head.

But, no, anybody who knows my father can attest at his gentleness and warmth. Growing up in the eighties, beating your child with a wooden hanger was still the thing to do to keep him on "the right track" into adulthood. I can remember hearing stories from my fellow classmates in regard to being beaten within an inch of their life by their father. Hearing these tales always made me nervous at the possibilities of what the Old Man was capable of doing. It's not that he would have done anything like that, but the fear was still there. In spite of this fear, I still got into my fair share of trouble as a lad. And, in spite of my behavior, my father never hit me.

The Old Man--or The Eliminator as we have always referred to him--was a ghost when we were growing up. As a teenager, he took up employment at Santa Fe Railroad, where he ended up working for thirty years. It was because of this job that he would be subject to long hours consisting of days, evenings, nights, weekends and holidays. Often times, the Old Man would work his shift and then be scheduled for the shift immediately following it. This led to long hours at work and often times having to sleep during the day when he WAS home.

Finally, about ten years ago, the Old Man took an early retirement from Santa Fe when they merged with Burlington-Northern. I wasn't living at home anymore, but I remember my mom calling me up and being excited that he was going to be around from now on. It appeared that his "golden years" were upon him, and at a young age. He's since then gotten into the car business, which is what we all believe he was destined to do. My brothers and I take pride in telling people that he's "the only honest used car dealer you'll ever meet." It was with this honesty and integrity that all of our friends, and anybody who knows him, can attest at how great a human being he is.

I'm glad to say that we've all made up for lost time over the past decade. As an adult with a family of my own, I have a better idea of what he went through all those years. I realize how hard it is to have to drag yourself away from Christmas get-togethers and birthdays because duty called. Not a day goes by where I don't think about all the long hours he spent away from us and realize that he was exhausting himself for our benefit. He's the greatest man I know and I can only hope to be just like him.

And, Dad, I just want to let you know that I would never throw you under the wheels. Happy birthday.


Anonymous 'blade said...

You use to draw another picture that made him look more like a shadow. You ought to post that one too.

And right on, dad - Happy birthday!

27 December, 2006  
Anonymous Mom said...

Happy birthday, Baby! Mark,you're right, he is the sweetest, most gentle man I know, & all three of you "boys" take after him. Keep up the good work!

Love, Mom

28 December, 2006  
Anonymous David Mercer Teel said...

Mark, Thank you for your kind words. I learned from my father how to treat people, including your family, the way you would like to be treated yourself. Matt is the one that needs to be thanked for you not being "beaten". He told me when he was about 5 years old that little kids had rights too. I guess I had never thought about it that way.
No one you love should ever be thrown under the bus.

I love you.


28 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm about parents' rights now: the right to sleep in a bed for six hours straight without having someone get you up to tell you that they need to go potty when they can go perfectly fine without you there, thank you very much.

Happy birthday, Pop.


29 December, 2006  

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