My father is a curmudgeon. I know what you are thinking, that’s not a nice thing to say so close to Fathers Day, but it’s the truth. He can’t help himself.
My father joined the Marines straight out of high school in 1957 and to this day, it is his crowning achievement. Much to his dismay, he never saw active duty hence the curmudgeoness, yet every moment of the four years of boot camp, Combat and Specialized Training were his glory days. His pristine Honda Accord is decorated proudly: Once a Marine, Always a Marine license plate, Semper Fi decals and bumper stickers and a seventy-five year old in the driver’s seat wearing a USMC (United States Marine Corps) baseball hat obeying every law of the road to the letter. Get some discipline son, no jay-walking on my watch.
Growing up, my memories of my father are not warm and fuzzy. The other kids on our cul-de-sac wouldn’t think of cutting through our perfectly manicured back hedges even though my father carved out a gap to appease my mother; they had a healthy fear of the former Marine. My father’s property was his second crowning achievement. After working twelve hour days in New York City (a picnic after surviving Boot Camp), he spent his suburban New Jersey weekends toiling over his lawn. Dressed in a straw panama hat, an always unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt (picked up when stationed there) and too short khaki shorts, he looked like a landscaping Magnum PI. He mowed, weeded and edged way beyond the time he should have hired someone to do it for him.
He started jogging before it became a trend; I was probably around ten at the time. He laced up some sneakers, put on his yellow I’m proud to be a Pollock sweatshirt and took off around the block with my friends trailing a safe distance behind him. Boot camp all over again. He is most likely in need of both a hip and knee replacement today and won’t admit to either. Marines never complain.
My mother is the ideal grandparent – generous with her time, lovingly searching for special gifts for each grandkids’ hobby, showing up at every major and not so major event, loved by everyone even my friends’ children. My father finds fault with my son wearing a baseball cap in the house, lectures my sister and I about our overscheduled lives and calls it like he sees it at my son’s soccer game (not complimentary). His idea of spending time with the grandkids is sitting on the couch reading a Marine memoir while they ignore him.
Semper Fidelis distinguishes the Marine Corps bond from any other. It goes beyond teamwork – it is a brotherhood that can always be counted on. Latin for “always faithful”, Semper Fidelis became the Marine Corps motto in 1883. It guides Marines to remain faithful to the mission at hand, to each other, to the Corps and to country, no matter what.
Whether we are out to eat, at a ballgame or shopping, my father runs into a “brother” and they communicate silently like a secret handshake only they are privy too. My father recently emailed me and signed the email Love, Dad. One of my friends commented on how sweet he is. I laughed, knowing his Love Dad read flatly as if he said, pick up milk. Although I know honor, commitment and courage are his all-consuming passions, I feel loved by him every day of my life; he just shows it like a Marine.
Despite his curmudgeoness, if you need a shoulder to cry on, advice, a ride, a pick-up of Starbucks K-Cups on the last day of a sale, a stick of gum, rubberbands, a safe haven, kick-ass pancakes, an oil change, support, a deck of cards, money, a garden, tools, a dissertation about why Humphrey Bogart is the greatest actor of all time or a homemade frog catcher constructed out of a colander and broom handle, he is your man.
Once a Marine, Always a Marine. Happy Father’s Day Dad.
If you’d like to read an equally complimentary post on my mom, see Crimes of My Mother below.