Sunday, June 17, 2018

To Dad With Love

It's Father's Day. Having given you glimpses of my only hero throughout this blog and the book, I have stubbornly protected family details to continue the Deke Mystique. Today, I'll step out on that ever-weakening limb to pay homage to my nonagenarian father, as well as my beloved, departed  mother. It's impossible to separate the two, because they were undeniably one.

I was extremely privileged to have parents who refused to give up on me. I've written about it under my given name, and it deals with a serious prenatal injury that prompted doctors to encourage my parents to place me in an institution and "forget" about me. They refused, and here I am... writing to you rather than suffering the lonesome fate those doomsayers predicted for me. In fact, my parents worked diligently to ensure that I not only succeed, but excel. They didn't push, just simply encouraged. Some might liken my feeble literary efforts to that of an idiot savant. Still, these words have resonated across the globe. If not for that loving belief in me from both parents, I would be lucky to write my name.

Of my siblings, I wasn't the only one who benefited from Ma & Pa's dogged devotion. It's a story worth pursuing, even astonishing, what these lovebirds accomplished for their children.

My brother Willy would surely have died had we remained in the Midwest the remainder of that icy winter five decades ago. Dad and Mom decided he should live, and moved us to the Southwest within a few weeks.

Dad carried Willy to the car. They had little money, knew little to nothing about the Phoenix area, but they had only one goal: Save Willy. (Sorry about the play on words, but it works!) Six weeks later, the former invalid broke his wrist. Running in a race. "But I was winning!" the excited 10-year-old shouted as exultation overcame the asthma which had nearly killed him.

Finding no acceptable education in Arizona for their toddler with Down Syndrome, Dad and Mom decided Monroe should have the same advantages as "normal" kids, and co-founded a school for children with disabilities. That school remains, and I wish they'd rename it in honor of my tirelessly-devoted parents.

Dad believed dreams were simply future accomplishments. Ever since he was treated to a ride in a barnstormer's plane in the 1930s, he wanted to learn how to fly. In Arizona, he earned his pilot's license. He bought a 1947 Aeronca Champ, and restored its fabric outer skin. For my eighth birthday, he flew me to a remote lake. After a day of fishing (perhaps the last time I caught more than one tiny fish), we slept out under the wing of the 'Champ. Just me and Dad... yeah.

When my father's employer transferred him 150 miles away from our newly-established home, our folks decided he would live there during the week and return on weekends rather than once again uproot my high-school aged brothers. As a result, Ma was the sole parent ruling four unruly boys. I was third, four years junior to my next-oldest brother, and life was rough for me. In their wisdom, another life-altering decision resulted in two wonderful years as Dad's only child during the week, back to an entire family for the weekend. He even flew me to school on Mondays! We spent our time in a cabin nestled up against a beautiful wilderness area. It was the best time of my childhood, and I cherish the memories we made together.

Giving in to my incessant begging, Dad taught me to drive on those remote dirt roads. Knowing a youngster given the chance to drive would listen more readily than a teenager, Dad relented. His driving lessons remained with me in high school as I tore up Main Street and many a desert trail. They echoed within me whether I drove a big rig or the family car. They were also repeated by my bus driving trainers.

Each step of my adulthood, I've learned how valuable my parents' lessons were. I didn't know it then, but today and forevermore, yes. It was likely solidified on one of our countless wilderness walks. Dad put his hand on my shoulder in a tender moment as we kneeled at a wild stream than runs no longer. I was 12, happy and truly loved. Girls had not yet become my main focus... Dad still reined supreme.

"Drinking from this creek is a privilege you might not enjoy later in life," he told me. "Drink now, and remember it later."

I always will. Not only did I savor that sweet drink, I've never forgotten its taste. Thanks for truly being the best father anyone could have ever hoped for. If I work even harder, perhaps someday I'll become at least half the man you are.

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