(Originally posted September 8th, 2013.)
Today would be my father's 100th birthday.
He was a farmer, a soldier in World War II, a carpenter, and a roofer. He grew up in a German-speaking household in South Texas, was an interpreter during the war, and had a strong accent his whole life. While only finishing the 6th grade, he designed, built, and sold five houses himself. He was a gentle, kind, honest man, and taught me to value those traits in myself, as well. He never hit me or my mother, but if he got mad (or hit his thumb with a hammer), the string of German/English expletives could go from frightening to rolling on the floor hilarious.
He taught me to garden and to roof, and I wish I'd listened when he tried to teach me carpentry. Try as he might, though, he could never teach me to drive a standard. (See expletives, above.) Mom finally had to teach me to drive the '74 Ford pickup that would be mine through high school.
He worked hard his whole life for little money. But he gave us a home, food, clothes, and made sure I got an education. Because even though he taught me to roof so I could always find work, he wanted a better, easier life for me.
My dad never judged me for any of my choices and always said, "I don't care what you do, just have fun in life. Don't look back on mistakes that cannot be corrected. But do not let your mother know or I will catch hell!" My parents were together for more than thirty years, and when my mother died while I was in college, Dad told me he'd lost his best friend.
I moved Dad to Austin to be near me in his last years. In the very last years, when I would visit, I would be his son on some days, his father on others and, especially on bad days, "that boy who visits". While that time was hard, it meant so much to be there for him consistently at the end, the way he always was for me from the beginning.
Happy birthday, Dad!