A swell Father’s Day

Larry Hayes pictured with Mom and Dad
Larry Hayes, age 9, pictured with Mom and Dad

So there were no presents for me under the tree. Of course, there was no tree shedding needles. In mid-June, it wasn’t the season for Christmas.

Sunday was merely Father’s Day, a time that only a fraction of Americans get any special attention. Yet it really was a special day for me.

For starters, I received two greeting cards, one from my 20s-something granddaughters, the other from my daughter. Both cards expressed such
nice sentiments.

It’s nice to be reminded that at least a few people in the world truly care about you.

Oh yes. In the evening, my son John called to wish me a happy day. My wife Toni and I were getting ready to eat supper on the back porch so John and I didn’t take much time to chat.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed being remembered. But I have another reason to
like this day: remembering my own father, Ray Hayes.

Dad faced some tough challenges. His younger brother Lawrence died of a burst appendix when the brothers were just a couple of years out of high school.

He and Mom divorced in the early 1950s, then remarried a few years later. Smartest kid in his Paulding, Ohio, high school class, Dad never quite found his career niche. Finally, he settled on tool-and-die maker.

As an only child, I can testify that there was no greater dad in the world than Ray. From my earliest days, he was always teaching me some sport. He taught me to pitch and even throw a curveball. He taught me to throw and catch a football.

He taught me how to defend myself with boxing lessons. Even after I bloodied his nose during one round, he still insisted that we spar. Dad, a trophy-winning amateur golfer, taught me how to drive a straight shot off the T. (I always thought he should have been a golf pro.)

He dreamed that I’d play professional baseball. But he bragged about me when I first studied for the ministry. Then, when I switched to teaching,
he bragged about that decision, among several in my own checkered career.

The summer before I headed for college, Dad got me a job at Detroit Wire Die where he served as the machinist. That was in 1956. My $1.25 an hour rate was pretty good wages for a kid during that time.

Dad’s politics were pretty conservative. He really liked Barry Goldwater.
But he was an avid reader of The Journal Gazette’s editorial page. He loved to argue politics with anybody. When I came home summers from college, he would engage me in debate well into the night.

I always thought that it was Dad who taught me to think for myself and, even, to someday be an editorialist. (I’m sure, if he’d lived to see that incarnation of his son, he would have found a way to rationalize my liberal views.) He really was an independent thinker.

He stuck up for me when I was in the right. He would chastise me when I was wrong. He could be strict. At heart, though, he was an old softy, tearing up during a sad scene in a TV show.

Dad died after a long battle with cancer at age 60. But I owe him a lot. As I do every year at this time, I remember that curly-headed guy who got being a dad as well as anybody. So during every Father’s Day, I’m reminded how lucky I was. So lucky.

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