I popped over to Jennifer’s site today and saw her post on Real Men and since it is also Father’s day it got me thinking of my dad.
My dad is a cowboy, plain and simple. Every image I have of him is in Cowboy boot, jeans and his hat. He’s done just about any job you can think of from truck driver, freight loader, security consultant, police officer, Naval Investigative service, private security, US Navy Underwater Demolitions, and a bunch of jobs scattered throughout. I remember when I was a kid, he was always kind of restless, he would get bored at a job or his boss would be an ass and he would start looking for something new to do. It drove mom crazy but he always brought home a paycheck.
There were plenty of times that dads job took him away. As a trucker he would be gone for 3 or 4 days a week on the road and I know he hated it because he wasn’t around for us kids and mom, but it paid the bills so he did what had to be done. When he was a cop he worked the night shift a lot to – nature of what he did. So, while we were up he was sleeping and the only time he saw us was as we were going to bed and he was getting ready for work. I remember watching him put on his uniform and being so proud of him, my dad was a policeman, just like a sheriff in the old west. He’d put on his black shirt and pants, then the black gun belt and boots and he looked ten feet tall to me. I remember he would spend part of his day off sitting in his chair watching the game and he would polish up all his leather and then clean and oil his service revolver and I always would run and get him whatever he needed so I could be a part of that.
Dad wasn’t perfect back then, not by a long shot. He had a temper and didn’t handle it well when things went wrong. He would yell a lot and slam things around and I was more than a little bit scared of him, but when push finally came to shove when I was around 8 and he and my mom had a blowout fight where she finally told him to straighten up or get out I saw my dad’s true character. It wasn’t an immediate transformation, but the next day I could see that things were different. By force of will my dad changed, the outbursts were gone, the throwing stuff was over with, done. It was like a switch had turned on in his head and he decided that moment to be a better person that he ever was before. It proved to me that you can do whatever you set your mind to, because he set his mind to changing who he was and he did it.
When Star Wars came out my dad braved the lines around the movie theatre with me and we saw it together. My parents were not the kind to just drop the kids off at the movies and then pick us up later; they actually wanted to KNOW what we were watching so that they could be involved with our lives. After waiting in line for a half an hour we finally got in to see it and dad made sure that I was sitting in a spot where I could see the screen – no six foot monster right in front of me blocking the view. After the Death Star was destroyed and Luke, Han and Chewie got their medals, dad and I were walking out and I asked him what he thought of the movie.
“Pretty good.” He said.” But I was rooting for Vader the whole time. I liked him.”
Then came Raiders of the Lost Ark. This time dad went with me because he wanted to see it too. I was 15 and as we were walking out dad asked me what I thought of it and I told him how amazed I was with the whip work that Harrison Ford did. I had never seen a whip used before and it was awe inspiring to me.
“You want to learn to use a whip like that?”
“Yea, dad, that would be so cool. You know someone who can do that?”
He just smiled at me “Yea, I can do that.”
And he could too. Over the next month dad taught me how to use a bullwhip. We would go outside and he taught me how to do a four point’s whip crack, a coachman’s crack, and how to target so you could take the leaves off a branch. It was at that moment I knew that I had the absolute coolest dad in the country. Dad taught me to shoot, use a whip, throw a knife, box, fight and wrestle. To top it off, he was the one who always took me to my martial arts classes.
When I was 17 I tested for my brown belt from purple belt. Now, let me explain how that works. When you are going for brown belt in my style you are not judged by one person, you are instead judged by a panel of black belts who all decide together if they think you are ready to be promoted. It is usually a year between getting purple belt and then brown and I was testing at six months. I was thrilled to be allowed to test and also scared out of my mind over it – what if I screw up? What if I get stomped in sparring? What if I’m just not that good?!
Mom and Dad were both at the testing and everything was going great until we got to sparring. I was matched up with a student from a different school who was also testing for his brown. We bowed to each other and began our sparing. For brown belt we were only supposed to be going half speed and half power and we didn’t do it by points, my school was about survival on the street so when you fought you kept going until you were told to break. So, when we were told to go he came at me but not at half speed and power, but full speed and full power so for the first 30 seconds or so all I did was block everything and kept moving.
I wasn’t running but was instead just drawing him out some. As I retreated though he charged in at a run and I reacted – I snapped my leg up and caught him with a side kick in the solar plexus and knocked the wind out of him. I was sure I had failed because I broke the cardinal rule – I hit him full power, heck I knocked him out! Well, as I was starting to melt down in my head I glanced over and saw my dad off to the side of the mat smiling at me. He had seen that I could handle myself and end a fight with one punch, he was proud of me.
I did get promoted to brown belt and I asked my Sensei, Mr. Small, why I was promoted when I broke the rules. He told me that the only reason the fight wasn’t stopped was because they wanted to see how I handled the student who came at me like that. He said they saw that I could handle him no problem right away so they just waited for me to finish it and when I did it with one kick they all agreed that I did the right thing – stopped him without really hurting him.
I must say that it made me feel good that they were proud of me, but I was more pleased that my dad was. Even now I know dad is proud of me. He’s a cowboy and all this computer stuff is pretty much alien technology to him, but he knows I’m happy and he knows I’m doing what I love and I’m glad that he is proud of me.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.