As part of the “Thanks, Dad” campaign, Matthew Branch shares how his father shaped the ways he thinks of a good man.
Engrained in me, an adult man, is some nameless obstruction that makes sincere gratitude difficult to express toward other men. While I am sure all of us guys share a silent understanding of being grateful for one another, we rarely say it out loud. It is time for me to break the silence because the one man for whom I am most thankful deserves to know the depth of my appreciation. As with many men, I owe my father more thanks than I could ever be bothered to put into words.
The words “good man” hardly begin to do him justice. For decades he has worked a job he detests so that he could put four kids through college. He would never admit to disliking his job because it would too closely resemble a complaint. And he doesn’t complain. Ever. Unless he kicks the corner of a table or trips over one of our many dogs, then an unholy string of cuss words erupt from his mouth that would make a trucker blush. But he doesn’t protest when he washes the dishes, or re-roofs the garage, or takes the family pets to the vet to be put down. He works toward greatness in all the small things he does in the service of others.
Growing up, he held our family ranch together. He maintained a fleet of broken vehicles for a family of six, all the while nurturing a decent golf game. He helped our neighbors and volunteered in our community. He coached soccer, refereed football, timed swim meets, and led Boy Scout troops.
I will never forget standing tall in front of him on a perfect May afternoon waiting to be awarded the rank of Eagle Scout, an honor I never would have reached without his support. Shoulder to shoulder on center stage with my friends and peers, I looked out and met his eyes and as he stood above a seated crowd, his Scout uniform riddled with tokens of accomplishment. On a commemorative plaque to my left, my freshly etched name joined my uncle’s, my brother’s, and my father’s names, signifying I had been welcomed into the ranks of a family full of great men.
Today, he spends every spare minute helping to raise five grandchildren. Supported by the love of a woman as equally caring and giving, dad changes lives for the better. Daily. Together, they parent four foster children. They cling to him like puppies — children who have never had a face to attach the word “father” to.
Dad, thank you. Thank you for being such an amazing human being. Thank you for your strength and courage — your kindness and generosity.
Thank you for picking me up from the airport in the middle of the night, hours from home.
Thank you for allowing me to learn through doing — to fail at work and at love. Which I did, with almost comical flair. And thank you for not laughing at me when I did. At least not to my face.
Thank you for making school the one thing I was not allowed to fail. I wouldn’t dare fail in school. In fact you engrained in me such an appreciation for education, I believe I’m doomed to roam the earth as a perpetual student. (I graduated again this May, in case you are still keeping count).
Thank you for helping me with my taxes. Every single year.
Thank you for loving my mother and my siblings, for carrying an amazing family on your shoulders through your entire adult life.
Most importantly, thank you for everything you’ve done without my knowing. Thank you for the miracles you worked at midnight in the shadows for the last twenty-eight years. Thank you for making my world so amazingly happy and care-free it took me twenty-eight years to truly understand the thanks I owe you.
Photo: gregthebusker / flickr