Education Matters: Happy Father's Day to my anchor

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

Years ago I wrote about my father once coming very close to taking a strap to me and my brothers for igniting lines of gasoline in our garage, “just to watch the flames,” as we told our horrified mother who happened upon the scene.

She said what mothers have been saying since the beginning of time: “Just wait until your father gets home.”

As it turned out, we were saved from what would have been the only physical punishment from my father, ever. It’s a long story that involves our collie, Hoppy, who was our protector, and who grabbed on to my father’s pants now made looser by a belt he was holding over his sons. This brought into view his patterned boxers (little hearts and flowers) and our fear of being strapped quite suddenly turned into a strained effort not to laugh, in keeping with the situation, but it was just too funny.

When we saw a smile come across our father’s face — himself realizing just how ridiculous he looked — we knew we were saved. He managed a “Damn it, don’t ever do that again” and stormed away still angry but overruled completely by his sense of humor and his clear memory of what he was like as a boy.

My dad passed away 30 years ago, but he is still very much alive in my memory. Of his five sons, I was the “chip off the old block,” and that was the finest compliment that anyone could pay to me when I was growing up. From my earliest years, he was the one I most wanted to please.

When I was about 8 or so, one “good boy” from him had me sailing through the day. Same for when I was 18, only then it was a certain look he got that didn’t need words to tell me that he was proud of me. Years later in raising my daughters, I wanted to be that kind of father for them.

I also wanted my girls to know when I was disappointed with them by a look on my face or a tone in my voice. With my dad, there was an unmistakable look that told me I had come up short in his expectations of me, and it was a punishment worse by far than the back of a hand or any spanking I could think of. In time, I came to realize that his approval and his disappointment came from the same wellspring of love he felt for his children.

I often wonder whether my dad and I will reunite in some other life. If we do, I’ll have some questions for him. I’ll want to know why, when he was about my present age, he would say things like, “I’ve had a good life,” as if it were over.

I’m sure it had much to do with his physical condition, but that brings up another question. I’d want to ask him whether he knew that his addiction to cigarettes was cutting his life short. He smoked two packs a day for 40 years, and I wonder if he thought of the grandchildren that he would never see, whether he weighed his addiction against having a longer life and, knowing how excruciating his final years were, a healthier life.

And, finally, if he happens to be listening now, just a few more personal thoughts for this Father’s Day.

Dad, did you know that for my brothers and my sister, there was no sweeter sound in this world than hearing you laugh at something we said or something we did. You got such a kick out of us kids, and we all knew just how to get you going.

Did you know how many of our friends thought of you as a second father? Did you know that even after you had a stroke and had mentally departed from us, I could still take comfort in your physical presence, just sitting next to you?

You were the anchor in our family, but you left us all too soon. I’m sorry that I never got the chance to tell you, but I want you to know that I am a better father and a better man because of you.

Wherever you are, Dad, Happy Father’s Day.

DAN KIMBER taught in the Glendale Unified School District for more than 30 years. He may be reached at DKimb8@sbcglobal.net.

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