My father was a pretty quiet person. During my youth, it was rare that he would raise his voice, and he did not yell much at all…even though your Uncle Perry and I probably deserved a few tongue lashings every now and then.
We were not the best-behaved children. Shocking — I know.
It may be hard to believe, but we tested my parents’ patience on a regular basis with our shenanigans. Despite all that, my father’s heart was full of love.
My father was not that emotional
He was not a big hugger and did not cry often. Many men don’t.
Whether it is fair or not, tears are usually seen as a sign of weakness for men. American society’s attitude about men crying has changed the past few decades — which I think is a good thing.
But, the fact remains, that the men of Opa’s generation were taught not to cry, but to “suck it up like a man”.
As a boy, I equated my father’s lack of emotion with his military background. He was a West Point graduate and a career Infantry Officer.
He completed Airborne, Ranger, and Special Forces training, and served three tours in Vietnam. The profession of arms requires calm and cool leadership.
He was good at expressing love
Having said all that, my father was great at expressing his love for me, to me. I know that my father loved me because he consistently demonstrated his love to me over the years in multiple ways.
First, he told me “I love you” on a regular basis. He was not one of those men who are afraid to say “I love you” to his wife and children.
I know people who have never heard their father tell them “I love you”. It makes them sad, and wonder how their father feels about them.
My father’s feelings about me are not a mystery.
I know that he loved me. He told me.
I cannot imagine walking through life with the question of whether or not my father loved me stuck in my mind.
His love was encouraging
Second — my father demonstrated his love to me by offering encouragement when I needed it.
On numerous occasions, my father picked me up when I was down. I remember one example from my youth in particular.
I was probably eight years old. Uncle Perry and I were both swimmers growing up. We would attend swim meets on most weekends.
One summer my dad drove me into Washington DC for a meet. It was horrible. My performance was awful. I did poorly in all my events, especially the last one.
I was afraid to face my father
It was a waste of time and money. I was embarrassed by my performance and afraid to see my dad afterward.
I sat down next to him in the car for the long ride home, I apologized for my poor performance and started to cry.
My dad gave me a hug and said one of his favorite sayings.
It is a saying I know well because I have heard it from him for many years.
Some days you get the bear. Some days the bear gets you. Today was awful, and you stunk. But, you will get another chance. Next time will be better, and you will show everyone how good you are.
He took an interest in my interests
My father demonstrated his love for me is by showing interest in the things that I found fascinating.
Over the years, I have been interested in many things — some good, and some not so good. Opa has tolerated the not so good things and been supportive of the good ones.
I remember once mentioning to my father an interest in Christian apologetics. I was exploring my faith at a much deeper level and wanted to learn more.
The next time I saw my dad he surprised me with a gift of two books about the topic. I asked him how he chose the books.
He confessed that he did not know anything about it, so he did some research on Amazon and bought two books that were highly rated.
His simple investment inspired me to dig deep into my faith which has served me well over the years.
I want to express my love for you
When it comes to you boys — I try to emulate my father and express my love to you in a similar manner.
Even though it may embarrass you at times — I will tell you that I love you.
I do my best to provide encouraging words when you need it, and I invest my time and resources in things that you find interesting.
Gavin — I have grown to enjoy the Foo Fighters. Their concerts are awesome.
Riley — there is no better way to start a weekend than watching BPL soccer. I remain amazed that Leister City won the championship. The Jamie Vardy jersey you have was a pain to buy at the time, but well worth it.
‘I just said, “Dad, I want to finish, get me back in the semi-final.” He said, “OK. We started this thing together and now we’ll finish it together.” He managed to get me to stop trying to run and just walk and he kept repeating, “You’re a champion, you’ve got nothing to prove.
Like this article — find more like it
I write a blog for my sons called Doug Keating Letter to Sons. I am sharing content from my blog here. I hope you enjoyed it. All feedback is welcome. Thanks for reading it