I have been told my Dad and I are two peas in a pod mostly by my Mother of course though my pastor has mentioned it a few times. While I will deny it, I suppose we do have a few things in common: hard-working, giving, opinionated and want to have the last word. Yes, those last two presented a bit of a problem during my teenage years that has continued to my almost fifty years of being Don Neal’s daughter. Oh, I’ve also been told I have the Neal walk or waddle whatever that looks like.
My Dad has always been an example of a hard-working man to me. His first job was at the A&W in Benton, IL. He can still tell tales about his time there. In a few months he would meet my Mom at the A&W seven miles down the road in the rival territory of West Frankfort. They would marry and my Dad got a job at the Hamilton Beach factory in Racine, Wisconsin. Not much longer I would come along. I’ve always said I wasn’t planned but they assure me I was. After a few years we returned to Southern Illinois where my Dad worked in factories, did some night security work and janitorial work. His passion though was buying and selling antiques. Finally, at some point he was able to make that his full-time work and at the age of 70 continues that business today.
The happiest I have ever seen my Dad was when he and my Mom visited my husband and I in South Africa in 2012. Not many daughters can say they crossed the Limpopo river of Mozambique with their family to visit some friends in a little village called Ngala. Nor can they say they scaled the Victoria Falls Bridge in Zimbabwe with them. Or did a jig at a South African birthday celebration as the village troop paraded by with their drums and dancing. But I can and I am forever grateful for those memories. The experience was unforgettable but more importantly the people left a mark on my Dad’s heart that has forever changed him. His heart became even more tender. His giving expanded.
It seems he has grown wiser in his old age and is not so quick to voice his opinion to just anyone. But he continues to try to tell me how to drive and what to eat. I just pat him on the top of his head, give him a kiss and continue on my merry way.
His health has suffered this past year. He had hip replacement surgery and a few months later a heart attack. He is more frail and tires more easily but that doesn’t stop him from continuing to do the things he loves. In grade school I wrote an essay on why my dad should be named Father of the Year. My last sentence was “If my dad is father of the year, he would be proud but I would be the proudest.” So I end this essay knowing that my dad is proud of not just me but my sister too. And since I get to have the last word I can confidently say having him for my father makes me the proudest.
I love you, Dad! Happy Father’s Day!