Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Happy 75 Birthday Dad!

My dad is one of the most amazing human beings I know. At 75 years young, he is probably more fit and more strong than many who are half his age—and that’s even after a massive heart attack seven years ago. My dad has always been a pretty amazing individual, and I don’t think I could write enough about the lessons he has taught me through his work ethic, his patience, his respect for others, and through his rich faith.
I remember when I was growing up, he would drive me to school EVERY DAY and pick me up EVERY AFTERNOON when school let out. He would ALWAYS find time for me no matter how busy his day was. He would be up early getting ready for work, and he would work late on projects around the house, in the garden, or helping our neighbors—at least on the occasions when we weren’t going fishing! On those days, him and my uncle Russell, and my cousin, Jo Ann would load up in Russell’s van as soon as he was off work, and we would venture out to see who could catch our limit of trout first. We wouldn’t stop fishing until the sun was going down.

We did a lot of fishing, me and Dad. Sometimes, when we would go fishing, he would reach his hand across the cab of his pickup truck and say, “Ol’ Billy Williams, used to be my buddy…” and every time, I would reach my hand out to give him a high-five, and say emphatically, “Still am!” And to this day, my dad is not only my dad, but he is my buddy as well. At my wedding, I had two best men, Willie (My best friend in the whole world) and my dad. My dad has been there for every important moment in my life, and it only made since to have him stand by me on my wedding day.

He used to take me to the PHS field-house every Sunday morning to play basketball for at least an hour. We would shoot free-throws, and he would teach me how to properly execute a hook shot. After a shoot-around and warm up, we would play a few games of horse or play one-on-one. I loved those mornings of us just hanging out. I loved them as much as the evenings fishing and the evenings practicing my fielding or my batting for baseball. Recently I was hanging out with one of my childhood friends who didn’t grow up with his father, and he told me that he always thought it was so cool that me and Dad did so much together. Growing up I just figured it was that way for every kid. Boy was I wrong!

My dad has one of the most intense work ethics of anyone I know—and he’s always looking for ways he can help others. Sometimes when he visits me, he will notice that the grass needs cut, and while I’m working, he’ll fire up the mower and cut the grass. When I had more trees around the house with low branches, he would come up and help me trim those branches too!

We don’t get to see each other as often as either one of us would like, but when we do, we always have a good time and great adventures. Whether it is going on long bike rides or hiking to the top of Seneca rocks, Dad definitely keeps you moving. I love that we get to explore so many parts of this world together, and I love that many of my friends have also had the privilege of meeting and spending time with my dad.

One year, I was able to save up to buy tickets to almost every WVU home basketball game for him to sit/stand in the student section with me. It was so much fun to be able to share some amazing times with dad at the WVU Coliseum to cheer on the Mountaineers. On top of all of the amazing character qualities my dad exemplifies and I strive to emulate, he is a HUGE Mountaineer fan! Part of my memories growing up consisted of listening to Jack Fleming, the Voice of the Mountaineers, giving play-by-play for WVU sports on my dad’s old transistor radio, while Dad prepared home-made pizzas for supper. And now, every once in a while, we will land a couple tickets to a WVU football or basketball game. And both of us have the same perspective on the games—as big of fans as we both are, the company we get to enjoy the games with means way more than our seats in the stadium.

Dad and Mom both taught me a lot about appreciating people, and appreciating the quality of time shared as much as the quantity. During my childhood, we would take bicycling ‘adventures’ from our house and ride to “The Point” (where the Ohio and Little Kanawha Rivers meet) and then make our way along the floodwall to explore some of the places along the river where he and his siblings would play and swim when he was a kid. The ‘adventures’ were always as much about the company as they were the location.
And today, on his 75th birthday, my heart is overflowing with gratitude for a lifetime of memories like these that he has made with me—I know that just about everyone he knows well has a long list of similar memories made together.  And, for every one of us, we are filled with eager anticipation for the next set of memories we will make together.

Dad, I hope you have an amazing birthday! I am so grateful for every moment we have been able to spend together, every heartfelt conversation, every adventure, every Mountaineer victory (and loss), and every long hike, fishing trip, or bike ride. Even more, I’m grateful for all of the ways you have been such a solid example of the kind of man I aspire to be! I love you very much!

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