Being a parent is hard and wonderful. A culmination of great and good, happy and sad, and pretty much every other emotion you can feel. Being a man, I can only speak to my role as a son, father, and now a grandfather, and I have to believe that my thoughts are not unlike many others of my sex and my explanation of how I wound up here are not that unique.

Sitting here at the ripe old age of 56, I can proudly say that my children are all good - great in fact – and doing well. They are all enjoying the world in their own ways and following paths in which their mother and I can be proud. They have all had their bumps and bruises along the way, and there were difficult days, but I have to say that our family anchor, Gracie - my wife and their mom, and I, steered their ships in the best, most positive directions we knew and know-how. Some would say that they are all grown up, spanning in age from 23-31, but I have to ask myself, do we ever really grow up? I know I still feel like a kid, but in an aging body that aches more than it shines.

As proud and as happy as I can say I am of my children and being their father, there is sadness in my family life.

I have to now acknowledge that I am no longer a brother in the real world to my younger sibling, Patrick, who passed away Aug. 5, 2019, at the age of 51, or a son to my father, that we lost Aug. 4, 2014, at the age of 71.

Both these gentlemen heavily impacted my world in many ways and are major parts of the life experiences recipe that made me.

As this is supposed to be Father’s Day focused, I will steer my ramblings to my father, Charles A. Womack Jr. I called him Dad, not Pop, Father or old man, or any of the other word choices from children. Not that there are anything wrong with those titles, but my father was Dad. He was my Dad, my rock, my anchor, and my daily call.

Unless he and my mother were out of the country, we pretty much talked on a daily basis, usually about random things, but mostly just to check-in. Our check-in calls usually went kind of like, “Hey, what are you doing?” Most of the time the reply would just be an “ahh just…..” or a “just got to the office” or an “in a meeting, but what’s going on” kind of thing. They would lead him or me into an “Oh, did you hear about…” something publishing-related. And off the conversations would go.

Though many of our talks were just to “check in,” there were the times, the really happy or hard times, when I would call for advice or guidance. The remarkable thing about him was that he would listen to me. Really listen. He would not try to “fix it” or tell me “it was a mistake,” “a bad idea,” or anything else that would cause me to start second-guessing in my head. Not directly anyway. He would quietly listen and ask me how “I” felt about it and what did “I” think I would do or how was “I” going to handle it. And if the idea didn’t pan out, he never judged or said, “I told you so.” Our conversations were wonderful, and the things he said, as well as didn’t say, still resonate in my mind.

That was just one of his masterful qualities as a father. One of his best, and one I admire most now that I am a father, is how steady and calm he would always seem to be. He would spank me, of course, but never unless very much deserved. Most of my punishments revolved around taking my car, groundings, and not being able to go out on the weekends.

Because as a teenager, I was far from perfect. I played in a rock band, grew my hair long, listened to loud music, cared little for school, smoked the occasional left-handed cigarette, and got into trouble. Though nothing that ever got the Danville Police Department involved.

One example of this calm is during one of my many carless grounding periods. Dad was driving me to school, and I was sitting up front looking straight ahead. My then long hair usually came down over my ears, but on this day, it had blown back a little, and he caught a glimmer of shine from a newly pierced left ear and the gold bob inserted to keep the hole open. He looked at me and just said, “You got an earring?” 

I said “yeah,” kind of embarrassingly, and not another word was ever said about it. 

That was him—no judgment and making his opinion known in a subtle manner and in few words.

As kids do, I’ve grown up. But I learned from watching and listening to my Dad. 

I have learned to appreciate and understand the things he did and didn’t do for me. I have learned to listen to “his” music, and honestly, today, I love it. I can’t play or even think about Frank Sinatra’s “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” without my eyes watering. Don’t get me wrong, I still rock out to my music, play the guitar loud, and put on my Aerosmith t-shirt. This weekend, in fact, I pulled out the black, Aeroforce-One, fan club model, but rather than heading to a concert or a band practice, I wore it to Lowe’s to buy some grass seed for our backyard.

He did so many more things to mold me into the father that I am today, and I would like to think that I am my father’s son. On the surface, I feel like we are so different. But are we different, or are we just from different times where music, morals, trends, child rearing, and the like were different? I’d like to hope and pray that we are more alike than different, but it is difficult. I have some solace in the fact that I don’t think any son feels like they ever really measure up to their fathers. If I really want to, I can assume that my father had the same feelings about his Mega-successful father, as well.

I guess all we can hope for is to do the best we can as parents and stay the course. I will always feel guilty about missing some of our kid’s sports games or not saying just the right thing at just the right time. You know, because to me, MY Dad seemed like he was always there and always said and did just the right things. This I feel even more now that he is gone from his earth.

My father probably felt like he had a big pair of shoes to fill with his father, as well. So, since I think he did the best possible job he could being a father to me, maybe my kids will remember my stumbling attempt at fatherhood in a similar light?

Maybe I can’t feel like I measure up to being my father’s son, but I can take comfort in the fact that I am the father and grandfather to some wonderful human beings that I love, admire, respect, and am so very proud of.

To my father: Happy Father’s Day, Dad. You are loved, and you are missed.

To my Kids: I love you.

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