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“You’ll be a Man, my son!”

There are moments in life when the strength and wisdom of a father seems boundless.

Toddling into a crashing ocean for the first time, I recall my grandfather and father taking turns holding me on their shoulders as the waves surged around us ― there was safety and warmth in the arms of these two men.

I recall their strength and the taste of ocean water.

At Sicily drop zone at Fort Bragg, N.C. I remember scanning the skies and listening for the C-130s that would carry my father back home to the family.

We heard a distant rumble. Then my mother and I saw the lines of planes and hundreds of little parachutes falling from an azure sky.

They looked like a child’s toys tossed upon the wind until they approached the ground.

As the chutes fell closer to the earth the men dangling from them began to grow larger — all of them looked like green giants in jump boots. Their faces covered in green and black camouflage stick ― they all looked the same.

As they landed I ran from green leg to green leg hugging them all.

I yelled, “Daddy!”

The first leg I grabbed spoke back with an unfamiliar voice.

A tall African-American sergeant looked down at me.

Standing a full couple feet high, I looked up in shock.

“I’m not your dad kid, but thanks,” he said with a wide smile.

Finally after a quick dash through a dozen paratroopers I saw my dad’s smile and open arms.

Time marches on and later in life the father/son dynamic changes whether we want it to or not.

With age, words often become harder to find through life’s ups and downs.

There was middle school, high school, college, military and then college again ― but the constant was his patience, his faith in me along with his words of advice, heeded and unheeded.

Nearly 40 years later, I find myself giving the same life lectures.

There’s advice heeded and unheeded by my son.

My father’s words make a little more sense now.

Sure dads often dress oddly; cheer a bit too loudly for touchdowns and give a bit too much advice.

Yet believe it or not, the tough guy, also known as dad, has a limitless heart.

His heart leaps with every goal his spawn scores and there’s unbridled joy in hearing the tapping of a little girls feet running towards the front door each day after a long day at work.

He doesn’t need a tie, card or cake.

He rejoices in seeing everything his children do and say ― every day.

He smiles just as much when you fall and get back up as when you hit a home run.

My father told me to read, “If” by Rudyard Kipling.

Its words have never failed me as a father or a son.

“Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, 
and ― which is more ― you'll be a Man, my son!”
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