My dad. My hero. My North Star.

My dad taught me to stand up for myself—and others. “But Dad, must we practice on concrete?

My dad’s spirit lives in moral principles.

My dad’s spirit lives in my moral principles and my work ethic. If my dad thought the scoldings and lectures made the strongest impact, they did not. Hah! Those blew over with a fraction of the intended content reaching my brain. It was his actions that I observed and that I recall, even decades later.

My dad was a single father of three. 

I was five, my sister eighteen months younger, and my brother only six months old when our mom died. She dropped to the floor one morning with no warning, while he prepared to leave for work. She was gone at age twenty-eight. So I learned everything about life from my dad.

A night at the neighborhood tavern with my dad.

One evening when I was eight, nine or ten, my dad took us kids to the neighborhood bar. Yes, it’s true. My dad was a young widower in his thirties, had worked all day at the machine shop, commuted a half hour home, and fed us dinner. He never missed an evening dinner with his kids. The guy must have simply wanted a cold beer and adult conversation. We walked a block to the neighborhood tavern.

Too young to legally sit at the bar, we kids settled into one of several “Booths for Ladies” lined against the wall with our bottles of Coca-Cola and a couple of five-cent bags of State Line potato chips. What an exciting adventure this was turning out to be! At some point my dad joined us in the booth, and while we sipped from our straws and talked about our day, a few guys in the next booth loudly spouted foul words that made my dad cringe.

He said nothing to us kids as he slowly rose from the bench, turned toward the rowdies, and calmly and politely said, “Hey fellas, would you watch your language? I got my kids with me.” All the guys nodded, looking a bit ashamed and embarrassed, as if they knew exactly what they did wrong, what was expected, and why. (I knew that feeling, had been there many times.) 

Lessons learned: 

  • the proper way that good people resolved disputes
  • the standard to which I should expect and demand to be treated
  • how men should behave
  • that I could say to a man or woman behaving badly “this won’t stand”
  • don’t curse in front of dad

A hero is born—or was he home all along disguised as my dad?

That night my dad was my defender, my hero. Bold and brave. I was never so proud or saw him in the same light as I did that night. I felt safer and more secure. That evening at the neighborhood bar wasn’t the only time I saw him stand up for his kids—even when he was outnumbered four-to-one.

I’d lost my mom, but this guy had proved to me that he wasn’t going anywhere.

Decades later, current works reflect the lessons learned.

Asylum, book front cover #suspense #thriller #mustreadA father-daughter subplot in Asylum exemplifies my respect for my dad, and many of his characteristics are imbued in the patriarchal character of Antonio Delito and how he relates to his daughter, Maggie.

To this day, decades later, I do not use vulgar language. I don’t say it. I won’t write it. My stories can make a reader squirm without it. There’s nothing in my books I’d be embarrassed or ashamed to read to my dad—if he were here in the flesh.

Asylum’s dedication reads:

To my widowed father,
a principled man, who without complaint,
shouldered a heavy burden
with dignity and forbearance.
I was his sunshine.
He was my North Star.

Coming Next Week: Special Guest, Dan Blanchard writes: Simple Things are the Best Things.

Next week’s blog post will continue to honor dads, when we present a father’s perspective by our friend, award-winning author, speaker, and educator, Dan Blanchard.