My father passed away December 16th at the age of 87. He left a legacy of lessons for his children to pass on for generations.
My dad was born to a German immigrant mother and a father who abandoned the family. Raised by his mother, grandmother and step father. He didn’t know that his step father wasn’t his birth father until he saw his birth certificate at age 15. This changed my father forever. And shaped who he was to become as a father himself. His youth, and the hardships he endured, molded the man, who never gave up or in. The man who was determined, driven and strict. The stubborn, musically gifted, artistic and funny father he was. These are the lessons he left our family.
Be Punctual. Always.
My dad was never late. Ever. Not even once. And he made sure his children were the same, or at least while under his roof. If he said Thanksgiving dinner was to be at noon, you got there by 11. If you started work at 8 you got there by 7:30. To him it was a matter of showing respect, to your boss, your teacher or your family. It showed you cared enough to plan ahead for anything that could cause you to be late. If we were going somewhere as a family, my dad would yell up to the bedrooms, “The bus is leaving in 15 minutes.” We all knew it would really be 10. I believe there were a few times the bus left, with a few less passengers. This punctuality obsession I now have my husband refers to as ” Jack time.” He will ask me if the time I say we have to be somewhere is the real time or am I telling him Jack time. No need to ask.
Wear Many Hats
Figuratively and Literally .
My dad was a Jack of all trades, But, a Master of them too. He could fix Anything. Anything. In his working years he was a welder, a painter, a maintenance man, and a butcher to name a few.And he was great at all of them. We didn’t go get new things if they broke, because dad could fix them. He was known as Mr Fix It on our street. At any given time there would be a neighbors lawn mower in the garage for him to repair, another neighbors item to be welded. He created beautiful lawn furniture, Swings and benches and picnic tables that many of us have in our yards. He was the Best at grilling out. Sticky Chicky was the favorite. A delicious barbequed chicken that he had convinced all of us, was a secret sauce he had concocted in our kitchen. He would empty out the cupboards to make us think he had mixed an elaborate recipe.He never told us, we will never know. But I can still taste it.
If you have been blessed by many talents, share them, give them away
Eat The Foods You Love
My dad LOVED to eat. He loved Meatballs with Gravy ( extra gravy please). He loved Culver’s Cheeseburgers and McDonald’s chicken nuggets . He ate his hot dogs with peanut butter( don’t judge it until you try it) and sardines with peanut butter( feel free to judge this). He craved chocolate, especially German chocolate. Food made him happy, and sometimes was used to soothe him. Every single time my dad was hospitalized, we knew he was getting better, when he would request( or demand) for someone to bring him a cheeseburger. He would be on that phone by 8 a.m. calling one of my sisters to bring him Culver’s. He spent many years on dialysis, and had to watch everything that went into his body, so once he had the kidney transplant, food was once again a joyous experience. It really was the way to his heart.
Sing Sing Sing
Music was everything in our home growing up. Silly songs, Gospel songs, Polka’s. My dad sang them. There wasn’t a child that sat on his lap that didn’t hear “”Kitties and Doggies” . My personal favorite was “I’m walking behind you because I can’t stand your face.”He would get out his harmonica, play You Are My Sunshine and we would dance around the living room. That tradition carried on 3 generations. My dad’s all time favorite song was Edelweiss . And his favorite way to hear it was when it was sung by his children. It made him tear up. Every single time. If there was a party, a wedding, anything, and there was a microphone, my dad would get up, grab the mic and announce to his kids to come sing it. And we did. Every single time. It made him happy. And we have it on video and in our hearts .
Every morning you greet me
Clean and bright
You look happy to meet me
May you bloom and grow
Bloom and grow forever
Bless my home-land forever
Clean and bright
You look happy to meet me
May you bloom and grow
Bloom and grow forever
Bless my home-land forever.
Have a plan. Then have a plan B, and C…. My dad was nothing if not prepared in any and All situations. He was organized, and ready for whatever may come his way. His garage was his castle. Every tool neatly in its place, cleaned and ready to go for it’s next use. There was never any ” where did I put that?” with dad. He could tell you where every single item in that garage was. Every year, when it would be time to Open or Close the pool, my dad would call for help. He would have Everything already out waiting for us. The cover to the pool had arrows and the initials N S E W printed on it, so we knew which way to put it on. If something was to be done, it was to be done Right , and the first time. Because of his readiness, it always was. I will not lie, that had a tendency to drive us all nuts, but now, I understand. He taught us how to adapt to life by being prepared for anything. That life will throw you curve balls, but if you have your “tools” neatly in place, you won’t have to search to find them. And you will be able to handle it.
Never Quit. Ever.
When I say my dad was stubborn, it is the understatement of the year. My mom always called him A Stubborn Old German. And he was. He wanted things his way. While that proved to be difficult at times for others, I firmly believe that is why he overcame so much time after time. All his surgeries, all the hospitalizations, dialysis. Diagnosis after horrible diagnosis, he just kept going. You couldn’t keep him down for long. There were so many times, we didn’t think he would survive a surgery, or make it through another night , and then, almost like clock work, that phone call asking for a cheeseburger would happen. He was Determined. He was Driven. And it taught all of us how to just keep going. To work hard. There was no lazing around. Many a morning, dad would wake us up, usually before 7, telling us not to sleep the day away. There was work to be done. That drive and determination in every fiber of his D.N.A. is what let him live probably two decades longer than someone else in his condition. While being stubborn can be a negative, it can also be an amazing blessing. He raised children who became hard workers, driven to succeed and get things done.
Laughter is Everything
My dad had a way of turning any situation into something to smile or laugh about. In sad times, trying times. And we had a lot of those, he would say or do something to make us laugh. I remember one time when I was little, maybe 9 years old. I had a friend sleeping over. There was this small hole in the carpet, and I was beyond mortified that my friend would see it . Dad had recently been disabled, so times were difficult. I am sure a hole in the carpet was the least of his worries, but He knew I was worried about it. So, he handed me his cane and a golf ball. We golfed for hours in that living room. That memory is etched into my brain. My sisters and I were cheerleaders, and sometimes dad would pick us up from practice or a game. But dad simply couldn’t just pick us up. Oh no, he would pull in, blaring his custom car horn programmed to play our school song. I remember wanting to crawl back into the school, but I saw how it made all our friends LAUGH and smile. Any time we had an issue with someone growing up, dad would say ” Did you tell them you know R.J. Bauman personally?” It made us laugh, and it helped. He would spend hours singing funny songs, drawing Kilroy Was Here pictures or telling us jokes. He had a very inappropriate business card he would hand out to total strangers, the look on their faces was priceless. He faced every obstacle in his life with determination and humor. That gift also has been passed down 3 generations. The ability we have to laugh when times are hard, is the direct result of watching him do the same.
The Legacy a Father Leaves
My dad never knew his real dad. And that haunted him. He searched for years on his own. Then we joined in to help. We got close. We found an additional sister he never knew. His father left her family too. But that stopped with him. My dad never left. Ever. Times weren’t always easy. But he never walked away. His presence was everywhere. He was strict, which taught his children to be respectful. He was stubborn which taught us to be determined and go after our dreams. He sang and played his harmonica all the time and now his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are talented singers and musicians and know every word to Edelweiss. His love of food taught his family that simply just getting together to eat is all the Christmas present you need and now plenty of grandchildren enjoy a hotdog smothered in peanut butter. His undying love for our mother, his wife of 66 years, his comforter and care giver, was evident in his eyes. That showed his children, grandchildren and generations to come that True Love does exist. That times can be difficult and beautiful at the same time. The legacy my father leaves is this, a father Stays. He stays and raises his children and shows them how to carry on when he is called Home. Knowing he has prepared them for whatever happens in their life. That the tools they need are safely placed where we can find them. Ensuring they will sing and laugh through the good days and the bad . And we will do it all on time, if not sooner. Jack time.