Monday, September 26, 2011

Chapter Six: Father – My Dad

Chaper 6 of the Autobiography... Letter F, Father.

Chapter Six
Father – My Dad

  My dad’s name is Vern and he was born in Janesville, WI on August 15th, 1957. His parents had divorced when he was young and he grew up with nine brothers and sisters. They had a farmhouse in the country that allowed him to roam around and get into all kinds of trouble. He was a typical kid growing up in those times. He had fun, and got into his share of mischief too. When he was a teenager he moved to Montana to live with his grandfather on his ranch. They did all kinds of different stuff out in the mountains, but the thing I was told most about was how strict my great-grandfather was. My dad and him would spend the day digging post holes and putting up more fence along the property line. They each had their own horse to get around on the property too. I heard stories about how people would come out there panning for gold even. It reminded me of the wild west when I would picture the stories in my mind. They also went hunting a lot back then. Bear, elk, deer, you name it, they hunted it. When he was sixteen years old he joined the US Army and was stationed in California. I don’t remember what ranking he achieved by the end of his duty, but I remember being told that he drove trucks there. Before the end of his term in military he had a bad car accident. He and some friends were off base one day and they were driving down the highway in a pickup truck. Two were in the front, and my dad and one of the others in the bed of the truck when the driver lost control of the truck and ended up going off the side of the cliff. The two men in the cab of the pickup truck died at the scene, but my dad and his friend in the back managed to survive through it by some miracle. The other man in the back of the truck with him lost a great deal of skin due to sliding down the highway, and my dad shattered his femur, broke a number of ribs, punctured a lung, and broke his neck. He was stuck on the side of the cliff and although he was as hurt as he was, he still was trying to get up so he could climb back up. His friend told him to stop and wait for help because he wouldn’t have been able to make it. He ended up in a nearly full-body cast for nine months due to his injuries, and in a wheelchair and crutches for quite some time after the cast was removed. After recovering from the accident he was discharged from the Army with a medical discharge and was granted disability. He then came back to Wisconsin to be with his family again. I don’t believe he was back for very long when he met my mother whom he married in 1978. They’ve been married for thirty-two years now and have three kids together, including my brother, my sister, and myself. My dad did his share of drinking while I was growing up and quit after he had a car accident on my fifteenth birthday. Although he had difficulties with it at first, he has been sober for over eleven years now and regardless if I’ve told him or not, I’m proud of him for it. He’s been a great role model my whole life and I’ve always looked up to him. Growing up with my dad was great at first. We spent so much time together fishing, camping, and just spending days together. He was a truck driver the majority of his adult life. After leaving the military, he took his experience and continued it as his career. He worked at a number of different jobs driving trucks and at the end of it all, it ended up taking a huge toll on his body. Between the accident he had when he was in the military, the accident he had on my birthday and his everyday life in the cab of a semi, he had really done some damage to his back. He developed a genetic deterioration of his spinal column and had to have a number of back surgeries. This has been an ongoing issue for him for a lot of my life. By the time I was a pre-teen I began to despise him due to some underlying issues I’ve had with him. I look back on it today and I know it was mostly from the lack of attention I was getting from him. Once I began acting up negatively toward him and I was getting into all sorts of trouble, we started growing apart. I don’t think either of us really sat down and thought our relationship was falling apart because of this. I think we thought it was due to other reasons. After having addressed some of these issues with my dad after coming to prison in the fall of 2010, I think we have finally started to close the gap between us. We are starting to understand each other a little more and starting to understand why we have done some of the things we have done to one another. I still love my dad unconditionally and want him to be a bigger part of my life. He is still a role model to me. He’s lived a difficult life and survived through some very tough times and I commend him for that. I know I have said to so many people that I don’t want to be anything like my dad. I’ve even said that living with him was a learning experience, it taught me how to not raise my kids. But looking back on all of that, I know now that it was so far from the truth. I can only hope to be as good of a man as my father one day. To be able to raise my children as well as he raised me. To find a wife that is as great as my mom has been. Sure, I’ll do some things differently, but he didn’t have a manual to work off of. He did as good as a father should be expected to do.

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