OK, I know that Father’s Day was actually last weekend, but I’m going to take columnist’s privilege here today and opine on the subject of fathers and fatherhood anyway. I had a really nice Father’s Day myself, and it made me reflect on what it means to be a father—and to be a son.
Over the years, I have mentioned my father several times in my column. That obviously speaks to the deep love I had for him and for the difference he made in my life.
Robert Maxwell Lucas, or Max, as he was known, was a big guy—6-2, about 200 pounds—with a firm handshake and a ready smile. Originally from Gulfport, he and my mother came to Pascagoula in 1940 for him to work at Ingalls Shipbuilding, which he did for the next 36 years.
For most of my life with him, he was the head of the estimating department, which meant that he and his staff were responsible for setting the bids Ingalls would make on contracts for building prospective ships. In his position, he would travel to exotic places like Boston, Washington, D.C., New York and San Francisco to present the bids, always bringing my brother and me a little something from each city.
My dad was a hard working guy, spending long hours at “the yard” and on the road, but he always was a big family man and spent plenty of time with my brother and me (and his beloved wife). Daddy, a good athlete back in his day (center for Gulfport High football, lifeguard, tennis, golf) taught me every sport there was and came to all my games when I started playing. He was never judgmental and always supportive, but he expected me to do things—school, sports, life—the correct way. I always remember him telling me “Look, son, if you’re going to do something, do it right.” Simple but profound.
As I’ve mentioned before, my father was very diligent about taking me to ball games with him—Pascagoula High, Ole Miss, Senior Bowls, Sugar Bowls. Looking back, he might have rather just gone with a couple of buddies (and he did that occasionally), but, knowing the joy it would bring to his son, he almost always included me.
When it came time for life’s lessons—becoming a man, college and career choices, and so on—he was always there for me. Not over the top, big speech stuff, just solid and there when I needed him.
You can tell by the above words what an effect my father had on me and how much he meant to me. We lost him when I was 42, and like most of us when it comes to our dads, I miss him greatly and wish I could sit down and talk to him today.
Thank goodness he got to know my sons before he left us (although too briefly), and, boy, was he a proud grandfather.
So, now, I have 38 and 35 years, respectively, of being a father to Cooper and Wesley. As a kid myself, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I grew up; I didn’t have any fireman, lawyer, or ballplayer visions (well, maybe ballplayer). What I did know I wanted to do was to be a father, and that wish has turned out wonderfully true, and, along with wife Mary Jon, the joy of my life.
I’ve tried to be the best father I can be, and often I’m sure I could have done better. Many aspects of fatherhood I have borrowed from my dad, like always being there for the boys, trying to set a good example, and, yes, teaching them how to play ball and taking them to games. It seems to have worked out well in most respects because Cooper and Wesley are mighty fine young men and sons who love their father. When they made the trip (from Jackson and New Orleans) to be with Dad on Father’s Day, we had a big time. There was a lot of good food, sports events to watch together, fun sessions in the pool, and mostly, just visiting, with long talks deep into the night about a myriad of subjects.
We are put here on Earth for a lot of reasons, but I say to you that being someone’s child and someone’s parent is at the top. I had a great father and I now have great sons, and I only hope that I did OK by my dad and will continue to try to do right by my sons. To me, that’s what it’s all about.
(Richard Lucas may be contacted at [email protected]).