It is simple math really. And yet, 57-17 is still difficult for me to understand. Still seems unfair. It has
been 40 years since I was able to wish my Dad a Happy Father's Day. I wish I could remember that June day all those years ago. That was the summer after high school graduation, the summer of my jaw surgery, the summer of my American Graffiti as my friends and I all prepared to enter the collegiate chapter of our lives. I am sure Dad spent that Sunday as he spent so many, working in the garden, doing some task around the house to make our Green Valley home the perfect place to grow up. Perhaps my brother had a tournament game that day. Dad never missed any of our games that I can remember. Whether it was me playing football or Curt baseball, Dad was always in the stands. I don't think he ever had a critical word for our performance. Always positive, always reassuring, that was Dad.
A lot of the details of time with Dad are blurred. I was lucky- there was, packed into those 17 years, a lot of time with Dad. He rarely had to travel for work. Family breakfasts and dinners around the table were a daily occurance. Despite the challenges of raising three children in the 60's and early 70's, and the struggles of a family business heavily pressured by the growth of Asian imports, Dad always was interested in our day, what we were doing, and he often had a funny story of something that had happened at work. Samuel Wayne Evans was every bit as wise, funny and dependable as any of those TV dads- Ward Cleaver, Howard Cunningham, Steve Douglas, Andy Taylor......
As blurred as some of those details are, I do remember fishing. I was five or six that first fishing trip- we had bamboo poles with line, a bobber, a split shot and a hook. We used dough bait made from a few slices of bread, milk and water. Imagine the excitement as we walked down to the creek near our Levittown home. The bamboo poles evolved into my first fishing rod. I can still see it- a black, red and white rod with a closed faced shiny red spincasting reel. Being in the umbrella frame business, Dad made a minnow net that was the inverse of an umbrella. It would snap closed with the pull of a rope and we pulled in minnows that had been attracted to a pocket in the netting filled with bread. We used those minnows for bigger fish in the Neshaminy Creek. Bluegills, catfish and bass became our quarry. As my love for fishing combined with vacations to Ocean City, Dad got us our first saltwater gear. Gooey clams and squid replaced earthworms and minnows as are our bait. Sea Robins, dogfish sand sharks and flounder were our new target species. Dad rarely fished on our adventures. He was too busy getting our snags off, untangling our lines, tying on new hooks and changing our bait. Dad always made fishing fun even when they were not biting. One trip he taught me how to skim stones. On another we made sail boats out of whatever flotsam and jetsam we could find and had races down the creek. With dad it never mattered if we got muddy or wet. He would deal with mom on that even if that meant turning the hose on a pair of muddy boys. We loved it.
Although we did not have him as long as we would have wanted, there could not have been a better role model for being a dad. His goal was always our happiness. Building model airplanes and ships, fixing broken toys, painting unpainted Civil War figures. Helping me with class projects. Buying me books to feed my growing curiosity about American History. It was in that last year that we had our crowning project: Before there was an internet or even the idea of an internet, my Advance Placement American History teacher, Mr. Daubert, said he would give an A to the student who could determine the type of airplane used in the original movie to shoot down King Kong. I had studied and built about every airplane that there was from the Wright Flyer to the X-15. This project was made for my Dad and I. We searched the libraries up and down the Philadelphia to New York corridor. We contacted the Navy and the Air Force museums and my Dad even went to the souvenir shop at Empire State Building on one of his business trips. Needless to say, we were successful. I got my A. Dad was there. He was always there.... until he wasn't.
Being a dad is the most challenging and rewarding jobs on my resume. Like Steve Douglas, I have three sons each of whom makes me very proud. I have often said that in life and in family, fishing runs through it. I taught Steven to fish. If there is any doubt of that check out his blog link on this site.
I remember the look on Christopher's face when he caught his first fish on a Snoopy rod. "Wow, look what I did!" Peter, the most energetic of toddlers, woke up at the crack of dawn in the tent while Kyle was trying to sleep. I scooped him up, took him to the dock and that morning he caught his first fish- a 12" largemouth bass. In raising each of them, I have tried to be for them the Dad my father was. As we prepare to welcome a new generation into the family I hope I have showed my sons the most important thing about being a Dad. Love your children unconditionally, give them endless encouragement and unwavering support. Above all wish them happiness and love in all things. Happy Father to-be Day Chris. Thanks Dad.