By Mike Wilcox
(I wrote this a year ago but wanted share it again. I might share this column over and over for years to come. The man meant so much to me.)
This week I gave pause to reflect on my hero, my father. Although he was buried seven years ago, there isn’t a day I don’t think about him. I have conjured up dozens of great moments we have shared.
I only hope I have been half the man and three-quarters of the father my dad was. He was the most unselfish, even-tempered person I have ever known. Everyone who encountered him came away impressed with his knowledge and thoughtfulness.
As an elected official, which he was for 30 years, enduring and never losing 14 elections, my father was different from the current breed of politicians. Heck, he probably would have not survived this day and age of divisive politics.
He was by nature an introvert. He rarely spoke, but when he did people actually listened. His well-thought-out suggestions and opinions were welcomed by all. His approach was conciliatory rather than combative. He for the most part disregarded political affiliations. broke bread and made legislation with members of both sides of the aisle.
After politics, after newspaper publishing, after a few years of daily golf, it was his role of caregiver that I most admire. My mother was suffering from dementia and, slowly but surely, year after year it became worse to the point he had to give up golf, give up socializing, to essentially take care of her 24-7.
My four siblings and I didn’t realize our mother was failing so quickly. None of us lived near their Florida home, and when we made the trip to visit once or twice a year she seemed OK. Not until after his death, when my sister tried to take mother in, did we realize the progression of her dementia. My father never let on nor complained.
That was him. No complaints, no tantrums and always happy, despite how dire the situation. I never heard the man use a swear word. Never ever. Of course it was rare to hear his voice.
I remember as a 15-year-old going to my first deer camp. It was a 200-mile drive that seemed like 2,000 miles because my father never said a word.
That was him. He would rather let his actions do the talking. And as a newspaperman and a politician, he accomplished more than most people. Way back when, he purchased a newspaper that was printed on a mimeograph machine and turned it into a full-fledged weekly must-read product. In politics he enjoyed the company of presidents as he rose to become chairperson of the National Association of Counties.
What he lacked in oratorical skills he more than made up in sheer will and determination. No one worked harder. I can remember as a little kid never seeing my dad on Wednesday nights. That was the night he printed his newspaper and it was an all-night process. He worked it alone, running his little press, week after week, hour after hour.
I marvel at those memories now. I too work hard and complain very little. I don’t like to swear, and people are nervous around me because I don’t talk much.
There is no question I am my father’s son. I couldn’t be more proud. He was a hero to me and others. I hope I can be the same for my son.