Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day ~ My column from today's paper

My dad died in May of 1986 when I was 35 and rarely does a day go by that I don’t think of him. Today when I put on my coveralls before working in the yard, I looked into the mirror and saw him looking back at me. He wore a pair of coveralls exactly like ones I was wearing. 

One of my favorite pictures of my dad was taken one summer evening several years before he died. He'd been cutting grass and was sitting under a water oak on a cinder block border of a flowerbed. 

He was wearing his gray coveralls. On his face was an enigmatic half-smile. With that smile, it seemed he knew a secret and wasn’t about to tell me what it was. That smile would have been handy had he played poker.

I snapped the unposed picture and it turned out to be one of the best I have of him.

He worked as a welder and was strong from years of manhandling steel. The shop where he worked was brutally hot during summer and smelled of ash, flux, and ozone. Looking closely, you could tell that he was a welder because, through the years, white-hot bits of welding splatter branded his wrists and forearms.

Before being drafted, I worked as a welder long enough to realize it wasn’t for me. When I completed my Army duty I looked for other employment. 

During my two years in uniform, I grew weary of “The Man” telling me I needed a haircut. After my release date, I decided to rebel against barbers. My hair grew to my shoulders as thick as thatch. It turns out the “hippy look” didn't resonate with my dad and he didn't hide his displeasure. 

I had a job at the time and was living on my own so I wasn't about to cut my hair because my dad didn't approve of it. That goofy little rift drove a wedge between us for more years than either of us could afford to lose. Looking back I could kick myself for being so stubborn, but I got that stubborn streak from him, so some of the responsibility rested on his shoulders.

I don't remember what changed. Perhaps it was when I married Jilda. My dad adored her. The last several years of his life we were much closer.

I read a book a few years ago entitled The Time Travelers Wife. It was about a guy that flitted back and forth in time. The downside of his time travel was that he had no control over when he traveled or how long he would stay. Also, he arrived at his destination buck naked.

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to have the ability to travel in time. It’s an ability that would come in handy...well, except for the arriving naked part. 

This much I know for sure. If I could go back in time to the summer of 1974, I would shave my head with a straight razor to get back those years I lost with my dad. But that is the stuff of fiction. My dad is gone and those years are forever lost.  I hope none of you ever lose a moment with your dad over something as insignificant as a haircut.

Happy Father’s Day.

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Changes is available on You can contact him via email at


  1. I do like the picture of your dad. I like to see the OLD dress, hair cuts, cars; I love it all because of the memories they conjure up.
    Life causes us to do the unexplained, mainly because when we are younger, things will ALWAYS remain the same.
    But I do like a bitter-sweet story.

  2. My dad always wore tan work pants and shirt. I didn't cry when he died but years later I saw my husband talking to a man dressed that way and I started crying and couldn't stop.
    Loved that book and hope we will all meet again some day.

  3. It's so true we get to an age that we want to things out way ... yet if we knew what the future held we'd probably do things so differently... your dad sounds pretty wonderful Rick ;-)

  4. We all have regrets when it comes to our parents. My dad died unexpectedly seven years ago and I still haven't gotten over it.

  5. Lots of battles over hair back in the least you both got over it. Happy Father's Day!

  6. Your dad and mine sound like they come from the same generation. My dad was born in 1913 and he was not fond of hippies. My brother embraced long hair and my dad also said a few choice words. We always believe our parents will live until we are well into our 50's but that is not often the case. I lost my dad in 1988 and I was only 23 shortly to be 24. I wish I had a few more years with him. You gave a wonderful recollection of him and I love that picture.

  7. I only had one argument with my father after I was an adult. It hurt me as much as it hurt him. Thankfully it was a short one. I have been thankful that when he died he knew that we (all his children and grandchildren) loved him and we knew he loved us.

  8. If I could travel back in time, I would spend most of my time with my parents.

  9. Anonymous9:35 PM

    I can't write--you've got me crying!!

  10. nice.
    parents are the most precious gift of god

  11. That was a sweet tribute to your Dad. Loved it.

  12. I'm betting your Dad is looking down at you and has that same smile while noticing your hair these days! It's too bad you had the rift with your Dad, but as a parent I know that love endures those things and never stops even if communication does. I'm glad you mended those fences and it's the last good years that matter. Wonderful column as usual! I needed a tissue as usual!

  13. Maybe that's the reason you don't have a full head of hair today. I'm looking at your dad and he has a full head of hair. He got his way one way or another. I'm glad you have parted friends.

    Have a nice summer.

  14. A great post, I am lucky that my dad is still alive and I see him at least once a week we have a close bond but then dad is close to all his children each of us have a different relationship with him


Please consider sharing

Email Signup Form

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required