It was late summer 1980, when I was presented with an opportunity to take a trip with my dad, Bill, to Bethlehem, Pa.
Being the fourth of five children, I rarely had the chance to spend extended time with him alone, so I really didn’t know what to expect.
I was 11 years old, I had never traveled that far from home, and I had no idea what was in store for us.
Bethlehem, which is about an 8 1/2-hour trip from Defiance, seemed a world away as an 11-year-old, and I thought getting there would take forever.
My dad was unfortunately out of work at the time, after the recession led him to close the furniture store he and my mom, Shirley, owned. We were taking that trip to meet an old friend of my dad’s who was a furniture buyer, hoping he might have a job for him.
Growing up, I knew a few things about my dad ... he was a Christian man who took his faith seriously, he was a former U.S. Marine, he was strict but fair, he was an extremely hard worker, he expected all five of his children to work hard too, and I especially knew that he adored my mom and us kids.
Having never spent that much time alone with him, I remember thinking before we left, “What would we talk about?” “Why did he pick me to go with him instead of one of my older siblings?” “Where would we sleep and where would we eat?”
What I didn’t know, and what I learned on that trip, is that as a young man, my dad traveled around the country with his dad, my grandfather, Norman, who was a furniture buyer when my dad was growing up in Toledo.
My dad enjoyed it so much, that after serving in the U.S. Marines, he came home to Toledo and also became a furniture buyer. He was a furniture buyer for Tiedtke’s in Toledo, and later at Federated Department Stores in Detroit, Mich.
In 1972 when I was 3, my family moved to Defiance from Livonia, Mich., when my dad and his business partners bought Huenefeld Furniture, which was located downtown where R Bike Shop currently operates.
My parents ran the store that was renamed Gold Bond Furniture, and later McDonough Furniture, from 1972-80 (including a short time in Napoleon).
I also learned that the reason he was taking me on the trip, was that he had taken my older siblings with him on other trips, and that it was “my turn.”
What I never expected is that we would have so much to talk about, and that our conversations would flow for hours.
On that trip I learned how to read a map, how “lucky” my dad was to marry my mom, and I listened with wonder to him tell stories about the many trips he took with my grandfather, mom and siblings.
When I think about it now, I can’t describe how much it means to me. Unfortunately, just one year later, my dad passed away unexpectedly at the age of 51.
So, with another Father’s Day approaching, I find myself thankful for the time I did have with my dad, for everything he taught me, and for setting such an amazing example of what a father is supposed to be.
When my father passed away in 1981, only two of my siblings had graduated high school, which meant he never had the chance to see any of his kids get married and have their own children.
As a dad, father-in-law and a “Pop Pop,” that’s something I think about a lot. I know just how lucky I am when I get to spend time with my kids and my beautiful grandbabies.
I would like to wish my dad, Bill, a very Happy Father’s Day. Thanks for everything, dad, I miss you.
I would also like to wish all dads a very Happy Father’s Day. It’s my hope that all of us are celebrated this weekend.