Let me tell you about MY Dad, Robert R. McClanahan. He’s the greatest Dad ever. As a kid, I thought he was a superhero, and as I’ve gotten older, that feeling has only become stronger. Here’s why:
• He was a child of the Great Depression. Born in 1928, that’s all he knew by the time he was old enough to know anything. Things were hard for everyone back then, but especially for my Dad, because …
• His Dad died when he was two years old. That left his twenty-something Mother to fend for herself with three young kids to raise, feed, and clothe. No part of the family could afford to take in four additional mouths to feed, so my Dad’s older brother had to live with one part of the family, while my Grandmother and her babies (my Dad and his sister) stayed with others.
• So my Dad grew up without a Dad. Thankfully he had grandfathers and uncles to help fill that role, but at home, he had to be the man of the house, even as a boy.
• He got two pairs of overalls and one pair of shoes when school started each year, and they had to last until the next year.
• He worked hard at various jobs as a teenager in order to supplement his mother’s earnings as a teacher.
• He studied hard in school, even skipping grades, and graduated high school when he was sixteen. But he couldn’t afford to go to college.
• He could fix bicycles. As a kid, that made even more him a super-hero to me. Before I was born, he ran a bicycle shop, “Mac’s Bike Shop”, as one of the three jobs he held down to feed the family. He built my first real bike from parts he bought at auction.
• In addition to bicycles, he could fix just about anything else: lawn mowers, air conditioners, cars, fences, tractors, barns, etc., and he taught me to do the same.
• He started on the Cotton Belt Railroad as a telegrapher when he was sixteen. He retired 43 years later as Superintendent, the position that was called President before the Cotton Belt was absorbed into the Southern Pacific in the 1950s. From the bottom to the top … that’s MY Dad.
• He served his country for 14 years in the Texas National Guard, spending several years on active duty. He left the Guard as a Captain.
• He was married to my Mom for 50 years before she passed away. My sisters and I knew all along that he loved her, but it was never clearer to us than it was after he lost her. He lost his soulmate when she passed away.
When I’m 85 (as he is now … if I make it that far), I hope that my kids have even half the admiration for me that I have for MY Dad. He was a superhero to me as a kid, and he still is today.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.