Karen Brazas: Proud to call him Dad
My father was a member of what has come to be known as the Greatest Generation. Born in 1918 into a large Catholic family in central Minnesota, he had four sisters and was the eldest of four boys.
Dad grew up on a small farm and, as the oldest son, he bore the brunt of hard work and the scrutiny of a demanding father. My grandfather assumed his son would follow in his manure-covered footsteps. But my headstrong father wanted no part of life in the fields and barns.
He rebelled at age 15 when he ran away from the lush green pastures, jumped onto a dirty boxcar with hobos (as he called them), and headed west. Having no particular destination in mind and only a few dollars in his pocket, he spent uncomfortable nights on board and at one stop in Kansas was offered shelter in a local jail. He was allowed to spend a few nights in a cell, sleeping on what he called “a bed far more comfortable and cleaner than the boxcar.”
Dad’s escape led him all the way to California. But being unable to secure any kind of meaningful work, Dad had to return months later to the farm, where neither parent welcomed their prodigal son with open arms.
Dad returned to school and excelled in his math classes, a harbinger of his future.
After graduating from high school, Dad was hired as a janitor in a local bank to clean the floors and empty their spittoons. It was here that he met his mentor, Christy, the bank manager who took the young protege under his wing.
Dad was a quick learner. A year later, he was hired on as a teller. By the time he filed his retirement papers at age 65, he owned and ran several small-town banks, was heavily invested in the stock market, and provided our family with a simple but comfortable life.
If banking came naturally for Dad, fatherhood was a bigger challenge. Having had a less than nurturing role model, he had to figure things out for himself.
This was made even more difficult when his first child was born soon after the U.S. Army deployed him to India in 1943. Almost two years passed before he actually met his daughter, and as was typical in most families back then, it was understood that he would be the bread winner and Mom would take on the lion’s share of parenting.
Two more children followed. Dad’s banking career blossomed, requiring long hours and affording limited family time.
Today’s fathers, the good ones, are a different breed. Dad would have scoffed at the idea of house husbands who stay at home while mothers work full time. To build a doll house or join my sister and me for a tea party would be as foreign to him as building sand castles, running through sprinklers, playing hide-and-seek, or playing catch for hours in the back yard … all familiar activities these days for most dads.
But Dad was the best father he knew how to be. He attended our school events and took us on a yearly family vacation. He encouraged us to work hard, to be honest and respectful, and above all, to be thrifty!
He loved our mother unconditionally and set the example of fidelity and spousal support that we children embrace today.
In his own way, he was a role model. A man of a few words, he taught by example. A Clarence Kelland quote sums up his parenting quite well: “My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived and let me watch him do it.”
My father passed away in April 2014, one month shy of his 96th birthday. Father’s Day is his day. I honor him, I miss him, and am proud to call him my dad.
Karen Brazas lives in Nevada City.
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