When I was a teenager, I had a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. I grew up on a farm and my inability to motivate myself to put two feet on the cold floor of my bedroom in the morning was in direct contrast to the chores of feeding our family’s cattle, pigs and assorted animals. Animals really don’t care if you are sleepy or cold or in a bad mood — they just want to be fed.
My father, Alvin C. Lyon, was a Gunner’s Mate in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. My Dad had a way of training me and my brothers to get out of bed in the morning. We called his technique the “Alvie.”
An “Alvie” went something like this. At 5 on a cold, bitter winter morning, we would be snuggled in our warm bed not being able to find the motivation to get up and do the chores. Just as my brothers and I were about to go back to sleep, Dad would come into our room, reach deep under the warm blankets and with a cold, calloused hand grab our ankle. Then with one smooth, practiced motion, he would jerk us out of our warm beds onto the frozen floor.
We would land with a thump, stunned by the shock of the contact with the floor and staring wide eyed into the face of our father. He would look down at us, smile, and say, “Good morning … Sunshine. It’s time to feed the pigs.” When Dad said those words with that smile, we knew there was no excuse that was going to prevent us from getting off the floor and helping with the chores.
My father’s life reads something like this. He grew up on the family farm, joined the Navy after he graduated from high school and served his country during the Korean War. He served on the USS Mount Katmai from 1952 to 1956.
He married my mother and is father to my sister, my two brothers and I. He is a grandfather to eight grandchildren. He worked as a truck driver and a farmer. He served his community in local politics as a township supervisor, is a 33rd degree Mason, an avid bowler and a little league coach and umpire.
He does all these things with little or no recognition. When he left his office as a township supervisor, he quietly closed his briefcase, stood and walked from behind his desk; he turned out the light and left the office key with the secretary. No emotional goodbyes. No awards. No fanfare. His leaving was not announced on his Facebook page or tweeted across the country.
My Dad does not drink nor does he smoke.
He is always conscious of the way people see him, especially his family. He has pride in himself and his situation.
His pride still matters. At 79, he stands tall with his back straight. He never slouches or drags his feet.
He takes his hat off when he enters a building.
More than once I have heard him call women half his age “Ma’am.”
He is polite in public. When he goes into a restaurant, he holds the door for the stranger behind him.
He goes to church on Sunday.
He never swears around people he doesn’t know.
He stands with hand over his heart when our country’s national anthem is played.
Loyalty means something to men like my Dad. He has been married to my mother for 59 years. He drove a truck for the same company for 17 years. He has lived in my hometown for over 60 years, has voted in every election and seldom misses a home football game. His childhood friends are still his friends and have been for his entire life.
My bet is you know fathers like mine. You might think his lifestyle old-fashioned. I don’t. You might even think “that guy” doesn’t exist anymore. I think that’s sad, because our world needs more men like my Dad.
Somewhere, deep inside me and my brothers, we remember every “Alvie” and every lesson taught. Some of those lessons were intentional and some were not. Legacy is a precious jewel that is handed down from a father to his children.
On this Father’s Day, I will reflect fondly on my father’s legacy and thank him for his lessons of loyalty, selfless service and pride. I might even try to be more like my Dad. Old fashioned? Yes, probably.
Darryl W. Lyon of Bangor is a major in the U.S. Army.