He was never given a college education.
In fact, he was never given anything.
Everything my father did or had was because he eaked it out of the American Dream one trial, one failure, one success at a time.
Born to a stay-at-home mother and a walking mailman, my father worked a job as young as the age of eight. In high school, when his father began a small town bakery, he worked all night baking fresh bread and went to school where he excelled academically due to a natural genius. In 11th grade, his teacher gave him an F in Calculus– even though his every homework, quiz and test never scored beneath an A+.
Confused, he confronted the teacher after school. She answered him simply and the exchange was something that forged my father into the success he would later become.
“Wally,” said the teacher, “I gave you an F not because your grades warranted it, but because you didn’t actually have to put any effort in to get those A’s. Not once did you consider asking me for more difficult coursework nor did you seek to help other students who were struggling in the class. Your effort was nothing, so your grade reflects that.”
Humbled, my father took her message to heart. Over the summer he not only repeated the class but asked the teacher for more difficult courses and helped other struggling students understand the principles of math. It was that encounter that taught him to strive harder than what is required and ultimately become better, harder, faster, and help those around you succeed.
My father was a success and his hard earned lessons from growing up poor and then later in the Marine Corps are what made him the man I came to call Ol’ Griz. He was a bear of a man to deal with (especially for a feisty teenager like me) but as soon as I said “Daddy” and called him my teddy bear he would melt and give me whatever I asked for. He spoiled me rotten as a child. He always listened with his eyes searching for the catch, waiting for the excuse, or looking for the last word. He never let me get away with ANYTHING and he taught me to never say, “I can’t.”
He drove his cars for at least 20 years before he would consider buying a new one. He paid cash for everything. He only bought American products. And he loved watching A Team, Rockford Files and his beloved Dallas Cowboys.
And I miss him every day.
Happy Father’s Day up in heaven ya Ol’ Griz. I hope I’m making you proud down here and Semper Fi to the Marine of my heart.