I thought I’d continue the trend of posts totally unrelated to triathlon since Ironman is over and, well, it’s Father’s Day. My mother got her own post on Mother’s Day, certainly my father deserves the same.
I liked the outline of the mother’s day post whether you, the reader, did or not (I couldn’t care less, honestly), so I will follow a similar tack here. I’ll confess that, much to my dismay, I do not know nearly as much about my father as I would like or as I do about my mother. Much of that is due to my spending more time with my mother (the divorce) and because, as I’ve mentioned before, my father died right at that time when you’ve grown up enough to realize your parents were right about most things and now you want to know more about them and what else they know.
My father, Louis Eugene Dupre, was born in Slidell, Louisiana on November 29, 1945 to Virginia and Clarence Dupre. He was the oldest of five (Eugenie (really? Did you just not like your kid?), Dora, Don, and Paul were the others). They all moved to Houston…at some point (I have no idea when) and he remained here for most of his life (except for the military and his last years in Florida). From what I’ve heard he was the stereotypical older sibling. Smart, responsible, not too emotional, ambitious etc.
He attended Memorial High School in its inaugural year (my high school alma mater) and then Washington and Lee for one year where, according to him, he “fucked around on his parents’ dime.” As a result, his parents brought him back home and he completed his education at the University of Houston. He joined the military for a brief stint serving most of his time in Korea. He returned to Houston and began work with Pool Energy Services, Inc, an oil field and services company, where he worked for the next 25-30 years eventually working his way up to vice president of human resources though he was an accountant of sorts most of his career. He married my mother in the 70’s and they divorced in the 80’s. He married my step-mother, Sue, in the 90’s and they remained married until his death on December 24, 2006. He smoked cigarettes for a number of years, I’m sure experimented with drugs in the 60’s and 70’s, suffered from skin cancer for what seemed like forever, and eventually fought brain cancer for nearly 5 years before, as is often the case, the cancer won.
There again, are the bare essentials. Now for the subjective version. What do I remember and how do I choose to remember my father?
Well, just as my mother was an amazing woman, I believe my father was an amazing man. I hear so many stories about deadbeat dad’s and so many excuses from divorced father’s about how little time they get with their kids and how “that bitch won’t let me see them.” I used to think “man, that’s terrible.” Looking back now, I think “you’re just not trying.” I may have only seen my father every other weekend and a little during summer and the holidays during my formative years, but I feel like he was always around.
I used to wonder why, but now I know it’s because he was. He made the effort. He attended every soccer game, every baseball game, every piano recital. He took us on family vacations. He made it about me and my brother, not himself and his divorce. Though I’m sure there were times when he felt that way, I rarely saw it. What’s more, he made the most out of the time he spent with us because I remember so much about our time together. Summer vacations, Sunday afternoons at Burger King, teaching me to drive, etc., etc.
My father was strict. He had a temper and a terrible gift for cursing. “Dad, can I stay up late tonight?” “Fuck no.” “Gotcha.” “Shit yes you do, now get to bed!” You’d never guess he was educated, had an amazing vocabulary, and was an encyclopedia of trivial knowledge. Much like me, he did not particularly care for social gatherings. He had his family and that was enough. I absolutely understand that and may be where I get it. Oh, can I meet some people I’m never going to see again and talk to them about trivial bullshit that they nor I will ever remember for 3 hours on a Friday instead of spending quality time with my wife and child???? Where do I sign??? My dad was the funniest person I’ve ever known. He was quick witted, sarcastic, and taught me everything I know about making fun of people and not taking yourself too seriously. He could make any situation light hearted, but, most importantly, knew when not to.
He did not express emotions well, at least not with me and my brother. Most of that, I’m sure, is just a guy thing and, honestly, was probably the best thing for us because when he did, it meant that much more. Two occasions in particular I recall are when my mother died and when I was accepted into law school. With the former, he made his, what in our family was the famous, “_____, may I speak to you in your room please?”, request and I, of course, obliged. He said that he loved my mother at one time, that she was a great woman and that he was sorry I had to go through this now. Then, he put his arms around me and I cried on his shoulder for the next 4 years. When I was accepted into lawschool was one time I recall him truly excited. I remember him saying those exact words “this is so exciting! We’ve never had a lawyer in the family!” He was so sure, though I was not, that I was going to finish law school and do well. As usual, he was right and I was wrong.
Like my mother and anyone really, he wasn’t perfect. He did have a temper. Again, no, I was never beaten. I did get to hear how curse words were used though and never really enjoyed when he got truly upset at me, or Chris, or some random situation out of his control. Although, here again, like my mother’s alcoholism, I learned from it. I have a similar temper or at least the propensity for it. However, when I feel myself drifting towards that uncontrollable anger, I remember my father and think “I hated that.”
Politically, my father was mostly conservative. He taught me what most father’s teach their sons (or should teach their sons), discipline, patience, strength, humility how to treat a woman, how to be a good father, and the love of baseball. Those last two are an interesting story. I recall my first baseball game with my father in the Astrodome and countless more after that. He put me in tee ball and I played as long as I could and he attended every game. I used to talk about baseball with them (though later I realized it was more AT him) and he would talk back. One day, in college, I mentioned the plight of another subpar Astros season and he responded with a shrug and “yeah, well, I’ve never really been a big baseball fan really.” Whether he knew it or not, I was shocked. Not in anger, just disbelief. How many hours had he spent with me at baseball games, picking out baseball gloves, going to practices? When I am reading my daughter a terrible book for the 800th time or sweating for four hours at the zoo, I know not to complain. I know how to be a good father because I had one of the best.
What do I miss most? Again, like with my mother, the approval. Him telling me that I’ve done well. Him seeing that the time he put in was worth it. And, per the above, getting to know him. You go through phases in life. My parents are amazing…my parents are stupid and I know everything…and my parents maybe aren’t so stupid and now I can talk to them as an adult. I didn’t get nearly enough of that last phase. That said, what I did have was more than I deserved. You were an amazing man and father and I think about you every day. I love you, Dad, and Happy Father’s Day.