John Gunter, Sr.
My Father.(if not obvious)
Is where I got the name of the blog (and John Earl) from. I call him Daddy(pronounced Dead-DEE, in this type of southern drawl that I somehow gathered as a 2 year-old living in Illinois), however, whenever I first greet him in public, I always say “Ay, Pops!” Mainly because it’s sometimes awkward to be a 26-year old man screaming “Dead-DEE” outside of the local barbershop.
I usually go on a rant bi-annually, during his birthday and Father’s Day about how he is the most awesome father(man) to exist ever. Today is his birthday…
My main fear going into Fatherhood is that my daughter won’t have as great of a dad as I did. That sounds hyperbolic I know, but it’s true. Being a black man in America is difficult, being a good father is also a demanding task. Trying to be both seems to be impossible, but watching my father, I never realized.
Let’s get the back story:
John, Sr. was born in Columbus, MS to a rather poor family. He had a father that was lost in transition and a new one that was… Well most importantly he had a mother who was a teacher and upheld education above all other things. John started working at the age of 15, becoming a truck driver(how?) and he never really stopped after that. He married his High School sweetheart, had a daughter(Barb) and went off to fight in the Vietnam War.
During Vietnam, John suffered a few battle wounds. He was shot 3 times, once in the back, once in the right calf, and the most tragic in his left hand. He lost his left hand and from that moment on was forced to use an amputee hook.
SIDEBAR: In remembrance and honor of the wound my father suffered, since I was about 12 I’ve rolled up the left sleeve of any shirt I wear and/or do not wear a left sleeve at all. I’ve been doing this for over a decade and he just found out today when I called to say Happy Birthday.
Pops was awarded a Purple Heart as he became a Veteran and returned home. Realizing how valuable life is, he returned to his wife and first born and did what any man would do. Created 6 more children! If it wasn’t bad enough to have 7 little ones, the first 6 were daughters.(If this were the Theresa’s mom riddle, the answer would be I’m the baby boy) Somewhere in the middle of his pursuit of happyness he started working for the Government as a Senior Personnel at an Arsenal Fort. He threw away a PTSD alcoholism problem, accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior, climbed the tax brackets steadily, earned a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Business Administration, and was fiscally able to send all 7 children off to college.(A couple finished) He retired in 2012 when I completed undergrad, seemingly, his work was finally done.
If you’re ambidextrous-brained, you’ve gathered that being in Vietnam and retiring in 2012, Pops is close to 70.(He turned 69) So there’s the amazing Rags to Riches story about how he made being labeled “Jr” a tall order. Not to mention that he is “handicapped” but the only thing I’ve ever witnessed him not be able to do is button the sleeve button on the right wrist of his dress shirts.(He can tie his shoes and has a mean crossover for goodness sake.)
But, more importantly than all of the flash and fuss. Daddy taught me everything that there is to know about being a great father. My only problem now is I’m not sure if I paid attention enough. It’s like I have a final exam to take in February and I’m trying my best to cram from years of lecture.
Is it “do what I do, not what I say,” “this hurts you more than it hurts me,” which side of the plate does the second fork go on? How early is too early for ice cream?