I must admit, when Father’s Day rolls around, I’m reminded that my dad is not here for me to honor him in person, a situation that many of friends my age now encounter. I lost my father in 2004 but it feels like yesterday. He was only 48 and I’d been around for half of his lifetime.
Rather than reflect on his loss, I prefer to remember him often, especially at Father’s Day, and the things that brought him joy in his lifetime. He was a seventh-generation Texan, and I appreciate his making me an eighth-generation Texan. There’s no other place that I’d rather be from except here.
He was a Past President-Elect of the Bryan Rotary Club, and as I attend our weekly club meetings, I feel close to him. It’s nice to hear from fellow club members how they remember my father, and my grandfather, and their service to our club.
To those whose fathers are no longer alive, what is your best memory of them? Do you find yourself cheering today for the sports teams they followed? Did you grow up going to concerts by bands they loved? Do you prefer a certain brand of truck or car because you remember your dad drove one?
We learn so much from our fathers. Some of it can be the lessons they pass on to us in person—man-to-man talks about life. Unspoken messages about how they treat your family and strangers alike, the lessons we learn by observation also teach.
In business, I see his example everywhere around me. He was President of the Southeast Texas Funeral Directors Association. This week I’m attending the Texas Funeral Directors Association convention and connecting with friends and colleagues across the state. There are, of course, some members who remember my grandfather and my father, and I enjoy being greeted with a memory of dad from a great day years ago.
It’s important that I keep in mind the reputation that five generations of the Callaway-Jones family have set as I go forward every day. I have opportunity to create and innovate with changing times because my father saw value in my putting my own imprint on the business. He encouraged me to be creative. He understood the need to branch out, lest we be considered not keeping up with the times. Yet, I’m very appreciative of tradition and certain things we do that are identifiable as “the Callaway-Jones way” and I maintain those, as I know he’d expect I would.
Dad loved his Harley-Davidson and he competed in rodeos, and of course he loved the great outdoors. He and I shared a love of water sports and every weekend we could be, we were out on the water somewhere. When I was old enough, he taught me golf, and whenever I play with Team Callaway-Jones (aka Team Bulldog), I smile when I think of how much I love golf, and how much he enjoyed playing, too. He was my first teacher of so many things.
I remember well the hours my father devoted to my love of soccer—he was coach, team organizer, and chief cheerleader. I was lucky because not only did Dad coach our team, he and my mom drove our team up and down the roads of Texas and never once made it seem like a burden or a responsibility. He had as much fun as we did.
He coached the Brazos Magic ’79 Soccer Team, which won the state championships in 1991 and again in 1998. This made this team the only team to win the state championship in both its first and last years of eligibility. In all, the Magic ’79 team had over 400 victories. In 1993, Dad founded the Brazos Magic Soccer Club with two additional teams, and more teams formed later. I was especially appreciative when his devotion to sports in our city was remembered by the City of Bryan. Officials dedicated and renamed the soccer fields at the BRAC complex in his honor. Whenever I’m there, I feel such a sense of gratitude and pride.
In soccer, we were fortunate to win often, but when we lost, I remember he taught me how to lose too. We could not win every game in life any more than we could win any challenge in life and in business. I learned from him that it was more important to follow the rules and accept the outcome. With victory, be humble. With defeat, respect your opponent, congratulate them, and get back to work, practicing to try and compete again. Never quit. That was an important lesson he insisted on my learning. Work at it until you conquer it.
When he was diagnosed with cancer he used that same fighting spirit and courage he instilled in me to approach his battle. He was quiet about when he felt bad. He was always optimistic and kept faith. We were surrounded by the outreach of family and friends who knew and loved him. Choir families in town used to pray for him each week as he was going through treatment, which added encouragement to him, and to us. He knew he was not alone in his fight.
Most of all, he set the standard for the kind of man I wanted to become. Every day in my life is a living tribute to his example. Fathers are a son’s first role model and over time sons remember fathers as friend, disciplinarian, coach, and teacher. He was actively involved, and happy to be there, in anything I did that was important to me. Although our time together was not as long as either of us would have liked, I feel comfortable when Father’s Day comes around, that I can remember the best parts of his life.
If, on this Father’s Day, you’re like me and you’ve lost your dad, how I’ve been able to handle his passing is to accept the love and support of my wife, my mother, and our family and friends, and to reflect and remember the best days of his life, when he was here. This weekend, I’ll probably get in a round of golf, or two, and salute the best teacher and best friend I could have ever asked for. Happy Father’s Day, 2018.
Happy Father’s Day to all fathers and thank you for all that you do for your children.