“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in 7 years.”
– Mark Twain
Like most men my age (or, perhaps, of any age), I had a complicated relationship with my father. For the most part, I didn’t like him much. He was an angry, prideful man and he had a gift for making me feel unworthy and instilled in me a feeling that I was a constant disappointment. This wasn’t something he attempted to do. In fact, there were many times where he would tell me that I was a constant source of joy in his life and that he was very proud of me. But, that didn’t seem to ever sink in.
Unfortunately, this has defined my view of God and ended up molding me into the kind of father he was. I’m not making excuses for my many failures as a parent; rather, it’s made me understand him far more and has enabled me to give him a lot of grace. When I look at his life, from the time he was a boy all the way through to when I became a man, it’s no wonder he became who he was. And in all fairness, he did a much better job than he should have been able to.
I was thinking about him today… about one moment in particular. Without a doubt, this is one of the times my dad nailed fatherhood. Seriously, his Dad Score was a perfect 10 out of 10.
To fully understand this – to know why he knocked it out of the park – you have to understand a little bit about him and me and some history we share.
My dad went to Texas A&M University and was class of ’62. Of course, he was in the Corps of Cadets and he was incredibly passionate about his love of A&M throughout his entire life. I went to Texas A&M as well (class of ’92) and I was also in the Corps of Cadets, but I also joined the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band (which is a major unit of the Corps). And, like my father, I’m very passionate about A&M and love it dearly.
If you’re not familiar with the Corps, it’s an ROTC program. But, it’s not like most. Texas A&M is one of six Senior Military Colleges. The Corps of Cadets at A&M is similar to the ones at The Citadel, VMI or Norich. This means life is a lot like life at one of the service academies, but quite a bit tougher. Cadets were supervised far less than at the academies, so there was more… ah… “creative” forms of instilling discipline into the freshmen (called “fish”). The fish year was basically nine months of boot camp with the added stress of being a full-time student.
Being a fish in the Aggie Band, at least when I was there, made life in the rest of the Corps look pretty easy – with the exception of the guys in the Fish Drill Team. If you’re not familiar them, look them up. They’re absolutely amazing.
More about life in the Aggie Band next week.