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SURRATT: To my dad on Father’s Day

His Bronze Star with commendation hangs on the living room wall framed with his Good Conduct Medal, overseas chevrons and Bronze Star lapel button.

It is flanked by two photos of the recipient of those awards. Both portray a younger man. One photo is of him in a football uniform from his playing days either at Paris, Texas, High School or Paris Junior College. The other photo shows him wearing a military uniform.

My father died in 1982, two months short of his 61st birthday and 39 years later, I still miss him. And it makes Father’s Day a bit melancholy for me. I probably shouldn’t feel that way after so long, but somehow when I think about it, it just feels like there’s something missing. Both my parents are no longer living and both influenced my life. My mother was the academic; she pushed me and sent me to a lot of summer math programs trying to get me to master the intricacies of algebra, geometry and trigonometry. I could never get her to understand that my math skills were only so average.

Dad was the athlete. He taught me how to throw a baseball and catch fly balls. Taught me how to throw a pass, punt and placekick. He taught me how to fish, but I never had the patience to keep it up. That was an activity he and my younger brother shared.

And even though he never got the chance to play football in college — World War II intervened — Dad never tried to live his career through us. He had a very interesting philosophy about sports; one that in this “win at all costs mentality” would seem out of place.

“If you want to play sports,” he said. “Do it because you want to; not because somebody else wants you to. Play to have fun and when it stops being fun, get out.”

That philosophy never stopped my father from cheering for me whenever he could. He and my mother were my biggest supporters. Dad traveled as a salesman for an oilfield supply company and was gone a lot, but when I ran track on Fridays I could see him and mom in the stands. I remember running at a track meet at Terrebonne High School in Houma, La. I looked up in the stands and there was dad, who was working in the area and stopped to watch me run.

I miss my father. I miss his understanding, his folksy wisdom that I at the time discounted, but like Mark Twain with his father, I later learned how smart a man he was. He was a humble man and a generous man who could give his time to others and he served as a surrogate father to two of my friends whose fathers had left them.

So on Father’s Day, here’s to the man who taught me how to live, counseled me and tried to understand me, and a man to whom I never said “I love you” near enough.

If your father is still living go visit him or call him. I sure wish I could call mine.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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