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Appreciating a father’s struggles

I am my father’s son. At 27, that is a statement I make with absolutely no doubt or hesitation.

For a long time, I saw little to no connection between the two of us. It seems like most of my teenage years were spent with the two of us moving around one another; more like strangers inhabiting the same house than father and son.

I was stubborn, proud and knew everything. He was stubborn, proud and knew I didn’t. But there was no give in either of us.

Then life started to take its toll. As I grew older, I began to find common ground with a man I previously never understood.

Our experiences were so completely different. Due to circumstances beyond his control, he began working full-time as a14-year-old. At 14, I was in the high school marching band, looking headlong at my first date and wondering when I could finally get a CD player like all my friends had. Our paths were quite different.

He spent his adolescence pumping gas, digging ditches and doing whatever somebody would pay him to do. I spent mine dating, hanging out with friends, enjoying extra-cirricular activities, quitting every job I could get and fighting with my dad.

When he was 18, he was trying to pay the rent. When I was 18, I was running up student loan debt spending my first freshman year of college in bed.

But things have an almost mystical way of working out. At 21, I found commonality with him. Against my wishes, I watched the person with whom I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life leave; just as he had done at a similar age. There it was. We understood something about each other.

Now, I sit in the office at The Demopolis Times doing a job that may pay less than other things but that I love with all that I am; even on the bad days. And I’m able to be here, at least in part, because my dad did something he hated for most of his life in order to make sure I had opportunities he didn’t. I learned from him the value of working hard and doing the job right. In his retirement, he has been running a power tool repair business. Since starting the venture, he has been a far happier person. In that, he has unwittingly taught me the value of waking up every day and valuing not only what you do, but also the people with whom you are blessed to encounter.

He taught me how to give, how to see across barriers, how to apologize even when I’m not wrong and how to never lose sight of the child that still lives within me.

I am my father’s son. I say that with pride. And as I put the finishing touches on this column, I am preparing to head home to see him for Father’s Day, because — truth be told — we’ve missed enough time together already.

Jeremy D. Smith is sports editor for the Demopolis Times.