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Make sure to give your Dad a hug on Father's DayPosted Friday, June 18, 2010, at 3:31 PM
This Sunday is Father's Day -- a special day we have set aside as a nation to honor those special guys called "Dads."
Father's Day has always been a tough, emotional one for me.
Father's Day also took on greater significance after I was blessed to be a father myself twice and there is even greater joy now that I am a grandfather to four beautiful offspring of my two daughters and their husbands.
As some of you know, my dad passed away when I was very young.
He was actually my adopted dad, but it didn't matter to me. He's the only father I ever knew.
I didn't have any siblings, so my adopted mother and father were my only family.
I don't say that to draw any pity, but it's just the way things worked out in my life.
I was just over 5-years-old and getting ready to start kindergarten when the life of my dad, Francis Nicholas Schneider, was cut short by a sudden, unexpected heart attack.
He was 47.
My mom's life and my life forever changed that afternoon on Aug. 23, 1958.
I didn't fully understand what had happened and it was many years before I could comprehend it.
My late mother, who is the strongest, most determined lady I ever met, was thrust into the role of a single parent and she tried her best to fill the void left by my dad's passing.
I can't thank her enough for everything she did to make my life as normal as possible.
I'm also thankful and honored to carry my dad's middle name as my first name.
Death for a youngster is something you don't prepare for, and to be really honest, it has also been something that I have often asked God more than once why it had to happen the way it did.
The memories of my father are vague at best.
I remember going fishing at our small farm pound in Spencer County as a youngster with him. I can remember riding on the "big green tractor" with my dad.
Other than those two happenings, my recollection of having a structured father figure in my life just isn't there.
I heard a lot of stories from others about the kind of guy my dad was as I was growing up.
As a high schooler, he was a basketball standout for the Tell City Marksmen and was a starting center on the very successful sectional tourney champion team in 1928 and 1929.
He was a World War II veteran and honorably served in the Philippines and New Guinea.
After the war, he came back and started a career as traveling clothing salesman and later worked in the men's department of a local store in our community.
He loved to spend time on a farm our family owned in Spencer County driving the tractor and working in the old barn. He loved to fish and hunt, and frequently hosted Sunday afternoon gatherings of family and friends in a timber grove on the property near the tiny community of Fulda.
He was an avid bowler and was a member of several championship teams.
The story of the founding of Father's Day draws a contrasting parallel to my own life.
The idea for creating a day for children to honor their fathers began in Spokane, Wash. A woman by the name of Sonora Smart Dodd thought of the idea for Father's Day while listening to a Mother's Day church sermon in 1909.
Having been raised by her father, William Jackson Smart, after her mother died, Sonora wanted her father to know how special he was to her. It was her father that made all the parental sacrifices and was, in the eyes of his daughter, a courageous, selfless, and loving man.
Father's Day has always been bittersweet for me.
It is my general ritual to visit my Dad's grave on Father's Day and spend a little time with him, thinking about the past and wondering what could have been had he not been called from this earth at such an early age.
But the reality is, none of us can turn back time. What happened, happened, and those few memories are all I have to hold onto.
I guess the void I have felt for more than a half century in my own life, has been part of my motivation for me wanting to be the best father I could to my two daughters, who are now beautiful young ladies raising their own families.
I didn't always say the right things and I'm sure there were times when I was too busy to actually spend enough time with my own daughters as they were growing up. I was out on the news and sports beats writing about the successes of other people's children.
Despite my shortcomings, I can assure you my two daughters have been unconditionally loved and respected by their dear old Dad. I am so proud of all they have done and continue to do in their own lives.
I pray I have imparted some parental knowledge, wisdom and a caring heart to them.
I hope they have seen the true love I have for all they are and all they do and all they will accomplish in the future.
On this Father's Day I'm proud to be called a Dad and Pops by my offspring.
We have made plenty of memories together. For that, I am grateful.
Give your own Father a hug on Sunday. He deserves it.
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