What to get for the man who gave you everything
This is a day late, but I think you'll understand.
I have never known what to get you for your birthday, Daddy. You are a man of simple pleasures and few needs, and here, a day after your 69th birthday, the very idea of buying you a "thing" of any kind in an effort to make you happy seems not only impossible, but kind of stupid. You've told me for years you need nothing and want nothing. But there's something I need to give you anyway.
It's a thank you.
Thank you for the years of putting a roof over my head and clothes on my back. Thank you for the back-breaking labor it took to provide those things.
Thank you for the lessons, both easy and hard. When I think about it, it's pretty incredible the things I know because of you. Throwing a baseball, baiting a hook, driving, shooting a gun, dressing a deer, working a garden, mowing the grass, building a fire, how to cook chili -- I would be a blithering idiot if it weren't for the things you taught me.
The list is longer, though, and the lessons deeper.
There's working hard, of course. If there's a job to do, you do it to the best of your ability. You do what's asked of you, and you should be proud enough of the work to sign your name to it when you're finished.
You lead by example. You never ask anything of anyone you're not willing to do yourself. And you always ask, because people are a lot more prone to do stuff when asked than when ordered. But don't be afraid to order them if they don't do what you asked.
Be practical and be prepared. "It's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it." Your daddy said that first, but you did a good job of passing it down to me.
Be honest. To a fault. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and never, ever take anything you didn't earn or don't deserve.
Don't just be honest, but be honorable. Do what's right, not just what's easy. The truth is always the truth. Be loyal to your country, your family and your friends. And have sense enough to know the difference between acquaintances and true friends. If you can count your true friends on the fingers of one hand, you're luckier than a man with a million dollars.
Have a big heart. Give the shirt off your back, and then the pants, too, if that's what's needed. If you've got it, and someone needs it, give it. Like you always say, "It ain't nothing but money. You can always make more."
I learned all these lessons and a thousand more because of you. I'd be lying if I said I always remember them all every day, but I try. And as I get older, the more I realize how much harder I need to try.
Most of all, thank you for your unwavering love and support. As I face my biggest challenge, there's no one I'd rather have in my corner more than you and Mama.
So I hope this is enough of a present for your birthday, Daddy, because let's face it: I can never match you when it comes to gift giving.
You already gave me everything.
Email Nate McCullough at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.