My Tomodach–What My Dad Means To Me

As I sit watching touching stories about dads from all walks of life on CBS Sunday Morning, I find myself remembering my dad and reflecting on what he means to me.

Robert F. WhiteLong before I was even a glint in his eye, my dad served in the military during the Korean Conflict.  He loved the far east–particularly Japan.  And from as far back as I remember my dad called me his tomodach–that’s Japanese for buddy.  That’s what we were–buddies.

From my earliest memories my dad was the center of my world.  If he was sitting in the big, black swivel rocker, I was sitting on his lap.  If he was riding the Wheelhorse tractor around the yard, I was sitting on his lap.  You name it.  Wherever he was, I wanted to be.

My daddy was my very best teddy bear, hairy chest and all.  As I got older, my dad was the best tucker-inner at bedtime.  The last part of our bedtime ritual was my dad pulling the string of the music box that hung on the wall by the door.  I used to love this part so much that on those nights I didn’t fall to sleep right away, I would holler out into the living room that he forgot to play the music box.  I must have not fallen asleep a lot, because my dad added another part to our bedtime ritual.  Right before pulling the string on my musicbox, my dad would say.  “Now don’t say I didn’t ’cause I did.”  Then I would giggle and he’d pull the string.  I don’t remember, but I’m betting I’d still holler that he forgot.

A little older and dad was the chief chicken fryer and leftover disposAll.  My dad made the best fried chicken, ever.  As an adult, I evolved into a good cook, but I can’t even come close to making fried chicken as good as my dad’s.  I probably never will.  And in our house, we weren’t allowed to waste food.  If mom put it on your plate, you ate it–even lima beans.  But Dad was always there to rescue us.  Once Mom got up from the table my sister and I would pass our plates to dad and he’d scoop the food we didn’t like onto his own plate.  I guess he might have still been hungry, I don’t know.  But at the time, he was simply the hero who rescued me from another helping of lima beans.

My dad was also the dad of many platitudes.  If there was a life lesson or a value that needed to be passed along, my dad had a saying that would fit.  Any job worth doing is a job worth doing well.  If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  These are the two I remember best.  There are others too.  They pop into my head at appropriate moments to remind me of lessons learned.

Robert F. White

Four years ago, in 2008, my dad left on an adventure.  For a while I would say that I lost my father, but as time goes by I realize more and more that he’s not lost, nor am I.  He’s still my tomodach, and my hero, and my teacher, and he’s with me in every thought that I have–not always in the forefront, but he’s there.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.