It is Father’s Day Sunday, and I have feelings of sadness and regret.
My father, Harvey Kercheval, Jr., (Yes, I am his namesake) died 12 years ago this September at age 87. I loved my father, but I was not always a good son.
I chalk that up to, among other things, that I was a lot like him. I tended to focus on qualities in him that we shared and that I did not like about myself. It was not until later in his life—almost too late—that I sorted most of that out.
I should have paid closer attention to his good qualities because he had many of them.
He could have strong opinions about certain things, but he was slow to judge. He was forever giving people the benefit of the doubt, sometimes even when they may not have deserved it.
Unfortunately, for a long time I saw that as a weakness instead of what it really was—a generous heart that was easily accessible to all.
My father did not have an easy life, but he did not allow himself to be bitter. It would never have occurred to him to blame someone else for his own misfortune.
He was a hard worker. My father grew up on a dairy farm, and when his father became ill, he took over sole responsibility for milking the cows, twice a day, every day, for years without a break.
Everyone has stories, but very few people are good storytellers. My father was. We would ask him to tell and retell our favorites. He always rose to the occasion, as though he was preforming. I suspect he embellished his favorites a little, but that just added a touch of spice. He also allowed himself a joyous laugh at his own stories.
My father’s philosophy when facing headwinds was “trudge along.” I hated that because it was depressing. However, I came to realize—again almost too late—that to trudge is to refuse to yield and keep moving forward, which was what my father did.
He accepted death graciously. Of course, he did not want to die, but he accepted the inevitable as he did everything else in his life, without malice. My father had regrets, but he did not dwell on them.
I do not recall ever giving him a Father’s Day gift, and one Father’s Day in particular, this selfish, negligent son failed to even give him a card. But I do have a gift for him this year.
My father provided a road map for a good life. I did not see it for a long time, but it is clearer to me now. I am going to try harder to live my life the way he lived his.
I think he would like that.