Jessica Cronenberger: Dad put family first, we reaped the benefits - The Buffalo News

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Jessica Cronenberger: Dad put family first, we reaped the benefits

Not all fathers are created equal. Mine, by far, was as good as they get.

My siblings and I, varied in incomes and lifestyles, have one thing in common – a rich closeness to our families. My father’s short life was a lesson in a love of this world and the people in it. We wanted to grow up to be like him.

How I wish my own children and husband could have known the power of this man, who raised five children on the most meager of incomes. We never knew. We thought we had it all. He was just a good, kind-hearted person with a family devotion and work ethic that was indescribable.

It’s hard to pinpoint everything he did because it was more the manner in which he did things that was memorable to us. The happy face, the proud looks, the constant motivation to make his home better are disjointed memories that surface every so often from my years way back when.

Dad showed utter respect for Mom, so we learned to do the same. He always told her how pretty she looked and would kiss her on the cheek as he thanked her for a great meal every single night. He’d open doors and carry things for her, and never, ever raised his voice to her. This made us all feel secure in our family unit.

There was no doubt Mom and Dad would stick together on issues (at least in front of us) so we didn’t spend any time stressing over whether we were the cause of any discord. We felt loved, and consequently found spouses who were also loving and respectful. That’s what we were used to.

A look alone would usually tell us when we had overstepped our bounds. We didn’t want to disappoint Dad, ever! He expected us to mind our mother and behave. The boys may have gotten a swift swat once in a while at a very young age, but only when they were doing something decidedly dangerous or harmful. They followed his lead in treating girls with respect and to this day it’s evident how his influence and example made them the men they are.

Dad never talked about neighbors or relatives in a bad light. He may have talked to Mom about them, but he felt that kids should be free from adult prejudices. His parents, brothers and sisters depended on him for many odd jobs and he was happy to help. Family was everything to him.

Dad worked hard at work and around the house. He was patient when he showed us how things worked. I’d watch for hours when he’d cut wood for projects. The smell of sawdust, even today, recounts those happy times. He never complained of being tired or stretched to capacity. He just did what he had to do. We learned all about a strong work ethic from him. Complaining about things is not productive.

When we’d go somewhere in a crowd of people, I remember feeling his arm on my shoulder. I’m sure his other arm was around one of my siblings, but I didn’t even consider that. He was there for me at that moment.

When we would go for walks around the neighborhood, he would swing my arm and make me feel like he was so happy just being with me. He didn’t talk a lot, but his demeanor told me I was the most important person to him at that moment.

Girls view themselves from their Dad’s perspective. I grew up with a sense of security, deserving of love and respect. Priceless.

To all the dads out there, your actions speak loudly, more than you can ever know.

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